The importance of mental health is especially evident to people who at some point, have gone through a crisis. When you get a dreadful feeling that your life is about to collapse and you struggle to keep it together, that’s where you realize how much is actually riding on the state of your mind. In these moments you may feel that everything you worked so hard for: your career, stability of your family, your own future and the future of your children, is about to come crashing down because you don’t feel like yourself anymore.
It’s not a fun place to be and it’s through these painful experiences many of us learn to take care of this, often neglected but precious resource, our mental health.
Talk therapy is a well-known and traditional way of going about it and rightly so. Its merits are many and the general consensus is that “therapy works”. However, opening up to a therapist, which is not easy for most anyone, can be extra hard for some.
Luckily, there are well-established alternatives to take care of your mental health without dropping a word.
This article takes you through a list of three - very different in nature but potent and very comprehensive methods.
1. WORKING WITH YOUR BODY
While things around mental health can be quite abstract, the physical body is more concrete and reliable. We all have bodies and carry stress in them. Accumulated and stored in the muscles, these stress and tension can be our constant companions, perpetuating our fight-or-flight response, and keeping us stuck in survival mode.
A method to break out of this pattern is called TRE, which stands for Tension, Stress and Trauma Releasing Exercises. A series of exercises, TRE leads to what professionals call ‘neurogenic tremors’ or, put simply - ‘shaking’ or ‘tremoring’. It sounds a bit strange that anything good can come from shaking, doesn’t it? But nonetheless. It appears that shaking is a natural mechanism for a human being to discharge stress.
In a TRE session you will not be talking about your problems but simply do a short set of exercises, go through the steps to activate the shaking in the body and enjoy the process of releasing off your tension. As the body becomes lighter, the mind follows. It sometimes feels like you leave a bunch of old emotions, worries, and concerns on the mat as well. All of the sudden you notice that in daily life you are less reactive and triggered, more patient with people and naturally calm.
The beauty of this method is that it’s down to earth, easy to grasp and simple to learn. Guided by the rule that ‘everybody shakes’ TRE is suitable for the most of us. There are restrictions for certain health conditions and your TRE provider will brief you about those.
2. STILLING YOUR MIND
Meditation is no longer a prerogative of gurus and sages. It no longer is a secret covered in mystery. Millions of people practice it and for good reasons. The idea behind it is pretty simple. Just like the physical body that requires a regular rinse, the mind needs a similar kind of upkeep. Hence, in meditation we take a few minutes or more to sit quietly with eyes closed. By doing so we minimize outside information input, focusing inwards instead. What do you find when you look inward? Albeit in a subtle way, you may become aware of a lot of things: sensations, emotions and thoughts. By being aware of them without judgement, you bring yourself into here and now, instead of regretting the past or worrying about the future. This clears your head from rumination, reduces overwhelm and increases your capacity to generate new solutions and overcome challenging situations.
You can safely prescribe meditation practice to yourself on a regular basis. As little as five-ten minutes a day can make a tangible difference in how you feel.
3. CONNECTING WITH YOUR INNER SELF
From the physical body, to mind, we are moving up to more subtle layers of a human being. The next method helps to connect with your inner self. Being over a hundred years old, Reiki therapy enjoys ever growing popularity around the world. About 5 percent of the US population uses Reiki or other forms of bio field therapy to relieve pain, support mental health and address physical health concerns.
Reiki translates from Japanese as Universal Life Force Energy. It’s said to be the energy that animates all things and that’s what Reiki therapists are using to heal. So when you come for a Reiki treatment, you’d be receiving this harmonizing energy as it flows from the hands of the therapist lightly placed over your clothed body.
As Reiki brings your nervous system from a sympathetic activation into a rest-and-restore mode, you may feel calm and relaxed. This sense of calmness goes deeper than the physical and you may feel the sense of inner peace you haven’t felt in a while. At least that’s how other people sometimes describe it.
An added advantage is that there is no need to talk while you are in a Reiki session. You can use this time to completely relax and let go. Both your body and your mind will truly appreciate it.
It’s worth mentioning that the three approaches discussed here do not stand in opposition to psychotherapy. They can be used both alongside it and as stand-alone methods. Neither is this an exhaustive list of what’s available.
The good news is that, whether you are a pragmatic thinker who only believes in what you see or someone who is open to an idea of a spiritual practice, there is a wealth of tools to choose from to take care of this precious gift - your mental health.