Breaking the cycle – Confronting your mental health issues head on

Everyone has some mental health issues or personal problems in their cognitive processes – no matter how radiant your friend’s social media accounts are with positivity. All of us have some form of insecurity, anger, anxiety or detrimental character trait we’d rather not have. It’s about how you gear yourself up to tackle the challenge of acceptance, planning and implementation of a cognitive program that dictates whether you’ll be happy in the long run.

Take me for example. I have two horrendous character traits in particular that harm my mental health and occasionally, my ability to enjoy life itself. I struggle with rationalising situations positively. Humans have an amazing capacity to rationalise a situation, drawing on a multitude of memories, emotions and past decisions to formulate your response. However, sometimes those rationalisations that your mind runs through can be detrimental in nature because they force you to accept your failure, your inadequacies and in some cases, the harsh realities. For some, it’s a driving force. For me and many others I’m sure, it mostly bogs me down.

Encountering a situation where I’m not good at something or somewhat uncomfortable, leads to instant cognitive self-punishment and a fundamental tearing down of my own self-esteem. It is a persistent flurry of negative thoughts; it’s effectively my own mind bullying me. The pessimistic overload of thoughts overshadows any positive reasoning and it’s almost impossible to carry on strong and maintain your best work or your best self.

Another horrific character trait of mine is self-isolation (quite fitting really given everything that’s going on). When bogged down by life, I retreat into my own mind. Group chats and friends are frequently ignored – even my closest friends in many cases. The ease of the coronavirus lockdown to hide away and minimise contact has made this a much easier trap to fall into.

This then begins the vicious cycle as the anxiety of re-entering groups begins to set in. If I can’t overcome the hurdle, I bury my head in the sand – by then, the problem is only getting perpetually worse.

What I’ve learned after talking to professionals is the strategy of interception. Take some time in the day to self-reflect. Find out your cognitive deficiencies and accept them. They will likely never go away, it’s about how you manage them going forward. When you’ve done that, learn the warning signs; the feelings you get or the patterns of self-medication you follow as a result of feeling a certain way. Do you do certain things to escape reality? isolate yourself off? Drink more? Eat more? Smoke more or take up smoking? These are all factors you can identify in the beginning.

When you’ve found your personal battles, triggers and warning signs, you can then intercept them as they come up and prevent them spiralling into a worse problem. I’ll give an example. For me, a wave of panic normally marks the beginning of a period of mental rationalisation, one that I can normally feel in my chest. I can intercept this by taking a time-out to re-evaluate the situation with a clear head. I use the time to debunk my own negative rationalisations to bring stability to my mind when it runs wild. 

Everybody is different and fact-based objective solutions don’t help everyone. But, it sets the foundations for tackling all mental health issues. That’s what they are, harmful cycles. Even as something as horrendous as a childhood trauma is a cycle as it consistently evokes a certain emotion that harms your day-to-day routine.

Opening the discussion is the key to squashing the stigma and you’re not alone. It’s a criminally over-used cliché but it’s one that couldn’t be more rooted in firm truths.

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