There’s no denying that despite all the advances we’ve made with medicine, sanitation, food distribution and technology, for many people in the wealthy western world, life is tough! To put this in context, we’re not wondering where the next mouthful of food will come from, or whether our child will see their first birthday, but for too many people, modern life is not always pleasant or fulfilling.
We live in an age of constant demands on our time, we have to be at the top of our game across the many different roles we perform, we’re constantly bombarded with stimulus through the media to be a ‘better’ person with shifting goals and aspirations to be striving for. It’s no wonder that it’s reckoned that at any one time, 33% of the UK population are unhappy, or depressed, or feel inadequate in some way.
So, what’s our default position to deal with this? More often than not it’s an appointment with our GP where we complain about how our terrible lives are making us miserable and anxious. Make no mistake, these are debilitating and medically significant symptoms that, left untreated, will continue to eat away at our mental health. They do need dealing with and the Doctor may be our first port of call.
The response from the GP is typically one of the following:
1) Your Doctor may write you a prescription for medication, usually some form of anti-depressant.
2) Your Doctor may encourage you to go for therapy such as counselling.
3) Your Doctor may identify the root cause of your anxiety and depression and take steps to treat that and not just your symptoms.
The latter two approaches are great, they tackle the root cause of your problems, not just the effect it is having on you; the first one may not be as helpful as you think. Guess what? Your Doctor is not responsible for managing your mental health! Depression, anxiety, low mood, panic attacks are our body’s way of telling us that our environment is harming us. Instead of taking a tablet to block the emotions and feelings, in effect to change the neurochemistry in our brain, we need to look at what may be causing the feelings.
With our combined worries about children, partners, finances, caring for others, uncertainties about work and the future, it’s hardly surprising that we may feel overwhelmed with life and our responsibilities. When there’s too little joy and happiness and too much drudgery and dread, things get out of balance. Our body tells us with changes to our physical and mental wellbeing that it wants us to take notice, take charge and make changes, not block them out with tablets which stops us reaching the root cause.
If you add the numbers of people who put a brave face on feeling miserable, who just soldier on, week in, week out and just think ‘this is it’, you can probably quadruple that number above. This isn’t ‘living’, it’s existing. It can catch anybody at anytime. Major life events, the things that just happen, can cause us to be sad. I myself suffered with reactive depression for three months after having gone through a challenging divorce. The stress and loss took its toll on my emotions. I had to learn to accept help to process the emotions and grieve the losses of what I was going through. It was only when I allowed my body to do this, that I re-found my joy and happiness.
This is why I believe it is our own personal responsibility to manage our mental health and not turn to the Doctor for a prescription to block the thing that is causing the problem. If we fell down and grazed our knee, we wouldn’t just put a plaster over the graze without investigating the area to see if there was any dirt or grit in, so why do we grab the Doctor’s plaster of the anti depressant, instead of looking to ourselves to see what may be causing our low mood or anxiety? Yes, sometimes we need the tablet to prevent us from harming ourselves however we still can search inside of ourselves.
What can we do to help ourselves?
We can start to take responsibility for our happiness, our mental health, and ourselves. I know you’re thinking that it’s easy for me to say, I’ve been able to use my qualifications and experience as a Psychologist to handle it, but trust me, I could have done it without any of that, and you can too. Have a think about all of this and if you want to start to take control of your own happiness and make life-affirming changes to the way you think and live, visit my blog – Its your mental health – own it