Not too long ago, I did not go to a meeting because I was experiencing high anxiety about being in a group. Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes probably knows group settings make me nervous, affecting my mental health. I’m an introvert, though some friends don’t see me that way. That said, I just am not a good group networker, and I let unnecessary noise get in my head (we’ll come back to that).
I’m not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder. On a related note, the Mayo Clinic reports that more than 16 sixteen million people in the United States experienced depression last year.
Although depression and anxiety are both mood disorders, they have different symptoms. According to WebMD, depression causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness and reduced energy, while anxiety creates feelings of nervousness, worry or dread. While the two conditions are different, you can have both at the same time.
I’ve touched on mental health awareness in this space before, but personally believe it’s a topic that can’t be covered often enough. October happens to be Depression Awareness Month, a time set aside to increase understanding, decrease stereotypes, and help educate on how anxiety, depression and other mental health issues impact the world around us.
This is me doing my part.
Let’s Explore Some Surprising Mental Health Facts
Mental Health Conditions Are Very Common
The World Health Organization notes that more than half the world’s population is currently working, and 15% of working-age adults live with a mental disorder. In fact, it’s more likely you’ll experience a mental health issue than cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Mental Illness Does Not Discriminate
You might be surprised to know who struggles with mental health concerns. Sometimes the people who seem to have everything going for them suffer the most. As with physical ailments, mental illness affects everyone — the young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated and so on.
Stereotypes and Stigmas Hinder Mental Health Progress
Some folks will tell you that dealing with the stereotypes and stigmas society has placed on mental illness is often worse than the illness itself. They fear being labeled crazy, out of touch, eccentric, nutty – the list goes on. As a result, they may feel ashamed or embarrassed and go to great lengths to hide and cover up their disability. This can lead them to avoid seeking treatment, to withdraw from society, to turn to alcohol and drugs and even to commit suicide.
Sometimes We Are Our Own Worst Enemies
When it comes to mental wellbeing, maintaining a positive attitude and personal happiness and productivity, we can unknowingly sabotage our own efforts. In a series of recent interviews with national media outlets, Monica Lewinsky (yes, that Monica Lewinsky) discusses the painful topics of shame and embarrassment and her personal journey with overcoming ridicule and persecution. Once the talk of the nation following an affair with then-president Bill Clinton, Lewinsky is now an anti-bullying expert. In her latest campaign, Lewinsky is taking on the bully who for some of us is the worst of all.
Her efforts include a PSA featuring a variety of real people, not paid actors, saying mean and hurtful things to someone else. The clincher is that the messages they are conveying are ones they admitted telling themselves. It’s a powerful reminder that we are often our own worst enemies (circle back to the group meeting I missed).
I’ll conclude by offering some guidance on addressing negative self-talk, which serves as a crucial initial stride towards conquering anxiety and depression.
7 Strategies for Overcoming Your Inner Doubts
- Give yourself a break.
- Be kind to yourself and allow yourself some grace.
- Take time for the things that matter most to you in life.
- Surround yourself with positive people and situations.
- Accept that you are a human being and are going to make mistakes. That doesn’t mean you are a failure.
- Take one day at a time. If some negativity creeps in today, remember there’s tomorrow.
- Most importantly, don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else.
Admittedly, these steps are often easier said than done. But taking measures to fight our inner bully and set ourselves up for success is a positive first step in the right direction. Good luck!