I’m pretty on the level and have been for the past decade. My medications are solid and I don’t have any side effects from them. I’ve worked through many of my feelings and issues from my past. For many individuals, once they break through the issue which brought them to therapy they stop seeing their therapist.
Yet, I find it important to continue therapy. Why? As someone who lives with a persistent mental health issue (bipolar disorder type II) I know it’s something I will always need to be cognizant of. While I am aware of the steps to take to keep myself in a good state mentally, I’m not perfect. In the past ten years there were times when I found myself depressed and not communicating my needs.
It’s because I know I have occasional slips that I see a therapist, usually every two to three weeks. Should I need anyone to speak with if an emergency comes up, I already have a trained professional who knows me and my history.
Also, life changes, as do the issues we’re trying to address. The things that bothered me at 25 years old aren’t like what I deal with at 40. But it’s been helpful to have someone to at least listen to what I’m going through and who can also give me some feedback. Having the security of a therapist with whom you can see and with whom you have a relationship is helpful should a mental health emergency arise. Even though I don’t always have much to talk about at my sessions, I still think it’s important I continue to see my therapist in case the need should arise.
Our lives are all different. Yet, if you’re seeing a therapist but not dealing with an acute mental health issue, keep seeing them (assuming you like them and cost isn’t an issue). If it doesn’t seem as necessary, set up appointments for every two or three weeks so you don’t lose touch. It can be helpful to have that lifeline should issues arise in your life.
A student once asked me at a talk about the relationship with college-aged students and social media. I speak about it somewhat in my presentation and I’ve written about it in another blog post. Yet, there has been more research done on the relationship between social media and loneliness since I wrote that post and I wanted to share some of it.
One thing individuals do when they post on social media is they are most often sharing highlights or interesting aspects of their lives. The constant barrage of one photo after another of someone at a party, or enjoying the day with their family can make one feel as though they’re missing out. And it doesn’t even mean that one feels as though s/he is missing out on something with those around them (a friend’s party, perhaps). It can mean that one feels as though they’re missing out on fun in general. They may think, “Here I am, scrolling through my phone at home by myself, and my friends are having a fun time.”
Another thing to note is that social media is a curated medium. While I mentioned this in my blog post on this subject before, I’d like to expand upon it. When you think about it, what are people doing when photographed? The automatic reaction of most people is to smile. Yet we don’t see what their experiences were immediately before or after that photograph.
That said, social media use can be a good thing. It can allow us to stay in touch with friends and family members who are far away from us. It can help us find out when events are taking place and make connections with new people from all over the world. What we need is to educate people (including students) about social media and technology in general. These devices and opportunities are upon us but no one learned beforehand about the possible repercussions of too much use. Social media can become addicting, like anything else that gives us a buzz from what our brains recognize as a positive interaction.
Too much social media usage can lead to periods of loneliness, though. It can feel isolating to see others live what we perceive to be exciting, fun lives, when ours may not be the same. Yet, that curated existence isn’t true to form. It’s the responsibility of parents, schools, and childhood development organizations to educate everyone on the role that social media plays on mental health. They also bear responsibility to help teach the ways in which social media can lead to addiction and loneliness.
Last week I wrote about my experience with meditation. This week I have some recommendations for how to get into meditation. Remember, your mileage may vary, but here is what works for me.
1. If you’re in a city, it’s likely there are classes you can take to learn the basics of meditation. At its core, meditation is about focusing on something (usually your breath). Then, you use that focus as a stable foundation to try and stay in the moment despite the fact that your mind will wander. Finding a teacher who can get you up and running can be quite helpful.
2. Pick up some books on meditation to expand your understanding. As I mentioned in last week's post, Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the people who help get mindfulness to the level it’s known today in America. Any of his works are quite helpful. There are many other authors out there who are well-respected leaders in mindfulness and meditation, though. Find one whose writings jibe with you.
3. Get a meditation app. There are plenty of them out there. I use one called Insight because it has many free options. Some apps include specialty meditations to help with anxiety or depression. They also include meditations to help you sleep. Most are guided, which means a teacher speaks and tells you how to breathe and what to think about while you sit there. It’s not a controlling thing, but instead gentle guidance.
4. Practice, practice, practice. The more time you put into meditating, the more results you’ll see. For me, as I meditate daily I find I remind myself to turn to my breath in moments of stress more often. It helps relieve my anxiety and calms me. Do I remember to do this all the time? No. Are all my meditation sessions enlightening, ethereal moments where I reach another consciousness? Hardly. Sometimes my mind wanders about for 15 minutes and I rarely focus on my breath or calming my mind. But I know that’s not how it is every time and that the time I’m putting in is helpful.
Have you spent any time meditating? If so, how was it? Did you find it helpful? Feel free to respond in the comments—I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.
I’ve been meditating for over 15 years. When I was a Christian back in high school and college I thought meditation was a weird thing. I presumed only people who believed in crystals and the New Age movement meditated. As I left my faith and began to explore self-help, I realized there is much more to meditation than finding a connection with some higher power.
Through work with cognitive behavioral therapy, I came across the works of Jon Kabat-Zinn. I purchased his book Wherever You Go, There You Are. This work taught me the foundation of mindfulness. I learned the importance of breathing and how to deal with anxiety in that fashion.
From that point on, I did a lot of my own research, digging into the works of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, and others in Buddhist thought. While I don’t consider myself a Buddhist, I find a lot of meaning in their philosophy and views of the world. As I’ve written before, I identify with the five remembrances of the Buddha and think about them daily.
I also found doing yoga for many years taught me to control my breath. I learned that my breath was something I could return to at any time or place and find some grounding in my life. I don’t want to make this sound super easy or casual—it can be difficult at times. And it takes a great deal of practice to get to the point where I can remind myself without too much trouble to breathe and find a focus that way.
Nowadays I try and commit somewhere from 10 to 25 minutes each day meditating. I attempt to do so in the morning but sometimes I’ll do it at night right before I go to bed. Depending on the time of day, meditating can either get me ready for the day to come or calm down so I can sleep.
In my blog post next week I’ll give some tips on how to get into meditation if it’s a new thing for you.
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This blog is an exploration of the subjects of belonging and loneliness. I also look at mental health issues. I seek to provide content to my readers that is informative and helpful. If you don't want to miss anything, sign up for my email list.