Mental Health

Mental Health

How well you cope with life - your mental health - is just as important as your physical health. Worry, stress, anxiety affects everyone, but if it overwhelms your ability to cope, make good decisions, and have fulfilling relationships, you need help. Counseling, medications, and supportive friends can help strengthen your ability to cope - and improve your mental health.

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    A , Health Education, answered

    You're comfortable with your relationships and your opinions, and you aren't particularly interested in reevaluating every thought or feeling that pops into your head. That's fine if it's what you really want or if it's not a decision based on fear or inertia or habitual reflex. The funny thing about choices made like this is that they aren't really choices at all. There is no autonomy in reactivity.

    Often, what we do or don't do is exactly the opposite of what we say we want. For example, you're planning a trip to Paris in a few months. You decide you want to brush up on your French and figure you can spend a few hours a week in the evenings going over vocabulary. But, somehow, when you step off the plane, you haven't even managed to relearn the word for taxi. (Thankfully, it's taxi there too.) You simply had no time. Ah . . . but what about the hours and hours you had for American Idol or those reruns of Friends that you've already seen 23 times? They were just there. And you were just there. And you just thought you'd keep the television on while you glanced at that book Berlitz. You did want to learn French, but you also really wanted to know if the girl with the pink stripe in her hair was getting voted off. But now you don't even remember her name, and you could really use the word for bathroom.

    We pretty much always do what we want to, but sometimes, what we want is in direct conflict with what we want. The problem lies in those opposing aspects of ourselves. The needs of the different selves are mutually exclusive. When we give in to the demands of the ego, we are rarely in a state of positive change. Growth only occurs through the deliberate choices of the higher self.

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    Once you start to make a change in one area, that change can be effortlessly applied to everything else. I know it doesn't seem to make sense. How could keeping your bedroom neat have anything to do with sticking to your diet? But it's like building muscle. When you lift a 35 lb. weight over and over again, you'll find it a lot easier to lift a chair. Your newly bulging muscles aren't good just for dumbbells. So, when you actively change behavior in any part of your life, that same change muscle can be used for other things. For example, if you make healthy eating choices, your writing is much easier. When you wallow through the pantry unchecked, you find it more likely to procrastinate, dawdle, or daydream when it is time to work.

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    Most of us have some inkling not only of how we'd like to be better but also of what we need to do to get there. Rarely is our failure to act the result of a lack of knowledge. We don't really need more information. We need to do what we already know. Real change can only come about by taking action.

    The key to real, lasting change lies somewhere between what you know and what you do. It's what you think. To shift your behavior, you need to start by transforming your thoughts. We all act the way we do because of certain core beliefs and the thinking patterns they generate. We do what we do because it allows us to live consistently with those beliefs - at least in our own minds. As long as those thoughts stay the same, our behavior isn't going anywhere - no matter how hard we struggle to change.

    Simply denying the thoughts won't make them go away. The more you try to resist or avoid them, the more they pop up everywhere. Instead of pretending they don't exist, start by using a nonjudgmental observing technique. Be a witness to your thoughts. Watch them float into your mind without becoming attached to them or fighting against them.

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    Deciding what type of service is right for you involves self-awareness and a commitment to a higher state of being. Yes, those are running themes here, but they are essential for consciously living in relationship with anyone and everyone, including those you seek to help. It may be useful to refer to the Enneagram when assessing your character traits as they relate to contribution. It can give you clues, not necessarily about what you should do, but about how to do it. So, for example, if you are a Four and you want to volunteer as a political activist, try to bring your creative and flamboyant spirit to the experience. Do not choose a boring rote activity or become just another member of a group. Keep in mind that assisting someone else should not be torture for you. For example, if you faint at the sight of blood, your call to service is probably not as an emergency medical technician. Ideally, the way you choose to benefit humanity should bring you pleasure and deep satisfaction - not only because you are doing something worthwhile, but because you love doing it. Finally, allow yourself to be led to where you may be needed most. You can call it divine providence, synchronicity, or fate, but try to recognize the opportunities that come your way on a daily basis. This does not mean that you should just sit back and wait for people in need to show up at your door. Keep your eyes open and you will see a million different paths of service to pursue. Follow one and see the possibilities unfold.

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    Look for a habitual story you tell yourself that is limiting you or keeping you in a negative state. Maybe it's the tale of why you haven't been promoted or why you're always attracted to somebody with a wandering eye. Take that story and look for everywhere it's not true. (You actually were promoted four years ago, and the boy you dated when you were a sophomore in high school was utterly devoted.) Write yourself a new story that changes the way you feel about your situation. For example, if you haven't gotten that promotion, make the story about mastering your current position or about finally getting enough feedback to know it's time to switch jobs.

    Write a list of things that you would like to change. It can be anything from losing 10 lb. to remembering your friends' birthdays. Generate at least five items. Then, pick your top one and resolve to take action. Put it on a three - by - five index card and tape it to your bathroom mirror to remind you of your new commitment.

    Make another list. This time, write at least five things you can do to implement the change you selected the day before. These steps must be specific and doable. For example, "Exercise" is way too vague and "Eat only celery the whole of next week" is never going to happen. Something like "Do sit - ups, leg lifts, and biceps curls for half an hour while watching Jeopardy" is something specific you can realistically accomplish.

    Think of the reasons you have resisted change up till this point. What do you gain by staying right where you are? Be really honest with yourself. Are you avoiding the pain of failure or uncertainty? Do you enjoy knowing exactly what each day will bring and how you will respond? Once you are clear on the benefits of not changing, write down what it is costing you. Make the list as detailed and personal as you can by looking for the hidden costs in terms of relationships and self - esteem, lost opportunities, and long - term regrets. Put the plus and minus sheets next to each other and compare. When the price of stagnation becomes greater than the effort to shift behavior, you will have the motivation you need.

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    While it would be lovely if we could get along with everyone all the time, I am sure it cannot be done. More so, I am not sure I would want to. I do not think conflict is always a bad thing. Differences of opinion push us outside our comfort zone. Conflict can teach us new ways of seeing situations; it can clarify and solidify our commitment to our own perspective. It is in these conflicts that we test our mettle, where we see what we are capable of, where we find our limits.

    There are a lot of people with whom you do not want to agree anyway. Some folks are just horrible. I know that is a politically incorrect thing to say. The relativists of the world will assert that bad is a subjective term, while the New Agers will tell you that in reality we are all good and there is no such thing as evil. At the risk of offending them, I want to state for the record that I think that is all a crock. As long as genocides and child pornography exist, I am holding on to the notion that there are people worth fighting.

    That being said, there are ways to be in productive conflict, and ways that will drag you back to pre-Neanderthal stages of emotional development. I personally have run the gamut of pugilist styles and can attest to the ineffectualness of blame, shame, passive aggression, and guilt.

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    Change is inevitable. There are a variety of ways to change: socially, emotionally, mentally, intellectually, and physically. Change occurs at different levels of consciousness and at different levels of control. People may change jobs in very conscious ways and go in and out of relationships in unconscious ways or vica versa. This may happen many times throughout their lives. Hopefully people also learn to become more self aware and self realized as they become educated, social and experience life. Starting in childhood and continuing through adulthood there are always physical changes that people don't have control over. For example, eye sight gets worse throughout the aging process. At some level it's important to know what changes you are in control of and what changes are positive and impactful for your life so you aren't just allowing things to happen to you. Allowing life to happen to you can lead to unhappiness, sadness, grief, and depression leading to low self esteem, self confidence and self worth. 
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    Some people who have body dysmophic disorder can accept the idea that they probably look 'normal' to others, despite the obvious flaws they see in themselves. Others with BDD, however, believe the defects they see in the mirror are real, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Experts say these people have a condition called delusional BDD.

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    Muscle dysmorphia is a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder that typically leads men to exercise excessively and to use dietary supplements and in some cases, anabolic steroids, to increase their musculature and improve their overall shape.

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    There are a number of common symptoms and signs of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Those signals include:

    • Excessively checking their appearance in mirrors or other reflective surfaces
    • Constantly comparing their appearance to other people
    • Attempting to fix the imagined flaw through excessive grooming
    • Touching, measuring or checking the supposed defect
    • Frequently changing clothes
    • Destroying existing photographs and refusing to be photographed
    • Constantly seeking reassurance from loved ones
    • Masking, camouflaging or disguising perceived flaws with bulky clothing, heavy make-up, posture, or hats
    • Excessively exercising and dieting
    • Avoiding reflective surfaces or mirrors
    • Having suicidal thoughts