How to pro­tect your men­tal health

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - JUDI LIGHT HOPSON, EMMA H. HOPSON AND TED HA­GEN

Do you ever won­der why cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als crash and have a men­tal break­down? They might com­mit a crime such as rob­bery, com­mit sui­cide, or com­mit a mass shoot­ing. They are hu­man, so upon tak­ing a closer look, we might won­der: Are they re­ally any dif­fer­ent from the rest of us? What changed in their emo­tions and flipped a switch?

Any of us can be pushed to the limit. And, at one time or an­other, life gen­er­ally does push most of us to the break­ing point. We may lose con­trol over what is hap­pen­ing in our fam­i­lies, our fi­nances, our jobs or in our com­mu­ni­ties. The only con­trol we have is figuring out a few ar­eas in which we can steady our­selves. This way, we pro­tect our men­tal health to the largest de­gree we can.

Let’s take a look at how we ex­ac­er­bate our per­sonal stress. It helps to mon­i­tor what’s go­ing on deep in­side. Th­ese tips can help you main­tain some calm:

• Stop do­ing any­thing to ex­cess. When we overeat, abuse al­co­hol, overwork, crit­i­cize oth­ers too much, or spend too much time sleep­ing, we up­set the bal­ance of our lives.

• Don’t try too hard to change other peo­ple. Most of us can get very, very up­set think­ing about the weird be­hav­iours of peo­ple we know. While we shouldn’t al­low peo­ple to hurt us, we’d be bet­ter off just ac­cept­ing them the way they are. Then, we can man­age our­selves ac­cord­ingly.

• Limit how much bad news you watch. Stay­ing glued to the TV can cre­ate bad feel­ings. While we want to have com­pas­sion for oth­ers, we have to be care­ful we don’t take in too much gloom and doom.

• Prac­tice a healthy life­style. Try your best to eat healthy foods and spend time with up­beat peo­ple. Pay close at­ten­tion to what helps you feel sta­ble and whole.

“I’ve no­ticed that most of my clients, who are ex­tremely stressed, tell me they have been ne­glect­ing them­selves,” says a psy­chol­o­gist we’ll call San­dra.

San­dra once dealt with a man who had to be ap­pre­hended by the po­lice. He’d had a melt­down at their lo­cal church.

“He was so stressed out, he told me he had for­got­ten to eat over a three-day pe­riod,” San­dra told us. “Worry de­stroys our fo­cus on self-care.”

Find­ing a sup­port­ive per­son to lis­ten is al­ways a good idea, too, if you’re un­der ex­treme stress. That’s why it pays to have sev­eral close friends in your life.

“I am an at­tor­ney who wor­ries a lot about other peo­ple,” says a friend of ours we’ll call Jack. “I’ve de­vel­oped close re­la­tion­ships in cities out­side my im­me­di­ate cir­cle. Some­times, I need to talk to peo­ple who won’t share my se­crets.”

Jack told us that he of­ten gets in­volved in his cases way too per­son­ally.

“Lawyers are only hu­man,” he points out. “We need peo­ple to lean on. We have our share of rest­less nights, be­lieve me. It’s hard not to worry about los­ing a case, be­cause many peo­ple are usu­ally count­ing on me. Whether my client wins or not, his or her fam­ily is af­fected for years. I al­ways take a week off af­ter a ma­jor trial.”

If your men­tal health is a lit­tle shaky, take time to as­sess what’s go­ing on. Fig­ure out what you can do to calm down and feel emo­tion­ally health­ier. The worse the stress, the more you need to take care of your­self.

Judi Light Hopson is the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the stress man­age­ment web­site USA Well­ness Cafe at us­awell­ness­cafe.com. Emma Hopson is an au­thor and a nurse ed­u­ca­tor. Ted Ha­gen is a fam­ily psy­chol­o­gist. Tri­bune News Ser­vice

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Peo­ple un­der ex­treme stress of­ten ne­glect them­selves.

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