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Push through Anxiety or You'll Seize Up

Anxiety wants to isolate you. It wants to clamp you down. It wants to shut you up. You have to carefully, slowly, push your way through. Keep going.

Arthritis can be an incredibly painful condition and those who suffer from it should be admired. They push through the pain using coping strategies and medication because if you don’t mobilise those joints, they could seize up and the pain would be worse. In short, use it or you’ll lose it. Anxiety is a similar beast.

Anxiety wants to isolate you. It wants to clamp you down. It wants to shut you up.

There are days where it is exhausting just to open the curtains. There are days you can get to the local shops and back. But whether it is agony in your knee or a burden on your mind, you have to try.

In 2015, I worked at the UK and Eire HQ for a large multi-national manufacturer. After five years with the company, I was forced to leave – after I tried to kill myself. It took a long time but I'm getting better. Each step is a little push.

RuPaul quite rightly says “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else”. That same love can be applied to care and support; if you don’t help yourself, how the hell can you help anyone else?

The CDC (a department of the US government) encourages those with arthritis to take up their SMART challenge. I think the same can be applied to Anxiety and mental health in general:

Start low, go slow.

Modify activity when symptoms increase, try to stay active.

Activities should be “joint friendly.”

Recognize safe places and ways to be active.

Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist.

"To help yourself, you must be yourself. Be the best that you can be. When you make a mistake, learn from it, pick yourself up and move on."- Dave Pelzer

Start low, go slow.

Find an activity you can dip in and out of. Maybe something you can do for 10 minutes and take a break. Something where you can slowly build up and join in gradually.. Don’t expect to run a 5k on the first day. Consider activities like a walking club, singing for fun club, maybe part of the backstage team at your local drama club or even just volunteering at a care home or school.

Modify activity when symptoms increase, try to stay active.

If you all becomes too much (whether joints or pressure on your mental health) you can slip away for a while. If you can run 5k, you might not be able to do it every week. If you can’t run the 5k, do a little run instead. If you feel like going to singing or yoga this week is hard or you are already drained, maybe ask the leader if you can come for the first half and see how it goes. Sometimes the hardest part is getting over the first hurdle and once you are there you have the support and fun you really need.

Activities should be “joint friendly”.

For mental health, perhaps this is open to your interpretation. It might be that joining the local Drama Club provides you with the same ‘escapism’ it gave me or the idea of being on stage isn’t your thing, there are many groups like ‘Men In Sheds’ and ‘Library Games Club’ where you can be part of team taking part in casual activities. There is something to be said though for joining a sports activity and while it wasn’t for me personally, something like Netball or Lawn Bowls could be brilliant for physical and mental health. Being part of a team, a supportive team, can be very rewarding whether you win or lose.

Recognize safe places and ways to be active

For me this links in with the above activities but this also includes safe places where you can get support. Does you library offer a local drop in service? Is there a local Mind? Some cafes also offer a mental health afternoon. If there isn’t, could a chat with your local Costa manager help set on up? Another aspect of this is where would you go in an emergency? Or a time of crisis?

If you are in the UK, I really recommend an app called “Hub of Hope” which does a great job of signposting you to local services whether it is in a crisis such as Samaritans or more routine support. They have a website also at: https://hubofhope.co.uk/

Talk to a health professional or certified exercise specialist

Have you recently spoken with your GP? Have you been referred to a NHS Mental Health services or to a community service?

Many areas now accept self-referral so if you find talking to your GP hard, taking the first step to NHS support can be as simple as filling out a form. There is a long wait in most areas. Sometimes month just to have an assessment appointment before your referral makes it way to the right team. I understand that the long wait puts people off. I completely get the “why bother” feeling especially when you think you are stable. In reality, you might be slowly declining – for anxiety you might be slowly isolating yourself more and more – and it’s so gradual you don’t realise until there is a crisis. Refer yourself at the start and even if it’s only a light level of support… preventative is better than reactive.

I know the above might seem daunting but with mental health, you do have to practise and gently push yourself. If you don’t, it makes it harder to even accept or use the help you can get.

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."- Dalai Lama

Read more of my story on my website: www.MattStreuli.uk

For Further Support (in the UK):

•Mind, the mental health charity, provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. They won't give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect. www.mind.org.uk
I'm proud to be a member and Media Volunteer.

•Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am - 6pm, Monday – Friday)

•In a crisis: Samaritans are open 24/7. Call free from any phone on 116 123

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Actor & Mental Health Writer. As seen on BBC News, talkRadio, The Guardian Newspaper, Mind Magazine, Sky News, LBC Radio and BBC Two. Also works for NHS.

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Do you know that bureaucratic thinking is distorting our perceptions and thus becoming a significant contributor to mental illness in society?

When people have any mental illness, the medical profession puts them into boxes and various categories according to their behaviour and symptoms. It does not necessarily mean the doctors understand what is going on inside the person's mind. They will counsel and advise as best they can according to their personal experience and knowledge, and then it is for the patient to come to terms with the problem. But if the patient has no insight into his mind, then no doctor can help that individual except give him drug therapy. So when we are treating a person with a mental illness, what we are trying to do is help the person change his perceptions with psychotherapy and-or drug therapy.

In my mind, I see mental illness only as a disorder of perception. It is the degree that determines the level at which it becomes a clinical disorder of behaviour and action. Hence, a doctor must clear up his perceptions first before he can offer any mental health advice to a patient. If the doctor's perceptions are the same as the patient's, then how can he possibly help that individual? Therefore, acquiring self-knowledge and learning to understand the thinking process is most important for any health professional. We have to learn how to turn a negative perception into a positive one.

In my mind, there is no such thing as a broken heart or a traumatic experience that lasts forever. All experiences in life are meant to make you a better and wiser person by teaching you a lesson in life. Therefore, all experiences in life, good or bad, are eventually good for you. That is my perception and observation. So if a patient comes to me for help, what I will try to do is help him change his perceptions and help him to come to terms with the experience. Of course, if the patient has no desire to change or help himself, then obviously my help will be minimal.

Just labelling a person as suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, PTSD, etc. does not change his perceptions. All it does is give him justification for continuing with his present state of mind? For example, he will say that "At last, the doctors have found something wrong with me. I now have ADHD".

In my mind, bureaucratic thinking which is the main base of governments and institutions all over the world is a principal factor contributing to the mental ill-health of people today. It is turning all of us into zombies. Bureaucratic thinking is simplistic thinking applied to control and regulate people.

Please let me give you some examples. Some time ago, in a small country town, I was approaching a T junction from a side street in my car. There was a stop sign. As there was no traffic on the road, I slowed the car and turned in. A traffic cop, waiting on the opposite of the road, hailed and stopped me. He asked, "Did you see the Stop Sign?". I said, "Yes." I had broken the law. Stop means stop, and he booked me for the offence.

Can you see here how only the letter of the law was applied? There was no use of common sense or consideration of traffic conditions on the road. No deep thinking, moral or ethical approach was in the police officer's mind. There can be no argument with what he did. He was only doing his job.

Let us look at the law that prevents parents, teachers and police from disciplining children. Here again, they literally follow the letter of the law. You cannot give any corporal punishment. However, when the kids are out of control, one can use whatever force necessary to contain them. Is there any use of any common sense in this? Violence is not permitted in one instance, but it is OK to use force in the next. This type of contradiction is bad for mental health. It creates confusion in mind and sends wrong messages to children as well as adults.

From the above, you must see that bureaucratic thinking has great limitations. There is no consideration for ethics, common sense or reason. It is just a plain, simple application of the letter of the law. One can see it affects our mental health and behaviour. It makes us feel intellectually handicapped. So you must think the medical profession would be the first fighting against this type of thinking. Right?

Wrong. These professionals who should be helping us clear up our perceptions are themselves suffering from a disorder of perception. They have themselves become bureaucrats who are trying to con the public into thinking that we are practising a high standard of medicine by having a bureaucratic QI & CPD (Quality Improvement & Continuing Professional Development) system. Nothing can be further from the truth.

In this system, a doctor is given points to take part in certain educational activities. He is required to attain a minimal number of points in three years, after which he is given a certificate of completion. This certificate qualifies him for further registration with the medical board and implies that he has met the standard required of him. Does it now mean that this doctor is currently practising a high standard of medicine? You would be very naive indeed to think that way.

In my mind, it is the individual doctor's ethical approach to his work that sets the standards in medicine. One may attend as many lectures, and hold as many certificates as one may like, but if one has no ethics and feelings towards his fellow beings, you might as well say goodbye to standards.

It is time for the medical profession to stop indulging in bureaucratic thinking and examine the role it should be playing in society. It should protect society from bureaucratic thinking, not become part of it. If we become part of the problem, how can we solve it? There must be an ethical approach to raise standards in medicine. Applying bullying and coercive measures is not the way to go. They are the same techniques of modifying behaviour used when I was a kid at school. The teacher will say "You will not be allowed to go home until you bring me one hundred lines "I must not talk in the classroom". I wonder whether we have progressed or regressed?

Please read the "The Enchanted Time Traveller - A Book of Self-Knowledge and the Subconscious Mind" to learn about your perceptions and thinking. Please do not become a zombie. For raising standards in medicine, it is always the singer, never the song. Visit Website: http://theenchantedtimetraveller.com.au/

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