October 10th is World Mental Health Day. I talk a lot about mental health on my blog. I have been affected by mental illness since I was a teenager. Growing up, my parents were very open about mental health and, having experienced anxiety and depression first hand, were able to recognize when I started exhibiting signs of anxiety and depression when I was around fifteen years old.
I have come to realize that not everyone grows up in an environment where mental health is talked about in a very open and honest way. There are many people out there who have no idea that they are not alone in feelings of sadness, or fear or hopelessness. People who have no idea that there is a whole network of people out there dedicated to helping those with mental health issues and getting them to a place where they can enjoy their lives again. Today is about shedding light on mental health and ending the stigma that seeking help for your mental health issues is something to be ashamed of.
One thing I have noticed that concerns me is the trend of “pill shaming”. The idea that there is something wrong with people if they are taking medication to help manage their mental health. If you had a physical illness and there was a medication available to you that would make you feel better would you stop for one second to wonder “what will people think if I take this medication?”…nope! You would take the meds, and get better! So there is no shame in seeking help from a medical professional if you suspect that you are struggling from anxiety or depression. They are there to help you, and they can help.
Now, I am not saying that there is a magical pill out there that will just cure your anxiety or your depression. There are many tools that I have added to my proverbial tool belt to help me combat my anxiety problems. To name a few; Meditation, Self Care, Writing (my personal writing as well as blogging), Eating Healthy, Counseling, Regular Exercise
One of the techniques that has helped me the most, not just during panic attacks, but also during physical discomfort from MS, illness, etc. is meditation.
I was recently watching an episode of “In Search Of” hosted by Zachary Quinto and they were searching for the answers to how some people are able to exhibit super human strength or feats during periods of meditation.
He was specifically looking at a Shaolin warrior monk who through meditation, is able to complete tasks that would usually leave a human seriously injured. However this monk walks away with not even a scratch to be seen. For example, in this episode the Shaolin warrior monk breaks a wooden staff* over his head. He never loses consciousness, finches, and claims to feel no pain whatsoever!
*** No matter how good you are at meditation I am NOT recommending you do this…unless you are a Shaolin warrior monk…then I guess go ahead.
In search of (haha get it?) an answer as to how this monk is able to endure these superhuman feats Zachary, the monk, and one other person conduct an experiment where they took two MRI scans of their brains. The first scan was a regular scan, but during the second scan the men were asked to put their hand in extremely cold ice water. They were specifically looking for the area of the brain that recognizes pain to light up.
As suspected, when Zachary Quinto put his hand into the ice water his scan showed the pain receptor area of his brain lighting up like a Christmas tree. But when the monk did this same test, while meditating and centering himself into a place a of tranquility, his scan showed extremely limited activity in the pain receptor area of the brain!
Even more interesting, Zachary went into the MRI machine one more time to test just how successful he could be at lowering his pain level through meditation. His scan, while meditating, noted a significant decrease in activity in the pain center of the brain.
Even the doctor who was helping them conduct this tests were baffled at how affective meditation was at physically changing the way our bodies received and reacted to pain!
I have not been feeling great with a stomach bug the past few days and I have found meditation extremely helpful to help ease my discomfort. Sometimes, if your discomfort is too high to even concentrate on a full meditation even just focusing on your breathing can help. “In…two…three…four…out…two…three…for”. That phrase has gotten me through many a tough moment over the past year.
So today if you are struggling with a battle against mental illness, or if you know someone who is, let us all remember that there is always hope, there is always light, and there is an army of people around you (including me!) that are cheering you on and supporting you every step of your journey!
Let’s share some positive vibes today.