Last night I watched a documentary about a popular reality star who talked about the issue of mental health. She said as an African-American she is aware of the belief that black people do not go to a therapist but rather go to church. While I am a strong proponent of prayer and spiritual counsel, I also believe in going to the doctor. I was told that if we can see a medical professional for other parts of our body, why do we think the brain is any different?
Mental health is an important issue that must be taken seriously. I’m sure many of us think of such a concern in terms of schizophrenia, manic depression, and bi-polar disorder. However, we may not see prolonged stress as a gateway to issues with our mind because, after all, we live in a society that places a high premium on not having a glass chin and sucking things up in the name of being strong. While we do need to grin and bear some things, it is also important to know when we are dealing with something that requires professional intervention. According to the N.B. Anderson, “an extreme amount of stress can have health consequences and adversely affect the immune, cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and central nervous systems.”
There are a lot of stresses and responses to stress that have been normalized and I believe it is killing us. Reckless speech is termed just keeping it real, hyper-aggression is deemed a way to show we can’t be messed with, and stretching ourselves thin is seen as holding it down or having someone’s back. Suffice it to say we may very well have conditioned ourselves to have a high tolerance for unhealthy behaviors and situations. As a result, some of the aches and pains we may experience probably have nothing to do with age and everything to do with the unhealthy way we may navigate life.
Everyone cannot take a vacation as often as they’d like, and sometimes not at all. However, there are ways we can take mental vacations by turning off the phone for a while, regular prayer and meditation, learning how to say no, and doing something nice for ourselves even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood or finally buying that lovely bar of soap that we heard was so moisturizing. Doing little things for ourselves to remind us of our value and stealing away to collect ourselves are not selfish acts. In a world where people think it’s everyone else’s job to take care of them, we must remember to take care of ourselves if we are to be any good for the things we must accomplish to stay afloat.
As someone once told me, we can be one problem away from losing our minds. Let’s operate on the offense instead of the defense, and be proactive with treating ourselves well so that we won’t find ourselves walking around the streets with one sock on murmuring about Charlie Babbitt. Joking but not joking!
Philippians 4:8b: Make a conscious effort to fill your mind with good, pure, wholesome, and lovely thoughts.
Source: Anderson, N.B. (1998). “Levels of Analysis in Health Science: A Framework for Integrating Sociobehavioral and Biomedical Research,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 840, pp. 563-576.
Disclaimer: This blog is not a cyber diary of my life. I like to write about various topics and may insert an overt personal example from time to time to show my connection to the discussion.