“Stillness is where creativity and solutions are found.” -Meister Eckhart
According to the World Health Organization, mental wellness is defined as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” In other words, how balanced are we? Connected to others? Ready to meet life’s challenges? If you answered no to any of those questions, you are not alone because we have all experienced it; let’s dive deeper into how to improve our mental wellness.
Life is stressful. For you, for me, for everyone. Just when we think things are going to start to plateau and normalize, we are hit with something new. To be mentally well is difficult in normal life, let alone when things are more stressful than normal (like, say… during a worldwide pandemic). We have been forced to be on the tips of our toes the last couple of years, and all the upheaval and uncertainty has certainly caused some PTSD. The first step to better mental wellness is recognizing PTSD symptoms, then having compassion, and finally, allowing more stillness into our lives.
RECOGNIZE PTSD SYMPTOMS
Some of us had our graduation canceled or experienced layoffs from work in the last few years. Others have gotten sick and have had to deal with health issues during this crazy time. We all likely feel some bitterness, resentment, anxiety, fear, etc. to this day surrounding those topics. Little did we know, we are experiencing symptoms of PTSD. Detachment, flashbacks, nightmares, avoidant behaviors (like reminders of trauma), insomnia or difficulty sleeping, feeling unmotivated, jumpy, anxious or angry, etc. are just a few more symptoms of PTSD. We have had experiences over the past couple of years that have damaged us and affected our mental health. We need to recognize whatever PTSD symptoms we may be experiencing and give room for them. It is possible we also need to work through them with the assistance of a qualified, trained therapist. Finally, we need to practice having some compassion for ourselves and what we have been through.
After we have taken the time to recognize and address our PTSD symptoms, we will need to have some compassion for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with us! Whatever PTSD symptom(s) we may be experiencing is perfectly justified based on the rollercoaster we have been riding the last few years. We need to have some compassion for ourselves and give ourselves some grace. Let’s remind ourselves that we have been doing the best we could with the situation as volatile and unstable as it has been. Let’s also give ourselves room to feel whatever emotion we are feeling and to accept those feelings as valid. Let’s also be patient and kind–to others as well as to ourselves. Practicing positive self-talk affects our self-esteem as well as our overall mental wellness!
COPE WITH STILLNESS
One very simple way to cope with PTSD and to improve our mental health is coping with stillness. I often suggest seeing a therapist, exercising, eating a balanced diet, getting quality sleep, meditating, journaling, getting outside, and this week I want to add to that list. When I say stillness, I am not referring to meditating. I am not referring to mindfulness or lying in savasana. No, I am talking about pure, true stillness. Nothing. The other day, I sat down on a bench without my phone and looked for a book to read or someone to talk to. But in my mind I thought, why can I not just BE STILL? I rarely get the opportunity to do that, so I tried to just sit and be still for a moment. I felt a little squirmy, but as I was forced to be still as I waited for an appointment, I found myself feeling rejuvenated afterwards–more connected to myself. How often do we sit and do nothing for a second? We can be so quick to grab our phones and scroll, listen to a podcast/book/song, watch a show, text someone, etc. When was the last time we sat and were still–completely present in the moment and in our surroundings? Noise crowds into every empty space of life, and it can leave us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Mother Teresa said,
“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. . . . We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
Try it. Let’s take a few moments to sit in stillness wherever we may be–our bedroom, car, office, a park bench, etc. Listen. Notice the benefits. Do it. Let’s invite stillness into our lives whenever and wherever we can. That’s it–a very simple remedy to cope with our PTSD and improve our mental health!
As we recognize our PTSD symptoms, practice compassion for ourselves, and seek more stillness in our life, our mental wellness will improve. We will have more energy and zest to do the tasks required of us, and we will have a brighter perspective of the world around us. Even though things seem dark and complicated in the world right now, there is goodness around us and reason to fight for our mental wellness. We are worth it!
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
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