Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2013, 12:18 pm
Reversing overload can help improve mental health
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By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
Do you enjoy watching old TV shows where a family's biggest problem was deciding where to go on vacation? Aggravations seemed very manageable, even humorous, back then.
In today's world, we face more draining issues. Everything from workplace bullying to coping with Dad's eccentric girlfriend has most of us on stress overload.
These heavy-duty issues can eat away at anyone's emotional stability.
The good news is this: Collectively, the 300-plus million people in this country have enormous power to stabilize the mental health of individuals in our society.
What's the secret? We all need to begin somewhere. For starters, we need to be guard about anything causing mental and emotional exhaustion. And, we each need to offer some practical help to others.
A friend of ours lived in Denmark for a couple of years where her husband worked for Eastman Chemical Co. She came back to share her amazement that Danish folk live much like the USA did back in the 1950s and '60s.
"People in Denmark stop working at 5 p.m., take weekends off, and they don't seem very stressed out about the world around them," said our friend, Karen.
While few of us can go back to a lifestyle people had a few decades ago, or emulate life in the Danish culture, we can all resolve to get a little more work/life balance.
We all need to pay attention to the draining things affecting us, our children, our employees and our friends.
A teenager we'll call Caitlyn told us she's been watching her friend, Brandon, grow mentally unhealthy for some time. She felt he might be suicidal, so Caitlyn came to us for advice on helping him.
"Brandon was once so upbeat and happy," said Caitlyn. "But, when his parents got divorced, he got stuck with babysitting his younger brothers and having to work a part-time job to make ends meet at home."
We advised Caitlyn to give her friend a tiny bit of help each week. We told her to come right out and ask him what she can do versus guessing.
Caitlyn said he told her, "If you could help me with my math on weekends, this would help. I'm more worried about math than anything."
Worry and pressure are different for each of us. Most of us would guess that babysitting, working after school, or coming from a divorced family would upset Caitlyn's friend. But, no. It was math.
That's why it's critical to look at the real problems that are draining and exhausting us. Most of us are pretty resourceful, but first, we have to identify what's going on.
If we each takes notes on what's exhausting us, we can invent some solutions. We also can pick up some slack for others.
"My mom is great about helping people," Caitlyn explained to us. "She wanted to do something to help my friend, Brandon, too. She called up Brandon's mom and invited the whole family over for dinner this past weekend."
The good energy already is coming back to Caitlyn's family.
"Brandon's mom is a computer whiz," said Caitlyn. "Last night, she fixed our home computer that my mom uses for her online business. I think our little circle is making all of us feel better. The love and help you send out really does come back to you."
Judi Hopson is the Executive Director of the resource website USA Wellness Café: www.usawellnesscafe.com. Emma Hopson is an author and nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.