Archive,  Mental Health

Small Things You Can Do Every Day to Protect Your Mental Health

Dr. Caroline Leaf – In this replay from Lewis Howes’ amazing podcast The School of Greatness, I talk about ways to handle the mental conditions that affect us all.  

Lewis and I dive deep into the topic of how mismanagement of mental health is on the rise, and I share my five-step Neurocycle process to help people manage their minds. We also discuss how to protect your mental health if you’ve undergone painful and traumatic experiences in your life.

Emotional states like anxiety and depression are our body’s way of responding to painful experiences. Despair, anger, depression, anxiety—these are all normal responses to life. In fact, they can be helpful. They are messengers and warning signals telling us what is going on in our lives, not just scary illnesses.

We need to shift our focus and change the way we talk and think about mental health. It’s important to focus on the story and the person’s experience, not just their symptoms.

The mind is complicated, and to properly heal, we need to focus on specific ways of dealing with negative emotions. This is where the Neurocycle comes in. This process is an alternative way to manage our mind’s response to traumatic memories or painful experiences.

For instance, in a tremendously acute traumatic state, you have the options of going into two zones. The first is the mental mess that you’re in, where you are the pilot. However, you also have the zone of the co-pilot, which is also you. The only difference is that your co-pilot can see what is going on from a more objective point of view. It has its wisdom because inside each of us is what I call our “wise mind”. This co-pilot state is necessary for us to prepare ourselves for the Neurocycle process. Once we hand the control over to our mind’s co-pilot, our wise mind, then we can proceed to the five-step process below:

  • Gather awareness: In this gather step, you are gathering awareness of your emotional and physical warning signals, behaviors and perspective/attitude. It’s a bit like gathering apples into a basket versus letting them all fall on your head and knock you out. In this analogy, the apples represent all of these warning signals. In this step, allow yourself time to feel. Validate your feelings, don’t run away from them!
  • Reflect: Put your thoughts and feelings on the witness stand in your mind. Ask yourself questions like: Why do you think you feel the way you do? What has happened recently? What has happened in the past? Have you been suppressing or ignoring anything? Are you trying to avoid anything? What triggered you? Be as specific as possible. You can do this in a minute or less because you don’t need too much information—you don’t need to find all the answers right now! Allow yourself to be curious with your emotions and feelings. What you are feeling is valid, but may not be true, so question everything.
  • Write: Pour you mind and brain on paper. This doesn’t have to be organized or even make sense—just get it out! You can organize in step 4. This type of “pouring your mind out” writing will pull what’s in the depths of your being up and will help you both organize and clarify your thoughts and feelings. It also increases brain health, so that you can think more clearly, be less impulsive and have more wisdom and cognitive flexibility!
  • Recheck: In this recheck step, you are making more sense of what you have gathered, written and reflected on. So, I want you to go back over what you discussed, wrote down and thought about more deeply, reflecting and analyzing your thoughts and feelings. Do a mental autopsy; become a detective and look for patterns, triggers and activators. Write whatever you discover into your journal in another color so you can track what you are reconceptualizing. Some questions to ask in this step could be: What truths are hidden in your writing? What patterns? What are you noticing about your thoughts and reactions? Has anything changed? How are you planning to proceed? What can you learn from your reactions? What can you learn from what happened in your relationship? How can you reconceptualize this situation? How can you turn the destructive into something constructive?
  • Active Reach: This step is essentially an action you take to reinforce the new, reconceptualized pattern of thinking you want in your life (which is replacing the old relationship habit). This step will be based off what you rechecked in step 4. If you want something to change, what will this look like? How can you practice this change? If you want to restore the relationship, what will you do?

Once you start permitting your mind’s co-pilot to take the reins, it’ll be easier to fight that urge to come back to that dark place.

It is also helpful to engage in brain building to build up your cognitive resilience. This means taking the five steps of Neurocycling to learn new information.

Every morning, new cells are born, just waiting for us to use them. If we don’t, they become toxic waste and affect our brain negatively. There are many ways to build the brain, like reading, studying, and even doing physical activities. By allowing your mind to engage itself in thinking, you can build your mental and physical resilience, take control of the urge of going back to that deep dark place, and transform your life altogether!

To read the original article click here.

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