26th November 2015I don’t like to dwell on the negative aspects of life, but one thing we all share as human beings is the pain of mental disclarity from time to time. It’s estimated by the National Science Foundation that through a day we entertain any where up to 50,000 thoughts, of which ninety-five percent are reoccurring thoughts, whether they be positive or negative. These figures are purely estimates, but I’ve become more aware of the debilitating thoughts within my own mind in recent years, and have since been trying to understand their origins and how best to quell them.
This is the mindset it has led me to develop…
Be someone who’s willing to share his own trials and tribulations with mental health, purely out of hope that others will be more inclined to open up with their own struggles rather than shut down. My own battle with mental health revolves around my epilepsy, and how it brings on bouts of anxiety. When I tell people that I’m epileptic the reaction comes with an element of surprise, probably due the fact that very few people have witnessed me having a seizure (I have nocturnal epilepsy, only having seizures during sleep).
I awaken into a vortex of blurred vision. My bedroom is seemingly travelling around in a vicious circle at warp speed, with my respiratory system going into over drive to draw in oxygen at a rate of knots so hard, at times I’ve hyperventilated to the extent of being hospitalised. I try grounding myself by holding on to an object in an attempt clasp on for deer life. I then check for blood. There’s always a chunk missing out of my tongue, sometimes there’s gashes dotted on my head, but it’s the daze and confusion which perturbs me the most.
Depending on the severity of the seizure it can take me several days to physically recover, whilst mentally it may take months. Cue the anxiety.
The questions begin swirling around my mind: What if it happens again? What if I do myself some serious damage? What if I don’t come round next time? This spills over in to all aspects of my life, hindering my ability to progress my career at the speed I am aiming for. It also puts a strain on my relationships with family and friends, but I’ve become more inclined recently to tell people when I’m feeling anxious so they’ll understand why I’m not my usual chirpy self. My ability to communicate confidently and effectively with others is almost completely shot through. Not ideal when your career is focused on building rapport with people. You start over thinking things, placing everything under a microscope asking yourself what about this, that and the other. You forget about the bigger picture and struggle to enjoy the moment. It all seems a bit surreal looking back on it, but at the time it was mental torture.
It has all come to a head for me this year. After 16 month’s seizure free I relapsed in January, with two more following in March and July. I tried to make a positive change to my health at the start of the year, but it turned out to be detrimental. Since my last seizure I’ve looked closer into the conditions that lead to them, finally finding piece of mind that I can control them without having to take medications that have had an adverse effect on my health over the years.
No matter who you are, the realms of stress, anxiety and depression will come at points. It’s perfectly normal to feel these emotions, it’s called being human. But you have to understand where these feeling’s arise from and then put them in to context. There’s seemingly a huge amount of pressure bestowed on us in modern Western society. Get a good education, find a job that pays well, saddle yourself with thousands of pounds worth of debt acquiring a house, get hitched and start a family. We don’t all dance to the same tune, that would be dystopia, but generally at large many of us do…Don’t let that be you!
It’s all about the moment
Is that stress coming from our working lives, our want to earn more, a need to find stature in society, or finding a purpose to what we do? Do we feel depressed looking back on the decisions we’ve previously made? Are we fearful of what the future holds for us in these uncertain times? I’m sure you can relate to feelings such as these, I know I have. But then it dawned on me that none of these emotions are worth the energy or time thinking about. The only moment in time that you should entertain is the present. Bringing yourself into the present moment is easier said than done, but by doing so you can develop so much more mental clarity you’ll want to be present constantly.
So how do you cultivate being present in the moment on a continual basis? First there are some fundamental habits everyone should look to first establish in their lives. These are a diet of fresh nutrient dense foods, adequate sleep as often as possible, and regular exercise. Whether that’s frequenting the gym, going from a swim, or a simple bike ride to work. We humans are designed to move.
The key is gratitude
Finding gratitude in your life is key also; be thankful for everything you have, as many in this world have very little. And the truth is we need very little. The few essentials we need to sustain life including shelter, food and water, and a few clothes to keep us warm can be a challenge for some. We also have the desire to connect with others, to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves that transcends us. The pursuit of that is deeply rooted within us all. The want of material objects is nothing more than a distraction, taking us from being present in the moment. It’s not who we are – it’s imprinted in our minds through our consumerist society.
Simple coping methods
If throughout the day you ever find yourself stressed, anxious or unable to think clearly, why not try one of these practices that have helped to ground me;
- A simple but very effective method is to focus purely on your breathing. Take a time out from whatever your doing, place one hand on the top of your chest. Place your other hand 2 to 3 inches in front of your mouth. Next close your eyes and inhale through your nose for around 2 to 3 seconds. Visualise the air going up through your nose into the nasal passage, filling the lungs. Also pay attention to how your chest expands and presses on your hand. Then forcefully exhale through your mouth on to your hand as if you were trying to fog up a window. Try maintaining that visualisation and feeling for a few minutes and notice how your mind has become clear, calm and and hopefully collected.
Move your body
- Exercise I find is the most effective tool to help cleanse the mind, with yoga having recently become the missing piece in my jigsaw. It places a big emphasis on your breathing, feeling that breath enter your body. The poses and stretches enable your body to absorb energy and release any tensions from within. I feel an unrivaled sense of stillness and well-being after a yoga session. It’s almost as if I’m floating on a cushion of air in a dream like state. Each session ends with 10 minutes of being in a meditative state; being present enjoying the feeling of energy flowing through the body.
What ever activity you choose – from lifting weights to hitting the pavement running, or pushing the peddles of a spin bike – do it first and foremost for the enjoyment, the endorphin release will soon follow. Then over time with consistency and perseverance you’ll start feel all the health benefits in your mind, body and soul