At some point, most of us have found ourselves spiraled down into a pit of stress, wondering how we got there in the first place. And at this point, most of us have asked ourselves, “What’s the point of stress? Why am I even stressing out? What’s the point!?” While stress can be very unpleasant at times, it actually serves a major purpose in our lives, and is one factor that has helped humans survive throughout the centuries.
Stress: we all know what it feels like. In fact, most of us experience stress throughout our daily lives. When we think of stress, most of us consider it to be a bad thing. I mean, who wants to be stressed? However, there are two primary types of stress, one negative and often damaging, and the other is actually beneficial! Keep reading to learn more.
Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month is a time for all of us to put extra energy into our awareness and education surrounding mental health, and support ourselves and those around us who deal with mental health issues.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health is being in a state mental wellbeing. Just like our physical health, our mental health requires continuous effort, upkeep, and attention. Mental health is also a concern for all of us, not just those of us who deal with mental disorders. For all of us to feel our best and be our healthiest, mental health needs to be a priority.
How Common is Mental Illness?
1 in 5 people will experience mental illness at some point in our lives, that represents 20 percent of people. In addition to that, all of us face serious stressors and events in our lives that affect our mental health. With that, mental illness is very common, and likely all of us will need some type of support for maintaining our mental health at some point in our lives.
Is There a Stigma Around Mental Health?
Mental health and mental health issues have had stigmas attached to them for a long time. While things are improving, many people are still not comfortable talking about mental health or any kind of mental health concern.
This is clearly seen when you think of how readily people talk about physical ailments (like a cold or a broken bone), but far fewer people are so ready to speak about their mental health issues (like anxiety or depression). This stigma can make it really difficult for people to acknowledge that they need help and to actually seek out the support they need. (We will cover stigma more in a future blog).
How Do We Increase Mental Health Awareness?
Our first step toward increasing mental health awareness is to start talking about it. Mental health is something that should be a part of our daily life, and should be something that is openly spoken about. Starting the conversation will begin to show that everyone needs to prioritize mental health and that all of us can, and probably will, struggle with our own mental health concerns at some point in our lives.
Things You Can Do to Get Involved
Start the conversation about mental health with friends and family
Share the Mental Health Awareness Ribbon or the WhyCare Logo on your social media platforms
Educate yourself on mental illnesses and learn to recognize when someone may need support
Keep crisis resources on hand, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hotline number (800)950-NAMI and the Crisis Text Line (text 741-741).
Reach out to a trained clinician to talk to if you or someone you know needs support
Want more information or need someone to talk to? Click the link below to get connected with our practice.
What is the Key to A Good Life?
Psychiatrist, Robert Waldinger gave a TedTalk in 2015 on one of the longest standing studies, that has important implications for our lives. Keep reading to find out the key to living a healthy, happy life.
The Most Important Goals in Life
To start, take a second to think about what you consider to be the most important goals you have for your life. In a survey conducted on millennials, the two most common goals that surfaces were the following:
To get rich
To become famous
Do those goals fall in line with what you had in mind? In a society that emphasizes work and productivity, many of us may think that acquiring fame and fortune will inherently bring us happiness. The truth? Not necessarily.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development
Robert Waldinger is the current Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which is one of the longest running studies, having been going for over 75 years at the time of the TedTalk. This massive research project studied two groups of males: one group from Harvard, and one group from some of the most troubled neighborhoods in Boston.
The researchers contacted these men once every two years, having them fill out questionnaires and surveys, collecting medical information, and interviewing the men, their spouses, and their family members. As time went on, the study began to uncover a surprising finding...
The Key to a Happy Life
The main finding of this entire study? The researchers found that the men all went very different paths in life. Some climbed the social ladder, some fell. Some succeeded, some did not. But the men who lived into their eighties and beyond all had one similar factor--positive social connection.
As quoted by Robert Waldinger: “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”
To continue on this point, Waldinger highlighted that, when looking back at the research, people who had the highest satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Throughout the research, it is clear that quality social connection and close relationships is significantly tied to happier, healthier, and longer lives.
The Danger of Loneliness
Another key finding of the study is that loneliness is incredibly dangerous to our health. The study found that people who felt more isolated than they wanted to be were less happy, experienced health declines earlier in life, experienced greater declines in brain functioning earlier in life, and lived shorter lives overall.
This finding is scary, considering that the fact that 1 in 5 Americans report feeling lonely at any given point in time.
How Do We Apply These Findings to Our Own Lives?
The main takeaway of the Harvard Study of Adult Development is this-- the amount of money we earn or fame we achieve is not the key to being happy. Rather, the quality of our social connections and the relationships we have with the people around us are one of the most important predictors of our health throughout our life. So, take some time to step away from your phone screen and spend the extra few minutes connecting with those closest to you. You’ll be happy you did.
To watch the full TedTalk, check out the video here:
What are Coping Skills?
Coping skills is a term thrown around frequently, especially among the therapeutic community. What are coping skills and how do we use them?
What are coping skills?
Coping skills cover a variety of things that we can do to help ourselves through a variety of feelings, emotions, and mental states. This includes: stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and more.
Coping skills vary widely, as they are very unique to each person. With this being said, one person’s go-to coping skill may not be helpful at all to someone else.
What are examples of coping skills?
However, there are some very common coping skills that are popular among a lot of people. These include:
Taking deep breaths
Taking deep breaths and counting to ten are an easy and convenient coping skill, as we are able to access it anytime, anywhere. Focusing on our breathing and making an effort to take slow, deep breaths helps us to slow down and center ourselves.
Listening to music
Ever gotten in the car and blasted your favorite songs after a bad day? That is an example of using a coping skill! Many of us connect to the emotions of the song that we are listening to and in time, we are able to unwind with our favorite jam.
Talking to a close friend, loved one, or other trusted person
Sometimes, we need to just vent. Connecting with someone who we trust and letting out some steam is a great way to help ourselves through a situation and to gain more clarity on the issue at hand.
When would we use coping skills?
Coping skills can, and should, be used throughout daily life. Whether you had a stressful day or a major life event, coping skills help us to stay grounded, in the moment, and able to deal with whatever comes our way.
How to find out what coping skills work for you:
The process of discovering the coping skills that work best for you is a personal process that sometimes takes a bit of trial and error. To start, think about the things that you usually do first after a long and stressful day. Do you read? Write? Exercise? Eat a bar of chocolate? Find out what it is that you usually do and then decide whether it is a helpful thing to do or something that is not so helpful.
From there, continue down the list and brainstorm things that you think can help you. Write these down and try each one out the next time you are feeling down. Star the ones that help you the most and scrap the ones that aren’t helpful. As time goes on, this ongoing list is something that you’ll be able to keep on hand to use whenever you need it.