Our Finding Freedom journey is all about optimization. Designing a life that allows us to maximize our time to the fullest. But it’s clear that a critical component of being able to achieve our highest ROI also relies upon our general well being.
Well being is a hotter topic than it has ever been in the history of the world.
Just check out the health and wellness section of your local Indigo. (Maybe the online version at the moment.)
With continued technological and medical progress, when we aren’t in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, much of our 1st world societies attention has turned from how to simply survive, to how to thrive.
How to extend both our quality and quantity of life.
We’ve slowly shifted our habits from reactive, to pro-active. At least when it comes to our physical well-being. But what about our mental well being? Just how pro-active are we being about that? Given that May is mental health month, it seems an appropriate time to question just how well we are prioritizing this crucial component of our overall ability to live an optimized life.
There are wonderful links between the quality of our sleep, exercise, diet, and self-talk in relation to our mental well being. And those are all area’s where there is abundant literature and open dialogue to ensure it’s accessibility to even the most novice beginner.
But what happens if a strong work out routine, a solid diet, or daily meditation isn’t quite cutting the mustard to ensure our overall mental fitness?
What if you are noticing a slow erosion of things like your patience, motivation, or outlook? Or you are just experiencing general burn out? Or what if you’re wading into unfamiliar territory that has all the markers of being both emotionally and physically overwhelming?
You could absolutely ignore it, and hope/wait for things to get better, right? After all, everyone goes through ups and downs in life. Experiencing times of higher stress and demand. We’ve all heard that pushing through those times builds character……right?
But is pushing through always the best answer? Is it the answer that will help us maintain perspective, AND make the best life decisions, both financial and otherwise?
My Old School Mental Fitness Approach
Stoicism has always been my go to coping strategy. In my head, it’s the one that makes the most sense. Shove aside whatever emotions may be bubbling to the surface, and take a logic based approach to whatever problem lies in front of me.
For the most part, I’ve elected for the “big girls don’t cry” approach to life. Shove aside, push it down, don’t dwell on it. Above all else – don’t talk about your feelings. Feelings don’t help problems get solved.
If I’m being honest, there are many times I’ve prided myself on my ability to be what I like to characterize as “pragmatic”. (I’ve heard others refer to this as cold, unfeeling, heartless…..the list goes on.) But, I was never able to see the purpose in getting overly emotional about anything. How could that possibly make the situation better?
Those were my
coping distraction strategies.
Life Experience Has Changed My View
For a long time, these strategies made sense to me. But as I’ve come to realize, coping with the many demands, stressors, and ups and downs of our society, necessitates that we process what we experience. That we actually wade through the sometimes murky, and unpleasant emotions that arise.
As uncomfortable as that can often be, avoidance simply leads to unresolved baggage. Whereas dealing with difficulties as they arise, is what really strengthens us, and improves our overall mental fitness level.
And frankly, while not the sole piece to the processing puzzle, talking it through provides a lot of value.
Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to have someone they can talk with openly and candidly about their inner concerns and struggles. Whether it’s because we don’t want to admit weakness, show vulnerability, or weigh others down with our issues, there’s endless reasons that many of us refrain from reaching out.
Or sometimes we DO reach out, and our concerns are met with dismissal, poor advice, or simply a well intentioned friend that just doesn’t know how to respond.
Which is exactly why using the services of a psychologist can provide the perfect outlet to talk through what’s going on. Process the emotion. And appropriately push the boundaries of your individual mental fitness.
Psychologist’s Are Fine……But I Don’t Need One.
In the day and age of increased awareness of mental health, the idea of speaking to a psychologist, or counsellor, is starting to have less stigma. But let’s be real – the stigma isn’t gone. It’s still firmly present, and a huge hurdle for people in terms of making the decision to actually use their services.
But you don’t have to be suffering from mental illness or a severe trauma to seek out the services of a psychologist. In fact, I would suggest the BEST time to look for one is when things aren’t going sideways. When you can take the time to try out a few different people, and find someone who offers you a good fit.
Someone who you feel comfortable speaking openly with. Someone who’s response and approach aligns with your personality.
Most importantly, someone who helps you safely process life’s challenges, all the while allowing you to build and improve upon your mental fitness. That way, if/when catastrophe does strike, not only are you better equipped to cope, you also have someone there you can talk to. Right away.
Look At What’s Happening All Around Us
How nice would it be for so many people going through the difficulties posed by Covid-19 to have a psychologist they could reach out to. Someone they already know, and feel comfortable speaking with to offer a sounding board, and talk through their concerns.
A space where they don’t have to worry about acting tough, or being strong for the people in their life. Somewhere they can unpack their worries. Completely.
Somewhere they don’t have to be guarded, or concerned about whether or not the person they are talking to is going to blab to other friends/coworkers about what’s discussed. Or worry about sounding selfish, or that perhaps the other person has way more going on in their own life.
The Best Part About Mental Fitness?
Many extended health plans cover the cost of a psychologist’s services. So whether you’re experiencing a major life change, divorce, critical illness, death of a loved one, relationship hurdles, parenting challenges, recovery from an injury, a worldwide pandemic, or any other life challenge, odd’s are, you can access them for little to no cost out of your own budget.
Seriously – why aren’t more people taking advantage of this?
But even more relevant than costs, you wouldn’t wait to find out to find out you have a serious illness to find a family doctor, would you? We’d all prefer to have someone caring for us who we’ve established a relationship with. Who knows the in’s and out’s of our history, and has a pretty good idea of our individual values, strengths and weaknesses.
Would you rely on your friends to help you develop a work out plan for the gym in order to up your physical capabilities? Or would you find a trainer who understands your goals, and can help you reach them safely?
So why do we we think we should wait until we experience serious mental health issues/trauma to seek out a psychologist, if we seek one out at all? Or that we can just rely on individual mental fortitude, or our friends and family to help us navigate mentally demanding waters?
Sure – there’s good ones and not so good ones out there. Just like trainers, and just like family physicians. Isn’t that even more of a reason to find a good one, before you really need them?
The Bottom Line
If we are all so interested in being proactive about our health, why aren’t we more proactive about securing the services of a psychologist?
If we know anything about life, it’s that we just never know when it’s going to throw us a curve ball. We might think we’re ready, with a healthy diet, strong immune system, great meditation habits, and consistent exercise routines, but wouldn’t it still be easier if we all had a professional to talk to?
Wouldn’t it be easier if our mental fitness was primed, because we’d been attending to it? Wouldn’t it be nicer to know a psychologist BEFORE we truly “need” their services?
Maintaining such a proactive approach to our mental fitness can prove invaluable.
We simply don’t know what life has in store for any of us, and establishing a relationship with a psychologist you trust in advance, only serves to strengthen the other proactive measures we take.
Given how deeply our mental and physical well being is integrated, having a trusted mental health provider in our corner is something we should all prioritize, just as much having a family doctor, a trainer, or a financial advisor.