Worry and stress hinder the mentally ill and the neurotypical alike. No one can escape it. It served us as a species well for most of our history when hunter gatherers needed successful hunts and fight other bands. Otherwise they would die. Worry and stress are natural to us. It allowed humans to go from barely surviving to modern civilization.
Yet our natural inclinations to worry are deteriorating our quality of life. The old fight or flight mentality isn’t serving us as well. We are seeing more people going through depression, panic attacks, anxiety problems, and physical health problems brought on by mental stress. We haven’t yet developed the ability to mentally let go of worry. This skill is not natural to us. It has to be learned.
Learning how to let go of stress and worry, even with years of practice, won’t be perfect. I have been taking steps to lessen my worry for several years and I occasionally slip into old habits. Things I have found helpful include keeping journals, engaging with negative people as little as possible, venting slightly on occasion, and never watching news broadcasts.
When I keep journals, I don’t hold back. I write my frustrations, my anxieties, my annoyances, my fears, and the delusional thoughts that sometimes accompany my mental illness. I get it out of my mind and onto paper. But I don’t share these with anyone. It does me much better to vent on paper rather than hold these worries in and drop them on someone else all at once. Many of our problems with stress, I am convinced, come from the idea that we aren’t allowed to vent or have to put up a good front at all times. I can’t change how anyone expects to act in public. What I can do is vent in the form of pen and paper, get it out of my mind, and then move on. Once the notebook is full, I throw it away. Been doing this for at least two years. It helps. Sure I occasionally have problems and just dump my frustrations on family members. But that’s the nature of the beast of mental illness and I do my best to minimize those blow ups.
I vent to my friends and family as needed to. I used to be one of these people pleasers who listened to and try to solve everyone’s problems. But I wouldn’t tell my problems to anyone. It made me resentful and feel like I was being used. I can’t remember when it was but during a conversation with someone I finally said, “I’ve heard enough of your problems. Now you’re going to hear about mine.” Fortunately for this relationship I wasn’t malicious about it. But being resentful of listening to others problems while I didn’t stand up enough to have others listen to mine cost me at least a couple friendships. My friends have problems. I have problems. We are now more balanced in talking about our issues. I don’t just do all the giving while not taking some of my own anymore.
I don’t watch any of the 24 hour news broadcasts. Haven’t for a few years. Why should I? I already know there is a lot of trouble and mess out there. Always has been. Always will be. I have no need or desire to know every little bit of trouble going on, whether it’s halfway around the world or halfway across my country. Seriously, why give myself more stress and anxiety then I already have? I can’t solve all the world’s problems. I’m not that good. Anyone who has any kind of awareness knows that there are serious messes in the world around them. Just because the world is messed up doesn’t mean I have to be. Since I learned to let go of things I didn’t personally cause and can’t prevent, my life has had fewer worries and fewer stresses.
So true. Nobody can escape worry and stress, both of which deteriorate mental health and general quality of life. But there are things-like your journals- that can help ease their effects. Great post.
No doubt about it. It is good to be reminded that most of what we worry about either doesn’t happen or doesn’t matter.
I am glad you write these things. It is definitely therapeutic for others. I have family members who suffer from mental illness and It is tough.
It is tough for those of us with mental illness. I can’t imagine how bad it is for our family members. But I do what I can with this blog. I think it’s doing some good for people. And I’m glad you enjoy reading the blog. Take care.