In this episode of The School of Greatness, Lewis talks to therapist Kati Morton. They discuss how mental health relies on us checking in on ourselves as much as it does checking in with other people. To be able to deal with our trauma and the pain we are feeling, we need to get to know ourselves.
Read this if…
- You’ve been feeling lonely
- You want to improve your mental health
- You want to take control of your life
Kati Morton is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She holds a master's degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University. She is also the author of a book called Are U Ok? A Guide to Caring for Your Mental Health. She has a YouTube channel where she talks about mental health.
the distilld lessons (extended)
Our mental health matters, but oftentimes, it goes neglected. We fail to recognize its importance. It relies on us checking in on ourselves just as much as it relies on our connections with other people. To be able to deal with our trauma and pain, we need to get to know ourselves. We need to be vulnerable enough to open up to people and ask for help.
Here’s the distilld lessons inspired by the episode “A Mental Health Toolkit: Defeat Loneliness & Learn to Love yourself” episode of The School of Greatness podcast:
1. Acknowledge how you are feeling
A positive attitude is important to have. But it’s just as important to acknowledge our bad feelings. It’s not about letting ourselves wallow. It’s about knowing when we need to take a break. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers discovered that suppressing our emotions can lead to experiencing more negative emotions. The more we deny our emotions, the longer we get stuck with them.
So, let us allow ourselves to cry if we need to. We can find people we can share our feelings with. Only then can we move forward.
Sometimes we encounter stress when it comes with major life changes. Our brains and bodies love routine and it’s difficult when our daily rituals are disrupted. It can be overwhelming. We can allow ourselves the time and space to adjust. We can seek help if we need it. We don’t have to be alone.
2. Don’t be afraid to get to know yourself
Many of us have experienced loneliness before. Often, it occurs because we never let people truly know us. There are two reasons why we do that. Maybe we don’t feel safe. Maybe we don’t know ourselves.
We have to be curious to examine our own thoughts. Our brains are wired to seek out threat. When we think negatively, we feel unsafe. These thoughts sometimes come from a place of shame or guilt. We feel that something is wrong with us. If these thoughts take up too much space in our minds, it will affect us negatively. As a result, we feel lonely, sad, worried, and anxious.
We have to recognize when we aren’t being honest with ourselves. When we don’t reveal things about ourselves because we’re afraid of being shamed, a lot of loneliness comes out of that. This keeps us from knowing who we are. We need to be authentic to ourselves to properly deal with our emotions.
3. Reconnect with yourself and others
Once we’ve noticed negative thoughts, we can take steps to take control over them. We can give ourselves the chance to live in possibilities. We can find the things we’re good at or identify the talents we’ve been gifted. When we find things to be excited about, or things to be thankful for, we train our minds to move away from negativity.
One study shows that people who reconnected with their hobbies and passion over the lockdown were able to ease the stress the pandemic brought. They also shared that their level of satisfaction depends now more on pursing their passion, self-improvement, and forming relationships.
We can also connect with people in an authentic way. Choose people we trust that we can be honest with about our struggles. It doesn’t have to be a heart-to-heart talk right off the bat. Just opening up a little can do wonders. Let someone get to know us slowly. We get to know ourselves that way too.
4. Open up to people
Healthy connections with other people help us deal with our stress responses. We remember that we aren’t alone in what we’re feeling or going through. That sense of togetherness is essential.
What helps us build our relationships with others is knowing our boundaries. Being able to communicate this in a healthy way with the people around us also helps. When we are unable to enforce our boundaries, we feel invalidated. For us to avoid creating resentment in our relationships, communication is key.
Setting aside time to communicate meaningfully with each other is important. We make room for vulnerable conversations to check in with each other on how our relationships are going. This way, when we’re open to one another, we learn to recognize how we can improve ourselves through the feedback we get from other people. It’s about creating the opportunity to be open to another person and being receptive to what they have to say.
5. Find ways to heal your trauma
For us to heal, we have to get to the root of the issue. Many of us have experienced trauma in our lives. Few receive support on how to properly process it. The more we identify trauma and understand how it affects us, the better we’ll be able to deal with it.
Trauma comes from things both big and small. A car crash is traumatizing, but so is being bullied in school. When we’re told we’re not good enough or when we’re ignored, those things are traumatizing, too. Little traumas can build up over the years. Sometimes, it can be hard for us to get our heads above water when we’re constantly being hit with wave after wave of little traumas.
Addiction can result from unprocessed trauma. It becomes a coping mechanism to deal with the stress. In her book Trauma and Addiction: Ending the Cycle of Pan Through Emotional Literacy, author Tian Dayton wrote that when a person doesn’t acknowledge their trauma, their pain is aggravated. Instead of reaching out to people, they turn to substance or alcohol abuse in the hopes of numbing the pain. They would initially feel that they’ve found a solution, but addiction itself becomes the problem now. It’s physically and emotionally debilitating. Not only do we destroy ourselves, but we destroy our relationships as well.
It’s important then to reach out to people when we’ve gone through trauma. Telling the story of our trauma makes us remember and process what we’ve experienced. Understanding what happened can give us a sense of stability. We can then come to terms with it. Healing ourselves from trauma can start from sharing them with others.
6. Seek help
Depression is a mental illness that has to be treated the same way we would treat a physical illness. We need to check in with ourselves, both physically and mentally. We should be able to tell when what we are feeling is no longer just us having a bad day. The more we recognize our own symptoms, the better we can recognize how we can move forward.
One way to do this is to take opposite action. When our minds tell us to stay in bed all day, do the opposite. Get up and take a shower. Have something to eat. When our minds tell us to keep how we’re feeling a secret, we should do the exact opposite. Find a professional or even just a friend to talk to about what’s happening. We then take all the negative thoughts in our minds and slowly move them towards a more positive place.
It can be a very difficult experience. These things are easier said than done. According to a study from the Iowa University, there is a stigma with seeking professional medical help and this discourages people who need them. What we should remember is that there’s no shame around the way we’re feeling. There’s no shame around needing to seek therapy if that’s what we need to get better.
7. Figure out ways to regain your sense of control
Instead of thinking about what we can’t do, we can shift our focus to what we can do. Taking action is a helpful way for us to feel we’re in control. Even little things like organizing and cleaning can help us feel better. Find ways to adjust to the changes in life until they come to feel normal again. Sometimes, it can be as simple as getting up and moving around.
In the book, Time to Thrive: 101 Stories About Growth, Wisdom and Dreams, taking charge of our life can be done by rediscovering what we love to do, taking care of ourselves, and making time for the people that we love.
There’s a lot of pain in the world. It can make us feel afraid or that we’ve lost control. We feel as though we’re victims of circumstance. To get out of that negative cycle, we have to reshape the narrative in our minds. We can acknowledge that it is happening, and that it is sad and hurtful. Instead of saying something is happening to us, we can rephrase it into something is happening for us to make us better people.
For a shorter conversation, the distilld lessons summary are here.