Anxiety disorder. Depression. Panic attacks. Intense phobias.
Our brains are incredibly complex pieces of meat. Just like other parts of their body, they can break down and not work quite right. Yet, society often treats ailments of the mind as something either not to be spoken of or something to be looked at as an intense personal flaw.
Yet, just like any other medical ailment, the cause is often out of the person’s control.
I have battled depression on and off for years. I often convince myself that I am a failure at writing (or whatever else I’m doing) and I then convince myself not to do it any more. I am a ridiculously tough critic on myself and I often turn combative about the work that I do produce, because I often think that if the stuff I create after all of this effort still isn’t good, I must truly be a failure. There are times when I can write tons and tons of words. There are other times when I simply can’t make myself write. That’s depression at work, my friends.
Kansas City Royals kid pitching sensation Zack Greinke started last season 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA (not a misprint) and 44 K’s, and he went on to win the Cy Young [award given to the best two pitchers in baseball]. Just four seasons ago, depression and social anxiety nearly caused him to quit baseball. A sports psychologist and anti-depressants helped him recover, as did the Royals. “We’ve been able to create an environment that has clear direction and a consistent way of doing things where Zack feels comfortable,” GM Dayton Moore told USA Today.
In 2000, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel, then just 21 years old, was unexpectedly thrust into starting Game 1 of the NL Division Series against future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux and the Atlanta Braves. After two solid innings, Ankiel cracked, walking four hitters in the third. More critically, he threw five wild pitches in the third inning alone — becoming the first major leaguer to do that in more than a century. He later joked about it, but he never pitched well again.
One can find thousands of stories from other fields, but baseball alone, as a singular example, has a mountain of them.
Here are some sure signs that mental health may be standing in the way of your success.
You experience a loss of desire to do things that once filled you with passion. Yes, people have changing interests over time, but if you find yourself walking away from many of the things you used to love and instead spending time alone or involved in sedentary activties, that’s often a sign of a mental health concern.
You find it difficult to do the routine things in your life. If you were once a good housekeeper and find yourself not keeping house, that’s a sign. If you’ve started to allow your personal hygiene to slack off, that’s another sign. If you eat nothing but convenience foods, that’s yet another sign.
Your thoughts are filled with negativity toward yourself. Most people are hard wired to think of themselves in a positive fashion, not a negative one. If you continually think negative thoughts about yourself and the things that you do, you might want to take note of it and do something about it.
You drift away from lots of existing relationships at once. If you find yourself suddenly avoiding people and spending a lot of time alone because you don’t want to face them, that’s another potential cause for concern.
Your finances, once solid, are spiraling out of control. When people feel their happiness slipping away, they’ll often throw whatever they can at the problem – and in many cases, this takes the form of unnecessary spending.
All of these are possible signs of a mental health concern. All of these are also things that can have a severe detrimental effect on your level of personal, professional, and financial success.
At the same time, here are some things you can do to improve your mental health state.
Go outside. This is the first step anyone should take. Instead of sitting inside, sit outside on the front step or on your balcony. Breathe in the fresh air. Read outside. Most importantly, get a little sunshine. Sunshine on your skin produces vitamin D, of which many people are somewhat deficient. Vitamin D has profound effects on the brain and adequate amounts of vitamin D are almost always a net positive.
Whenever I begin to feel seriously down, I usually go outside for a while, if nothing else. It helps more consistently than any medicine under the sun, at least for me.
Get some exercise. Even if it’s something as simple as taking a walk around the block, getting a bit of exercise can always be a help. Exercise not only alters your metabolism, it also causes your body to release endorphins which trigger positive feelings.
Eat a healthier diet. What you put into your body makes a huge difference in how you feel. Try eating some very healthy foods as part of your routine. Eat some fruit for breakfast and a spinach salad for lunch for a few days and see what happens.
Seek out new friends. One’s mood can be seriously affected by the people around us. If your friends are making you feel worse about yourself, seek out new friends. Look for other social opportunities, often in a place very different than where you usually go. Try something completely different. The best place to start is by doing something that seems intriguing to you, but your friends would ridicule you for it.
Talk to your doctor. Medical help can be a powerful course of action if the above techniques do not help you get to a better place. If you sincerely try the above tactics and do not find any success, seek the advice of your most trusted doctor.
Most importantly, don’t be ashamed. You’re not alone in feeling this way. You’re never alone unless you choose to be.