Dr. Nilaja Green, a licensed clinical and community psychologist, believes that the answer to many mental health issues like anxiety and depression lies in mindfulness. “We have a culture that moves very fast, we get distracted very quickly. That means that we’re not always good at really attending to ourselves. I recommend to my clients to do something that gets them to slow down. Turn off the phone for 24 hours or shut off the Internet. Get off the social media. Live a conscious life and live an examined life,” says Dr. Green.
It may sound trite and simple, but learning how to breath properly is a big deal according to Dr. Green. For example, if someone is having a panic attack, it usually means they are hyperventilating. They are breathing too fast and exhaling more than they inhale. But even if your anxiety is much less severe, take the time and focus on breathing slowly with your stomach. Also, Dr. Green recommends attempting only one activity at a time. For example, eating without checking your email the whole time. This is essential to slowing down and staying present.
Periods of High Risk
It’s incredibly rare for someone to experience the same level of mental health risk their entire life, but one must keep a close eye on periods of turmoil or distress. It’s important to monitor transitions in our lives, to notice or to listen to our loved ones when they notice that we are not functioning properly. Here are some signs you might need help:
- not sleeping or sleeping too much
- isolating yourself from friends and family
- overeating or not eating enough
- using substances to avoid dealing with emotions
- inability to control emotions
- constant mood swings.
Dr. Green says, “We would ask questions about being disconnected from reality. Do you worry so much that it’s getting in the way of your daily tasks? Are you having a thought that you can’t get out of your mind? Do you engage in behaviors that you try to stop, but can’t stop?”
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“I spend my first couple of sessions getting to know not only what’s bringing my clients in but also the important parts of their story. I spend a lot of time learning about their traumas, but I also ask them how they survived these things. Then we develop goals. Where do you want to be in 6 months and what are the markers that we’ll use? What’s important to you in this moment and what do I see as important to you,” shares Dr. Green. “There’s a relationship building piece, the goals setting piece, the collaborative visioning what the person wants, and then the intervention piece. Depending on what you come in with, we may do different things.”
Be Kind to Yourself
“We are not always responsible for the stories of our lives. We didn’t choose where we were born, or who we were born to or the environment that we were born into. We didn’t choose so many of the experiences that happened to us in childhood, but we can choose what happens to our stories from that point. Once we become able to really reflect on where we come from, that’s when we get the opportunity to say ‘OK, I have some power, I have some choices. I can write a different story.’”
“One experience doesn’t define me. Two experiences don’t define me. My life is a dynamic, evolving being – an entity. And as long as I stay connected to my life. As long as I stay attentive and conscious, I can always make choices about who I want to be and how I want to live.” – Brandeis Nilaja Green
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