I've got four very practical steps for you today to avoid a nervous breakdown. The first one has to do with your body. I want you to move, fuel, and rest your body appropriately. This is really important, folks. I get the question all the time, “Is this a psychological thing or is it tied to my health, my fitness?” Your brain is part of your body. It's your brain that controls your emotional experiences and how you handle your relationships and how you feel and what you say and what you do. It's part of your body.
Moving your body is really important. Research shows that you need to have good aerobic activity going on at least 3 to 5 times a week for a sustained amount of time. You need to be moving your body with intention and intensity. This helps to purge some of the toxins out of your system. It allows every system of your body to function more efficiently and effectively.
Research on depression and antidepressant medications, shows anytime the medications are pitted against exercise, exercise wins. Exercise tends to get better numbers in the results for depression, better than antidepressant medication. That's why it's so important.
I also mentioned that you want to fuel your body properly. You think about your vehicle for example. If you just go run the garden hose into your gas tank, what's going to happen? Yeah, not good things. What if you dump one of those 54-ounce sodas right down in there? It's still a problem. Run good fuel through your body.
Rest. This came out of some research at Harvard where they said you must get enough sleep. In fact, Doctor Ned Hallowell called this “brain maintenance” where you get enough sleep, you eat a balanced diet, pay attention to the fuel and you get regular exercise. Those things are essential to avoiding a nervous breakdown. We are talking about the equipment and the proper operation of that equipment.
Tip number two has to do with your thinking. I want you to practice Metacognition. That's kind of a fancy psychological word. all it really means is thinking about thinking. This is a higher level of thinking where you actually start to think about your thinking. When you do, you are going to notice some things happening.
There are two processes that are always going on in your mind. You can't turn them off. They are going to happen whether you are aware of them or not. I want to call that to your attention so that you can have some choice. Those two processes are evaluation and creation.
Evaluation is simply judgment. Notice that you are doing this. You constantly judge yourself, your relationships, your finances, your job, your co-workers, people in your community, you judge me. It's cool. I get it, you can't turn it off. Just notice that you are doing it. That's what I call evaluation. Evaluation and how you judge your life make a huge difference.
When people have a nervous breakdown, it's usually because they think that things are not good in their life. Interesting! That is a judgment. I'm not here to tell you how to think. I just want you to see what you are doing. Notice that you are judging, you are evaluating your circumstances and you are coming up with some kind of conclusion to that evaluation. You have some choice in how you will you judge. This is hard, really? Compared to what? Well compared to something easier. Could it be that this is easier than something that is harder? Just notice that you are doing it. This makes a big difference because then you are in choice, you are in control.
Now, the second process that I told you about is creation, creation of what is to be. This does not exist yet because we haven't created it yet. A lot of nervous breakdowns are centered around the anxiety that comes when we expect that something is going to go wrong or be bad or painful or difficult. How good are you really at predicting stuff? Yeah, me neither. We think we know what's going to happen, but honestly, you don't. And so, you are imagining that. What would happen if you started to control that process a little more and intentionally expect or anticipate or predict that what is coming is even better?
Do you see how that changes things in the way that you feel? If you want to avoid a nervous breakdown, you have to start learning what's going on in your own mind that requires metacognition, think about your thinking. Notice that you are doing the evaluation and the creation and that you have something to do with that.
Tip number 3, understand choice and control. You know there are some things you just don't have any control over. A lot of times those are the things that you are worried about, or they are the things that are convincing you that your life is not good in one way or another. We are going to use metacognition from the last tip and bring that into our understanding of choice and control.
Notice how you talk to yourself. Do you ever say, “I have to do this.” And I really need to, and I've got to, and I have to? Have to, should, must. We are beating ourselves up with that. What if you were to trade all of those obligatory words for choice? “I choose to.”
You are going to feel some resistance and you might be thinking, “But Dr. Paul, I have to do this.” Really? What would happen if you didn't? I'm not suggesting that you don't do that thing. I want you to notice that you have the ability to ask the question what would happen if I didn't and that implies that you might choose not to.
Hopefully that brings up all the great reasons why you choose to do what you are telling yourself that you have to do. “Oh, well. I have to go to work Dr. Paul.”
Oh, really? What would happen if you didn't?
“Well, I wouldn't have any money. I couldn't feed my family.”
So, you choose to go to work because you prefer to have some money and feed your family?
Is this just semantics? I get that all the time. Notice that the words you choose matter. They make a difference and they change how you show up. That is why I wanted to come to your attention. I told you I am not here to tell you how to think. I'm not that powerful. I just want you to see that you are powerful enough to change your thinking.
Choose to versus have to. That's tip number 3.
You will not avoid a nervous breakdown without other people. Get some help. Interact with people. We are social creatures. It is in our makeup. And even if you are not a very outgoing person, it's important for you to connect with others.
I strongly encourage you to associate with people who will support your sanity. You probably noticed some people actually make it worse. They fuel the fire, so to speak. Be careful about that. I've heard it said many times that we become like the five people we hang out with the most. When I first heard that, I started looking around asking myself well who am I hanging out with? Do these people really support my sanity and my productivity and my happiness? If they don't, maybe it is time to re-examine how you are spending your time and with whom.
You might also consider getting a coach, a therapist, a counselor, someone that you can talk to very openly and freely about the things that are on your mind. When we do that, it actually allows us to do some of those other steps better that we've already talked about. The Metacognition, thinking about your thinking, being able to reframe things into a choice instead of a have to. Talking to somebody can go a long way to do that.
There are also groups that you can associate with or courses that you can take. Let's turn on your brain and tap into the human treasury that surrounds you. Here's another interesting thing about the Association part: When you start to focus on what other people need or desire or could benefit from and you look inside of yourself and see what skills or talents or gifts you have that could come to address some of their problems, it changes everything. Engage in service. Look for ways to get outside of yourself and enhance or enrich the lives of other people. I'm including that as the fourth key strategy that I wanted to share with you today about how to avoid a nervous breakdown. It's powerful.
There! That's simple, right? Well, it is simple, okay? Simple and easy aren't the same thing. If you would like a little extra assistance with this, that is what we are here for. I have a whole team of certified coaches who can assist you with working through some of the things that have caused you to be concerned about this in the first place. Would you connect with them? You can get there by going to drpauljenkins.com/breakthrough call. That will hook you up to our calendars to talk to one of our coaches.