2: Your Beautiful Mind (Intellectual, Mental & Emotional Wellness)
WELCOME TO WEEK TWO!
Who’s excited to dig a little deeper? This week we’re heading up to our brains, into our minds and poking at those pesky emotions. We’re going to talk about mental health, emotional control and the importance of continued learning. I’m going to get very personal in this one, so grab your journal and something to drink, and let’s get started.
When I was a preschool teacher, I had colourful charts in my classroom. I had one for the alphabet, one for numbers. One for fruits and veggies. And I had one for emotions. This was meant to be used so the students could help identify what they were feeling. From angry, to confused, to jealous, to happy, excited, surprised and beyond.
We use this chart to communicate with the littles, but I think that adults could benefit from charts like this. After all, how many times have you gotten into an argument with someone you love and three hours later, after tears have been shed and hurtful things said, have you finally realized that you are in fact not even angry at them, but feeling something entirely different?
I remember reading an article once years ago that stated we are never actually angry. The word anger it thrown around like a blanket statement, when really what we’re feeling underneath is something more complex. The same way that ‘love’ is a collective term for adoration, attraction, appreciation, and happiness. Anger encompasses resentment, feeling disrespected, violated, annoyed, criticized, bitterness and disappointment. Just to name a few.
I believe that if we are to control our emotions, as opposed to allowing them control us, we must first identify what it is we are feeling. And why. It’s definitely a step in the right direction if we can acknowledge happiness, sadness, anger and fear. But the real truth comes when you look deeper. It’s tough, to say the least. Emotions are tricky, and complex.
( Understatement? ) And as humans we are capable of feeling more then one at once.
Have you ever managed to smile while crying? Or been so frustrated you couldn’t help laughing?
Emotions, and the perspective we have of them within us can make or break relationships, our sense of self and many choices we make day to day. Have you watched the Fast and Furious films? You know when Vin Diesel hits the NOS button and the engine explodes? Emotion is the NOS in our systems, and sometimes we really can explode.
If we are sad, it can cause us to lash out at those we love. Or stay in bed all day. Or even harm ourselves in someway. So we must ask ourselves why. And what kind of sad we are feeling. Am I hurt? Embarrassed? Feeling inferior? Am I feeling guilty or ashamed? Am I lonely, and feeling isolated or abandoned? Am I feeling fragile or powerless in my current situation? When you recognize which emotions you are feeling, you will find it easier to pinpoint why you are feeling this way and what you can do to stop the emotion.
Or...create the emotion again and again.
Happiness for example is the most powerful emotion. Happiness comes when we’re feeling playful, free, content, proud of accomplishments, accepted by others. Optimism is a sign of happiness, as is creativity and thankfulness, courage and hope. It’s a beautiful, complicated and complex emotion.
Not all emotions are bad, after all. In fact, none of them are. Think of your emotions like road signs telling you where to go, where to turn. They are internal guides to keep you on the right path. To keep you safe. Like fear, for example.
Fear is a survival instinct. I think we could argue that all emotions are in fact ingrained into us for survival, but let’s focus on fear for a moment. Fear has two functions. To remind us of past pain to prevent it from happening again, and to keep us alive. Fear tries to be our friend. It can hold us back sometimes, especially when mixed with depression and anxiety, but a lot of the time fear is trying to send our brains and body a message.
Fear enters our mind when we feel frightened, overwhelmed, inadequate, rejected, nervous or exposed. It can jump up and stop us from entering situations we might find ourselves being excluded or scared. The trick with fear is knowing when to listen, and thank it for its protection. And when to say “No thanks. I’m going to be brave and do it anyway.”
My husband is a retired paratrooper. This means that he used to jump out of airplanes and helicopters for work. Usually with a bunch of guns on his back, and sometimes at night. I ask him about it sometimes, and he smiles fondly and tells me how incredible it was. How scary it was. But he has no regrets, despite suffering many injuries as a result. And nearly dying once. I’ve personally never done it myself. I prefer to stay safely strapped into my first class, comfort plus seat with food and beverage service when it comes to flying aircrafts. But I find myself wishing I could have the guts to experience that feeling of weightlessness. Of flying and soaring and feeling free. Of relying on the parachute to protect me from certain death. Maybe one day. But I doubt it.
In a world where the most exercise our emotions get on a daily basis, is selecting the appropriate emoticon for a text message or social media comment, take this time to explore your personal emotions and take control back.
Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death. -Albert Einstein
Mr. Einstein might have struggled to tie his shoes. But the man knew what he was talking about when it came to learning. As you may know, your brain is a muscle that needs exercise, and the best way to do this, is to learn.
Now that thought may bring up mental images of school- which depending on your personality could be a good or bad thing. But even if traditional education brings up negative emotions, you definitely do not need to be stuck in a classroom to keep your brain alive.
So, why is continued learning so important? It helps keep your mind open and accepting of new concepts, to start with. Imagine if we stopped learning about human rights when it was stated that white men could own slaves. We need to grow as people, so that we can become better people. And share what we learn with future generations so that we can continue to become more awesome as a species with each new child.
Extended learning also allows us to become better problem solvers in every day life. It really doesn’t matter what you’re learning. Just as long as it’s new, exciting and you find it interesting. A new language, an instrument, cook your way through a cookbook, take a dance class. Anything you want. With online resources like Skillshare and Lumosity, you don’t even have to leave your home. No excuses! (But please do get up off the couch and leave your home.)
Another important thing to know about Intellectual Wellness is that the point above all else is to spark your mind. So if you’ve been studying something and it’s no longer bringing you joy, it is okay to drop it and choose something else. It’s not ideal to give up right away, and we must notice if we make a habit of never finishing anything....but ultimately at the end of the day, the hours you spend learning are yours. So you get to decide when and how much and what you are consuming.
Mental Wellness. Wow. What a giant piece of cake this is, hey? I dare say, it may even be the coveted corner piece with the icing flower. Where do we begin with this? And more importantly, where do we end? I could have done an entire series just on this topic.
It is our memory and how we interpret the past. As well as our imagination and how we utilize its power. If our body is the vehicle we use to get around the earth, our mentality is the fuel. Guiding our choices and our mistakes.
Our mental wellness is important because it can effect our physical health.
Our work life.
All aspects of wellness affect one another, but as someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression in various forms, I can tell you that mental un-wellness can be crippling. And if you’ve experienced any sort of invasion of dark thoughts, you know first hand just how important finding care and seeking out help can be.
When our mental stability is wobbly, it’s quite easy for everything around us to fall apart. We lack direction and discipline. We become lost.
That voice inside us, not our conscious, the other one that is often so loud we can’t hear anything or anyone else. The one that wants us to avoid compliments that people give us. The one that dares us to do things we know we shouldn’t. If we go along with the angel and devil on the shoulder metaphor, it’s the devil we’re talking about. That’s our mentality vocalized. It tells us how we feel about our bodies or someone we know. How to react when things happen to us or around us. When to talk and what to say when we do talk. It can keep us up at night. And if it’s not healthy, it can convince us of some nasty, sad things.
It is no secret, if you are close to me in real life that is, that I once was so depressed I was suicidal. To the point I actually wrote the note. Technically is was a letter, because this girl had a lot to say. But the thing was, I never really had a plan on how I would end my life. I suppose because I was in the process of slowly setting my body up to shut down. I was going out partying every weekend. Drinking excessive amounts. I had no respect for my heart or my body, and so I abused it. I had sex with people I didn’t need to share my body with. I never crossed the line into taking drugs, which I am thankful for. But I certainly wasn‘t ingesting good things.
I wasn’t eating properly, or much at all if I’m being honest. I drove home when I probably shouldn’t have. This is something I admit with great shame.
I was hurting. As a person. As a woman. I was recovering from a highly toxic and abusive relationship. As well as the grief and guilt that comes from following the loss of a child. My relationships with the people close to me were strained, and those who I did have around me were not exactly positive and inspiring supports. I sabotaged any positive intentions from people that truly wanted to be part of my life. Between the deprivation of nutrition, sleep, morals and give a damn about myself...it became quite easy for the negative voices I grew up with to gain power and volume. They were able to convince me that the world was truly better off without me. That I would be doing the people that cared about me a favour.
I managed to beat the demons (mostly) on my own. Not everyone can do that. And if you have the resources to seek out help, please take them. Some of us need therapy. Some of us need drugs. Some of us need a vacation or a completely new corner of the world. I think because I did it alone, it took much longer and I had quite a few setbacks.
Something always held me back from actually giving in fully to the depression and doing the thing that the voice wanted me to do. Take my own life and ‘free’ my friends and family from having to put up with me. Perhaps because I am a control freak at my core and I had no idea what would happen after death. Or maybe part of it was that I knew I had a real purpose of being on this planet. That I was not finished living yet. I know now, that my daughter is the reason I stayed. The reason I turned my life inside out and around and found my way back.
I healed long before she was born. Before I married the love of my life. I don’t know what or who you believe in, but I absolutely know that a wise old man I knew at the time came to me as a guardian angel. He metaphorically picked me up, and shook some much needed sense into me. This was my wake up call. He told me that he didn’t know exactly what was going on with me, but that he could see something wasn’t right. He told me that it was possible for me to heal. To forgive myself. To be happy. But I had to stop. I had to make the choice to stop hurting myself. And that when I did that, I would find true love and happiness. I would find peace.
I remember walking out of his office that day and feeling a million pounds lighter. To this day, I don’t know how he knew I was in trouble or what I needed to hear. But it changed my freaking life, and the only thing I can do to repay him, is to live my life to the fullest. To enjoy my second chance at life.
After that, the voice inside began to change. My mentality became clearer. Cleaner. Lighter. I learned my worth. I began exploring my passions again. I slowly changed the group of people that I hung out with. I switched jobs. And piece by piece I began putting my life back together. I forgave myself (mostly) for the life of the child I lost and I allowed myself to heal and let go of the narcissist who had nearly destroyed me. And I found love and life and purpose.
Even if you are’t outright struggling or you feel like things are medium well, it’s a good idea to talk to someone professional - at the very least trusted - who can spot warning signs for potential issues down the line. Much like going to the doctor for a physical, there should be the same amount of lacking shame in regards to a mental check up.
Now that you got the slightly heavy lowdown for this weeks topics, please jump into the Facebook Group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/507109346782318/?ref=share (it’s still not too late to join if you just found us) - and download this weeks worksheets. Check in with everyone’s progress and share your own if you’d like. See you there!