Living with mental illness is not easy. It’s a consistent problem without a clear solution. While treatments like medication and psychotherapy are incredibly helpful, sometimes people experiencing mental health conditions need to do more day-in and day-out to feel good or even just okay.
Breathing is an annoying cliché at this point, but that’s because the best way to calm anxiety really is to breathe deeply. When battling my own anxiety, I turned to the concept of “5 3 7” breathing:
- Breathe in for 5 seconds
- Hold the breath for 3 seconds
- Breathe out for 7 seconds
This gentle repetition sends a message to the brain that everything is okay (or it will be soon). Before long, your heart will slow its pace and you will begin to relax—sometimes without even realizing it.
To tackle problems created by the mind, we need to find solutions in the mind only. With our engagement obsessively with the material world, body stress, tension and mental problems become difficult to overcome.
Beyond the mind lies our emotions, and even beyond lies consciousness and finally, the soul. Spiritual people who took the support of the soul and kept away the outside world did not face any problems. The one who lives at the level of body and mind and on the basis of other’s emotions, faces many problems.
What is the law of nature? Change. Creation and destruction are happening all the time. If we meditate on this deeply, we will understand that everything is in transition. For example, wealth comes and goes. Whatever comes, has to go. We have a practice called anitya anupreksha. Anyone who practises this for three months will be able to worry less, if not be completely free of worry.
The second mental problem is grief. Grief at the loss of a near and dear one. The truth is, we are all alone. We have the practice of ekatva anupreksha which tells us we are alone, we are the soul. We are not this body, we are the soul. Mahavira said, “I do not belong to any caste, creed, colour or gender, I am the soul.” This is the understanding required to overcome mental problems.
Worry seems inevitable because we do not know the truth, the principles on which the world operates. There are two kinds of principles; manmade and natural. Manmade ones may be subject to change but we cannot change the ones in nature…they are eternal and universal truths. Once we know these eternal truths, we no longer experience situations; we become observers. We know. But we do not go through it as an experience.
Mental reframing involves taking an emotion or stressor and thinking of it in a different way. Take, for example, getting stuck in traffic. Sure, you could think to yourself, “Wow, my life is horrible. I’m going to be late because of this traffic. Why does this always happen to me?”
Or you can reframe that thought, which might look something like, “This traffic is bad, but I’ll still get to where I’m going. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’ll just listen to music or an audiobook to pass the time.” Perfecting this technique can literally change your perspective in tough situations. But as you might imagine, this skill takes time and practice.
If you live in denial of your emotions, it will take far longer to take care of them, because once we recognize what we’re feeling, we can tackle it or whatever is causing it. So, if you’re feeling anxious, let yourself be anxious for a couple of minutes—then meditate. If you’re feeling angry, let yourself be angry—then listen to some calming music. Be in touch with your emotions. Accept that you are feeling a certain way, let yourself feel that way and then take action to diminish unhealthy feelings.
You can’t control that you have mental illness, but you can control how you respond to your symptoms. This is not simple or easy (like everything else with mental illness), but learning, practicing and perfecting coping techniques can help you feel better emotionally, spiritually and physically. I’ve tried all the above techniques, and they have transformed the way I cope with my mental health struggles.