Link – It’s time to approach mental health like a human

I just wrote yesterday about the need to take small steps, and build confidence in healing. Today, I found this post and I think Mark puts a great spin on the same thing:

You probably approach physical fitness like a human. If you want to build strength, you lift heavy things that make you feel weak. If you want to increase endurance, you run until you’re sweating and aching and ready to stop, and you keep running a little bit farther so that next time it won’t be so difficult. If you want to be more flexible, you stretch into stiffness again and again until your flexibility increases. You try to go beyond last week’s limits.

This paradoxical practice of doing the difficult thing so that the difficult thing isn’t difficult is how humans change. This is a concept most people understand. If you told somebody that you plan to become stronger by avoiding strenuous exercise, even people who don’t exercise would know that’s ridiculous.

But there are probably many people around you who encourage you to approach mental health in the exact opposite way. They tell you not to do the difficult things. Avoid anxiety, feel less stress, don’t think bad thoughts, watch out for triggers, get rid of uncertainty, man up, don’t be so emotional, don’t feel bad (everything will be okay). This is not how humans develop abilities to handle difficult challenges. Trying to avoid difficult things makes difficult things more difficult.

This is true. Whenever I see someone talk about avoiding stress and anxiety, I’m always a little concerned. Yes, if you have anxiety disorder, or depression brought on by stress, you need to find a way to lessen some of that while you learn the skills to deal with it. But simply avoiding it is impossible. Life doesn’t give us that option. We can no more avoid all stress than we could avoid everything that makes us feel sad. It’s going to happen, might as well try to strengthen our ability to handle it.

Check out the rest of what he has to say, and why we aren’t rocks.

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