Updated: Nov 8, 2021
Mental health and illness in the modern era
Today, more than ever, our mental health, well-being and resilience has been put to the ultimate test. With the ongoing economic impact of the current global pandemic; individuals, families, governments, businesses and the wider community have faced some very tough decisions along the road. We have yet to fully understand the long-term impact of this situation on our health, well-being and consciousness as a collective.
Any significant change can elicit feelings of anticipation, concern and worries about the future, and attending to our own psychological well-being has never been more important.
Mental health concerns affect just about all of us at one point in time or another in our lives, however, studies indicate that 1 in 5 Aussies aged 16-85 will experience mental illness in any given year. The most common illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance abuse disorder.
Access to treatment is essential, and primary mental health care services are central in addressing signs of mental illness. With appropriate treatment, approximately 75% of people improve notably, and experience both immediate and long-term positive outcomes.
Illness prevention and managing the day-to-day stressors
Research and clinical practice show us that one of the most effective tools we have at our disposal for managing everyday stressors and preventative care, is the regular application of breathing exercises and the practice of mindfulness and meditation.
Whilst these practices have been around for centuries, scientific discoveries have brought them to the forefront of our attention with studies indicating the effectiveness of mindfulness-based practices for attenuating the nervous system, reducing stress, and building resilience.
Managing your emotional health
The whole point of engaging in any kind of ‘mindfulness’ exercise, is to pay close attention to your emotional health and how the mind works.
Most of the drama in our lives is caused by the stress of mismanaged and repressed emotions. If not managed effectively, we often tend to project our repressed emotions and beliefs onto others, which can often elicit defensiveness, blame, hurt and disappointment.
What’s going to have the single most important impact in your life and health is to learn to manage your emotions appropriately; to not judge or suppress them, but to allow them to come into healthy expression.
This takes practice! The healthy expression of emotions is about witnessing and acknowledging their presence, and recognising that the mind is generally conditioned to attach a negative 'story' to it (eg. "I shouldn't feel this way" "I should be xyz...instead"). So, the practice is learning to notice, so we can shift out of the habit of ignoring or avoiding what is naturally arising, and instead attend to what's going on inside with the utmost compassion and kindness.
Think of it like shining the light on your ‘internal landscape’ and witnessing every emotion as a guest or friend that needs and deserves a say in your life.
Perhaps as you begin to practice paying attention in this way, you will gain some insight as to why you might have been ‘triggered’ in the first place. Whenever our emotional reaction seems disproportionate or larger than the actual event taking place, it's likely our personal history is being triggered which may point to an unmet need. Some examples of fundamental or basic needs are safety, worthiness, love, security, belonging, respect, and connection.
Learning to attend to your own emotions and fulfil your needs (ie. hold the space for yourself), is a way to build self-respect, compassion, authenticity, and self-love.
Remember that other people's negative reactions towards you are not an indication of your own personal worth, but a reflection of how they’re doing within themselves.
The total acceptance of WHO YOU ARE, is the key to moving beyond the story that you THINK is you, and opening your heart to give and receive LOVE, and emotional freedom.
You are not your disease. You are not your thoughts. You are not your grief, or whatever other label the ego wants to give it.
So, the next time you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or ‘dirty on the world’ try the following:
1) Check in with your emotions and practice acknowledging them without judgement.
2) Pay attention to ‘the story’ you’re telling yourself and how it influences your feelings.
3) Try to identify your underlying unmet need that deserves your care and attention.
4) Fulfil your need by holding the space for yourself and doing the things that make your life meaningful and fulfilling.
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