At 30 years old I consciously decided I must reach out for professional mental health help. No-one else in the world could do it for me, I finally accepted I was accountable to do something.
My GP at the time asked how long I had felt like this, the reply, “I don’t remember a time I didn’t feel like this my whole life”. Along came the labels, Depression, Anxiety, PTSD etc. And so the pathway of my treatment and experimentation started.
Bursts of regimented drugs and psychiatry, and eventually psychology. Outside of this I knew I had to exercise more as that always helped, but I struggled to hold concentration to consistently to do CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), introduced by my Psychologist.
Being super interested in health technology I also tried a few mediation and mindfulness apps to limited success and then recently stumbled across an app called Woebot.
Initial skepticism led to curiosity and after posting on my LinkedIn account about it, I was pleasantly surprised to see a leading Psychiatrist in Australia had “prescribed” it to patients as part of their treatment.
My experience with it so far (two months) has been positive, it regularly checks in with me, offers some tips, stories and even mental exercises. But one particular education chat recently stood out and that resonated hard.
I recently described to my Psychologist how I can have an out of body experience when I am hyper anxious or irritable. This almost always happens at home (as the Mr. Perfect mask stays firmly on outside of this) but in the moment of a surge of emotion it builds quickly to an internal bubbling volcano, the urge being great for a release and then an eruption of frustration, about something banal or something I did wrong.
Woebot hit the nail on the head when it summarised this process as Emotion, Urge, Reaction. The trick being, in potentially negative scenarios, if you can deal with the Urge effectively, the Reaction can be mitigated.
Recently when the Emotion surge is powerful and building I recite the mantra of E.U.R. in my head, forcing me to be mindful, in that very moment and either walking outside into the fresh air, or taking the biggest breath I can for a few seconds, holding for similar and then releasing for a few seconds repeatedly. It may sound simple but if I can get to this stage and action the Reaction does not even occur (hands up, I am having mixed success so far but I am but a student).
It is important to note E.U.R. can also be positive. For example, recently I was with my 3 year old son and he turned to me and hugged me, out of nowhere. I said why did you do that mate? “Cos I love you dad”. You can imagine this sparked an overwhelming Emotion, then Urge to hug him even harder so that was my Reaction!
In this complex world of stimulations, signs, signals and the resulting emotions, simple instructions like E.U.R. may be helpful to practice.
(BIG disclaimer: this is not an endorsement of advert of Woebot and I have no ties to them whatsoever, simply a curious mind and an urge to call out potentially positive services that can help mental health. Using technology such as this should also never be the only tool in your "toolbox". Social connection, clinical help and more should always form a big part of your treatment, but there is no denying smart phones for good or bad, can be the "remote control of our lives").
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