Mind Over Matter

Brisi Sono-Cochrane, LAMFT 

As mental health awareness increases, the light shed on the stigmas surrounding mental wellness deserve increased attention, as well. Mental health struggles are not only about a diagnosis and prescribed psychiatric medications. There is no universal image for someone with mental health challenges. This is a stigmatized view on mental health conditions as it paints an inaccurate, marginalized picture of those who navigate mental health issues.

Sometimes, struggling mentally can look like having a hard time finding balance when life throws curveballs (i.e. sudden job loss, unexpected medical treatment, etc.). Other times, mental struggles may be navigating immense grief, unprocessed trauma or pent-up resentment. Across the board, however, someone carrying any of these can look like anyone of us. Our mental health suffers when we go too long neglecting self-care, watering unhealthy habits or remaining chronically dysregulated from a deficit of met needs. If we want to thrive, we must remember that we can grow from discomfort, despite what the narratives of our fear-based thoughts say. The more we work to collectively normalize these issues, the more accepting we may become of appropriate treatment and maintenance for mental wellness.

Maintaining mental health does not always mean going to therapy. We can cultivate sustainable mental health by being consistent in wellness practices. The more we know, the more we can do. How do we begin? First and foremost, we want to check-in with ourselves to figure out what needs have to be met. Abraham Maslow talks about our needs as building blocks that evolve from our basic, physiological needs. We must have a solid foundation of fulfilled needs so that we can flourish. But when circumstances disrupt this hierarchical development chronically or temporarily, we must meet ourselves where we are in this process to relearn how to fulfill our unmet needs.

Engaging in healthy activities consistently and practicing self-care help our brain to release more “happy” chemicals. This allows our brains to develop more neuroplasticity (where pathways in the brain can change through growth and reorganization) so that we can become more flexible in riding the waves of life’s happenstances.

Here is some key brain chemistry and how to access it:

Some of us might feel discouraged or internal pushback once we start new skills. This is a natural response when we have used the same habits for a long time. We tend to outgrow habits and have to unlearn them once they become maladaptive. However loud the pushback might get, practice self-compassion and focus on what is in your control, like how you view challenges. Often, our initial hurdle is our own mindset in how we conceptualize or approach stressors and conflict.

As you go through this process of unlearning unhealthy habits and learning healthier ones, remember that overcoming discomfort, doubt and fear comes down to mind over matter. Belief in yourself, consistency, effort, patience and repetition will be your strongest companions along the way.

Written By: Brisi Sono-Cochrane, LAMFT
Published By: Park Ridge Living

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