I spend a lot of time talking about the infrastructure and medical sides of pursuing wellness. I do my best to produce work that anyone can pick up and find something useful in. To that end, I don’t think I’ve been giving due consideration to the other aspects that significantly contribute to finding wellness. These include points like spirituality and perspective. By spirituality, I do not mean religious. I mean things that help people feel good about themselves, their lives, and push towards inner peace.
There are many routes for accomplishing these goals. Whatever works for you is great. I’m going to share some things that have helped me just to provide a place to start looking.
On Calming Fears and Controlling Intangibles
I’m often asked about the specifics on the way I address stresses in life. I’ve commented on it regularly, trying to articulate my point of view in an understandable way. But then, I read “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius and realized that someone already said what I was saying a couple thousand years ago. Aurelius is considered the father of Stoicism, which is a Westernized version of many concepts found in Zen-Buddhism. (Note: “Meditations” is a classic, historical text so it is available for free in many locations. Here is a website copy and here is a PDF copy.)
A concept I use on a regular basis involves the principle of Focus. In regards to mood disorders like anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, and depression; external stresses can cause the person to throw themselves into an unwell state or make an unwell state worse. The focus tenet essentially states to put your attention on what is before you, most important, and work passionately to accomplish that task. When that task is completed, shift your focus to the next and do the same. Break down large tasks into their basic components and focus passionately on accomplishing each of them.
You’ve probably heard many variants of this principle before.
Jack has bills stacking up and needs money. Therefore, his the overall goal is to find a source of income. The most obvious choice is to find a job of some kind. How do you get a job? Application and follow up. Jack is facing a lot of stresses. What’s going to happen if he can’t find a job? Where’s he going to be in a month, two months, six months? Who is going to hire him? How can find a job more effectively? What options does he have?
A lot of that bloat is unessential for his primary goal of finding a job. He needs to get applications out there to start being considered. So instead of worrying about the deluge of stresses, he focuses on finding the places to apply to and getting those applications in. It doesn’t matter how many applications he puts in. It doesn’t matter how many times he is rejected. What does matter is that he needs an income, a job, and applications are the way to accomplish that. Sooner or later, something will break loose and he will accomplish that goal.
Mary finally realizes that her mental illness is the root of many problems in her life. She decides to apply for Disability. Upon further research, she finds a mass of information on the system being unfair, how other people have gotten screwed, how people abuse the system, and tons of opinions on what people should do or not do. It is very easy to get caught up in those details and opinions because there are an unending amount of them. Ultimately, none of those things really matter for Mary and her path. Instead of looking at all of the other surrounding information, she should simply sit down and fill out the application to the best of her ability. All of those other opinions and extra information is unimportant, because it does not get Mary any closer to an approval or rejection. An application does.
I am not suggesting that anyone totally ignore the looming problems. They absolutely need thought about and preparations made, but there must be a limit. I cannot count the number of people with mood disorders I’ve known to make themselves unwell with continued and incessant worry over things they have no control over. Think about it, devise a course of action, and then force it out of your mind.
Assigning specific times for thought is a good idea as well. “Alright, I’m going to think about and look for a solution to X problem from 6 to 7 PM.” Do so, and then force it from your mind. There comes a point when thinking about the problem is no longer providing any benefit. It is only feeding into potential unwellness by dwelling on shit we have no control over.
No, this is not easy to do. Yes, it takes a lot of practice. And I can hear it now, “easier said than done!” Yes, everything is easier said than done. I’m not even sure why that is a saying, but whatever.
A Bipolar person can also use this to help minimize the impact of an unwell cycle once they have identified they have triggered. It’s pretty common for Bipolar people to continue to dwell and stress about the trigger they experience, which just helps propel them to a further extreme by focusing on that and all the ‘what if’s’ and intangibles that go along with it. Learning to stay in the present can help turn a potentially major unwell cycle into a minor one. Practice, practice, practice.
How I Distract Myself from Unproductive Thoughts
I have a few go to tactics that I use to distract myself from unproductive thought processes. I love stand up comedy, so I will toss on someone’s stand up special or listen to some on Youtube. I also enjoy reading and learning about things relating to financial industries, history, and archaeology. All of these subjects require undivided attention to really process and retain. If I’m focusing on understanding some economic principle, then I’m not thinking about whatever stressful thought is hanging over my head. And the last major one is Sudoku puzzles. They are logic puzzles that require active thinking to solve.
The unifying thread is that the distracting medium should requires me to actively think about the subject. In doing so, I keep my brain from just wandering back onto the subject that is currently threatening to spin me out into an unwell cycle.
The same principle is true for anxiety management. As anyone with anxiety can verify, it’s always way worse in the brain than what we will actually experience in the world. Utilizing strong self-management can help keep minor anxiety-provoking thought processes from exploding into severe ones.
These principles are also very common ones to learn from a therapist. You just have to ask.
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