The Power of Choice when dealing with Mental Health Challenges

Why are my spouse and I constantly fighting about the same issues? How can I lead my team and organization successfully out of this global pandemic? How do we support our child who is experiencing bullying at school?  

The media often wrongly assumes that mental health challenges are on the rise.  Rather, they are now more likely to be reported and acknowledged.  We all struggle with mental health, as we all struggle with physical health.  Whether it is dealing with daily stress, coming to terms with traumatic experiences from our childhood, or managing our worries about the future, mental health challenges are commonplace for us all.  

Yet how we respond to the stressors in our lives that impact our mental health, will distinguish those who succumb to their trials, and those who remain resilient.  It is important to note that during the different phases and cycles throughout our lives, we will feel stronger to handle challenges, and at times, feel weaker.  Although endurance is key, it may not always be picturesque.  This is both acceptable and normal.  What is important is to understand that pathways to stress always hold exit ramps at intermittent points, allowing us to resolve the cycle of conflict, through choice and self-awareness.  A few of these opportunities to resolve conflict at critical junctures, are outlined below.  

Note however, that your stressors may require the intervention of a counsellor or doctor and may go beyond these suggestions outlined below.   

Choice and mental health intersect at three junctures:

  1. Our ability to resolve our stressors
  2. Our acknowledgement of a decline in our mental health
  3. Our recognition of participating and contributing to the stressors in our lives

Let’s further explore these concepts:

  1. Resolving daily stressors requires that we acknowledge that something is not aligned, or healthy in our lives.  When we exist in denial, we remain in a state of purgatory, dealing with the emotional and physical ramifications of stressors, without opting to change these negative stimuli.  Whether this is an unhealthy relationship with your spouse, or other family member, a difficult dynamic with a co-worker, or otherwise, until we name the pain, and inform those involved, that you are experiencing a problem, this situation remains a point of unresolved stress, that will likely expand with denial, rather than contract.  
  2. As unhealthy dynamics impact us, we may stop sleeping at night, eat more or eat less, and even self-isolate. If we have not done the work at the first juncture, we once more have the opportunity to address the dynamic or seek help, at juncture two.  However this is only if we are able to acknowledge and observe the decline in our health as a consequence of the stress.  As this juncture manifests physically, we are more likely to honor the impacts and acknowledge our problems at this stage.  Remember, these steps are opportunity to engage in change, they will not solve the stressor itself.  It is these junctures however, that allow these stressors to have temporary impacts upon us, than generating life long impacts, including (but not limited to), anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, as well as non-health related impacts such as severed relationships, addictions, and loss of employment.   
  3. While this is the most difficult juncture, it plays a critical role in our ability to move beyond our stressors.  Recognizing our contributions to the stressful situations that transpire in our lives is the way we fully move beyond stressful periods in our lives.  By ignoring our contributions, we will perpetuate similar situations with the same people, or with others.  Taking responsibility for our role in conflict can be an empowering process, as it can uncover patterns of destructive and negative behavior that we have been holding on to unconsciously.  It provides an opportunity to further explore these roots and address these sources of pain.    

It is possible to train ourselves to choose effective methods that can alleviate some of the stressors that beget mental health challenges. The power of choice will always produce results, when they are made with self-awareness.  While the mental health challenges we face are not always a choice, our desire to resolve and health them, are always within our grasp.