Are you stressed out and don’t even realize it?
Or perhaps you are all TOO aware of your stress levels, and aren’t sure how to even make time to do something about it.
Here’s a fun bit of information:
A new study from Michigan State University found more than 50% of Americans are unable to recognize signs of anxiety.
Even more astounding is that most of us don’t know to do about anxiety or depression even if we are fully aware of its ever-lurking presence.
There’s a name for this informational skill. They call it “mental health literacy.” Oh, holy cow, does this mean that most Americans are somehow illiterate? What a flattering term…
The solution, then, is to beef up on your anxiety and depression know-how. Don’t worry, you won’t have to get a degree in it. That’s what us silly therapists do for you, so we can share the information quickly.
The trick to understanding anxiety is that it rarely just appears out of nowhere. Anxiety has a number of causes, and it impacts people in a variety of ways. We all exhibit our anxiety differently, but there are some key indicators that most people exhibit, including:
Avoiding tasks that you need to do
An inability to stop working or moving, OR an inability to START moving, as if you were frozen
Excessively distracting yourself with your computer or phone
Body aches and pains
Becoming sick easily, or experiencing an inability to recover quickly
Sleeplessness, oversleeping, or waking up in the night
Fear of impending doom (that’s always a fun one to experience…)
Irritability, possibly arguing more with loved ones
Wishing you could just run away from everything
Engaging in substance use, drinking, or self-medicating
Dizziness, numbness, tingling, shortness of breath (in severe cases)
Inability to make decisions or plans
Inability to open bills or face deadlines
Guess what? Prolonged anxiety can make you feel depressed.
If this goes on long enough, without any treatment, you may find yourself with anxiety and depression, a fairly common occurrence.
Depression can add a few more symptoms to the mix, such as:
Feelings of hopelessness
Feelings of guilt or shame, often with a good dose of perfectionism and self-judging
Withdrawal from loved ones
Okay, then. So what can you do about all of this?
There are a few ways to combat these issues. The first one most of us think of in the modern day is medication. Since the heyday of Prozac in the 1990s, antidepressants have been a common go-to for many doctors and prescribers. And yes, there is a time and a place for medications. And yes, medications have made huge advancements in the last two decades. Yet, many people seek counseling because they want to avoid medications. I get about a call per week from people who hope to explore other methods of feeling better. And it is worth exploring. There are times when therapy can really help, and there are times when medication is not always the best or first solution (such as during pregnancy).
Only a medical doctor, a psychiatrist (which is a type of medical doctor), or a nurse practitioner can prescribe medication. I keep a few that I know and trust on-hand, in case my clients ever need them. As a licensed counselor, I can offer things that doctors don’t have much time for (or experience in), including helping clients figure out what caused the issue and working to resolve it through knowledge, empowerment, and learning new skills. That’s the ‘mental health literacy’ part, if you will, I suppose.
So that brings up the other way to combat these issues: counseling, and a connection with other human beings who understand. We are just now coming out of a long dark age of ignoring mental health in some ways. Science is helping us understand brain processes at a whole new level. We now know that the brain has plasticity—and just like plastic, we can have some control over molding and shaping our own brain processes. With practice and practical application, we can gain more mastery over our brain processes. Ignoring the issue will not have the same positive results.
And honestly, where are we ever taught about our own psychology? When I taught at the college level, an astounding number of students never experienced formal training in psychology in grade school or high school. How many of us had parents that were able to help us understand our own psyche? And even more, what more could be learned if we actually take time to sit down with an experienced professional, one-on-one, to take that information and apply it to our own unique life stories?
Perhaps we can all benefit from a little more mental health literacy.
It’s my job to help my clients benefit from the things I have learned. I’d be happy to help you, as well. Please email email@example.com to learn more about how non-judgmental, relaxed, yet clinically experienced counseling and coaching can help you or someone you love. Leave your phone number, and I will be happy to contact you about in-person or phone/internet counseling and coaching services.
Special thanks to Nelly the Owl.