Understanding Mental Health from a Multi-varied lens
I am often asked through the course of my work, as well as through any conversations I may have with friends and family, for tools and tips on reducing, removing, managing, or coping with anxiety, depression, self-esteem challenges, PTSD and so on. As I work from a multi-varied lens, often my answers are lengthy and usually not full of quick solutions; why you might ask? First, when working with a counsellor it is best to understand that your counsellor should not be giving you advice on what you should or should not be doing. Counselling is a space for the individual accessing counselling to explore the challenges they face and unpack the strengths and resilience they carry within them. When working with someone, I prefer spending time on learning how someone has coped thus far, rather than telling them how I think they should act. I cannot begin to know you, better than you know yourself - so why assume my way of dealing with things will work for you?
Second, if you approach me outside of the counselling space, and are either friend, family or acquaintance, I will not be treating our conversation as anything but a friendly chat; which means I will probably discuss the merits of accessing counselling (with someone else), with you. Third, coming from an Adlerian, Narrative, Feminist and Solution focused lens, "anxiety" can be addressed or unpacked in so many varied ways. Here is one way of viewing "stress" or "anxiety": The understanding that changing times, and systemic and socio-structural barriers exacerbate our personal challenges, creating a world of haves and have nots, a world of in-groups and out-groups, a world where divisions create stress and displacement, is a much needed lens to better understanding the roots of the "anxiety" or "discomfort" or "fear" you are feeling.
Additionally, understanding and managing "anxiety" requires the knowledge that you are not "an anxious person", you are not your "anxiety", rather, feeling discomfort in both mind and body is a reaction to circumstances that you perceive out of your control; leaving you grappling with factors that cause "anxious feelings" in body, mind and spirit. It is also important to understand that exploring the factors contributing to feelings of worry and stress, is only a part of the process; the other, is to start to practice with tools that can help reduce stress in the body, reduce rumination, and help with connecting external stress to bodily sensations and reactions. For instance, "why am I feeling knots in my stomach" is a good question to ask oneself (should that be a stress cue for you), when you feel it. To recognize these cues, and to become familiar with the way your body may react, is key. What stress cues may you have encountered so far?
Additionally, having a deeper understanding of why certain factors or events create stress reactions, provides a means to better understanding the contributions of early experiences to the coping methods you use today. What is your earliest recollection of hearing the word "anxiety"; of feeling "a sense of anxiety or stress"; how was "stress", "coping", "anxiety" or "worry" viewed in your family of origin?
"Anxiety" or "stress" or having fear responses are evolutionarily adaptive, survival responses to the "unknown" or something that maybe perceived as threatening (Rasmussen & Dover, 2006). These adaptive survival responses, may have been honed over time in relation to different cues you have encountered in your childhood, and youth, that now serve as stress responses. Better understanding of why we feel anxious over some things and not others, how the environment around us structurally and systemically contribute to stress, what coping methods work best for each one of us, and a reminder that the stress responses you are feeling are just challenges you are working with, and that it does not define you, all work together to support a change in how you deal with a challenge - in this case "anxiety".
For more information on tools and tips for working with feelings of anxiousness, or to consult with a counsellor, or to talk to someone: