Staying healthy has been the priority since the pandemic began. We know that to avoid contagion we must wear masks in public spaces, wash our hands frequently, gather socially in ventilated spaces and respect social distancing. But do you know what you must do to maintain your mental health?
It has been 73 years since the WHO established that health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease. And yet still we have not learned to take care of our emotions to enjoy a full life.
The concept is simple. Just as it is important to eat in a balanced way and do enough physical exercise to keep our body in shape, it is also essential to exercise our brain so that its responses are agile and flexible and allow us to adapt to stressful situations that come our way. If our mind is active we will have a better chance of feeling satisfied with what we think and feel.
But putting it into practice is another story.
In a world where we are taught to see in order to believe, emotions have been relegated to the background. We know what to do with physical ailments, but we ignore mental ailments until such time as they have completely eroded our health.
Aware of this situation, the psychologist and developer of human potential Luis Alberto Quezada placeholder image created the Mental Gym, a space where people acquire tools to explore their emotions and achieve comprehensive well-being.
The Mental Gymnasium team attends in person at Mexico City Y San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato. And since its scope has been internationalized, it also provides its online services to patients from Argentina, Colombia, the United States and Spain.
Quezada says that the first thing is to keep expectations clear. It is impossible to tone muscle mass within weeks of enrolling in basketball classes. And the same will happen with your brain.
In the Mental Gymnasium they strengthen mental health with traditional methods of psychotherapy, but also with other types of training that allow attendees to achieve mental agility o understand in an experiential way how the brain connections of emotions, language and corporality.
Specialists can also teach you prepare an important conversation, such as a job interview or addressing taboo topics such as gender identity and sexual orientation with your family.
One of Quezada’s star workshops is that of neuroliderazgo, It starts with an interview and some simple tests to identify the areas of the brain that you use the most and then understand the impact that brain activity has on your life. In a second stage, the idea is to develop those underused areas of the brain to generate a more balanced and adaptable personality.
“What is sought is adaptation, because when you learn how your brain works, you can react better to what happens to you. Neuro-leadership tools have been very useful to patients who have lost family members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The grieving process is made more accessible, “says Quezada.
The brain must also be exercised
The expert is in favor of unlearning the cultural and family impositions that limit our emotional life. More than a list of recommendations, it is an “anti-list” that rejects formulas and focuses on introspection as the only way to develop mental resilience.
“They are very simple activities that have great benefits at the mental level and that we can all do if we are sufficiently conscious. Because it is a work of conscience,” explains Quezada.
One of the clear messages is that to have mental health you have to work. “It is much easier to spend your life complaining about your regrets, but to achieve well-being you have to work.”
Forget about having to be
This hackneyed phrase is one of the keys to well-being. The American essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in the 19th century about the need to follow our own instincts and ideas to avoid suffering and inconsistencies. And two centuries later, we are still trapped by social demands.
“The duty to be does not exist. It is very important that if we want to live with mental health, we put aside all that list of obligations that are mental jackets. We must stop that list of duties and the rain of neuroses that fan us,” says Quezada.
There is no way to strengthen our psyche if we do not know who we are. This millennial beginning was recorded by the Greeks at the entrance to the temple of the god Apollo, in Delphi, to warn travelers who consulted the oracle that to understand the world we must begin with ourselves.
“To have mental health you have to know each other and the only way to do it is by living. You have to take your hands off your mobile and go out into real life. Only when we face different situations will we realize what we are capable of.”
Check how you look at life
Stop for a few moments and look around you. Then ask yourself what you think of your family, your neighborhood, your coworkers. A deep and honest look at how you judge the world around you is a good start to exploring and strengthening your psyche. And the most important thing is to understand that when you judge the one in front of you, you are actually talking about yourself.
Identify your thoughts
Turn off the mental noise and open yourself to the possibility of realizing what you are thinking. Scan your mind to determine what kinds of thoughts you frequently have. But it is not about making a detailed list or getting too confused. It is enough to realize if your thoughts are positive or negative and where they are directing you. And by having that awareness you will have the possibility to modify them alone or with the help of a therapist.
Know your habits
The pandemic has altered many habits, but it also offers an opportunity to review what you do during your day. Do you exercise Do you eat as well as your situation allows? Are you getting enough rest? Do you know what you really like and what you dislike?
“There will be many who tell me that all this makes them lazy and they prefer to continue to wake up watching series. But if people understood that at a certain time of night and sleep the brain washes itself, maybe they would say I’m going to to sleep”.
Tell me who you are with
Social contact and friendship are important for well-being. They are the escape valve to let off steam and a pillar that supports you when you need it. Friends also need us to have a sense of belonging, improve self-esteem, and reduce stress and anxiety.
But not all the people who appear in your life are necessarily good friends. Grandmothers and mothers were right when they worried about your meetings. So it is important that you review what kind of people you connect with. And beyond the affection you have for them, evaluate if they are people who exert a positive or negative influence in your life.
Many families have lived locked in their homes during the months of the pandemic without talking about their emotions. They are together but they live alone.
Now more than ever it is necessary to open your communication channels with your closest ones. Talk about what we are going through. What do you feel? What does the issue of the pandemic generate for you? What do you feel about the deaths that have occurred? Do you believe in the vaccine or not? “Choose at least one person to whom you can openly express what you feel without masks,” Quezada recommends.
Filter the content you consume
Restrict your television schedules, especially that of the news. Observe what type of music you listen to because it greatly influences your mood. And it’s not about judging your musical tastes but about consciously choosing what benefits you. Good music is that which produces well-being, a positive state of mind. “It’s not that we should all listen to classical music, although it would be great because the brain generates more neural connections.”
Do different things every day
Try to try something new at least once a day. If you are listening to music, choose a song of a genre that you have never heard because that will take you out of your comfort zone, stimulate your brain and keep you very mentally active. And if you have to go shopping at the store and you are used to leaving the house and crossing to the right, choose today to go left or take the longer road.
The immediate is a fiction
Changing habits or noticing the positive effects of therapy does not happen overnight. “There are people who will tell you that they see you worse after starting a therapy or a process of personal growth. Because there will be ups and downs and because you begin to remove cloudy aspects of the personality that will come to the fore.” The same thing happens when you start to play sports and you feel terrible because all the muscles of your body hurt. Looking inward and discovering who you are is not easy, but your brain will thank you in the long run.
This article is part of a Yahoo series on mental health what is proposed to to help those who live in the shadows today to walk the road to recovery
If you or someone you know is considering taking their own life, immediately contact your National Suicide Prevention Line:
Mexico: (55) 5259-8121, or visit http://www.saptel.org.mx/
USA: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Argentina: 135 (toll free) (011) 5275-1135 or visit https://www.casbuenosaires.org.ar/
Spain: 911 385 385 or visit https://www.telefonocontraelsuicidio.org/ Also 717 003 717 or visit https://telefonodelaesperanza.org/
Colombia: Bogotá 106, Cali 106, Medellín 125, Cundinamarca 123, Cartagena 125, Boyacá 106