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Scot: All right. Watch the mic stand. Somebody is handling the mic stand.
Troy: That was me.
Thunder: Sorry, that was me.
Troy: Oh, it was Thunder. Good.
Mitch: Everyone. Everyone is touching their mic.
Troy: It was everyone.
Scot: Actually, my hand is on mine right now.
Troy: It was you, Scot.
Mitch: All right, guys.
Troy: Everyone, get your hands off your mics.
Scot: That's right. It's not this kind of podcast.
Troy: I was waiting for it.
Scot: Well, there it is.
What is mental health or mental well-being? We're going to talk through that. We're also going to talk about the challenges and the things that have helped each one of us in our quest for maybe trying to be a little bit more emotionally healthy. This is the fourth part of our "Core Four: Back to Basics" series. This one is focusing mental health.
My name is Scot Singpiel. I bring the BS. The MD to my BS is Dr. Troy Madsen.
Troy: Hey, Scot. I'm here, and I'm excited to talk about mental health.
Scot: We also have Mitch Sears in the mix.
Mitch: Hey, there.
Scot: And Thunder Jalili, our favorite nutritionist, and today our favorite mental health expert.
Thunder: Hi. Thanks for having me again.
Scot: All right. So I don't know if you guys face the same challenge. This one was a tough one for me to wrap my head around. The activity, nutrition, and sleep, that was kind of pretty forward, I think. "What does mental health even mean?" I think is kind of maybe one of the first problems that we face when we talk about mental health. Does anybody want to jump in on that? Thunder, what does it mean to you?
Thunder: For me, mental health means being in a place where I'm kind of neither too low or neither too high. I look at it as kind of being balanced, allowing me to cope with everything that's coming my way on a daily basis.
And also, for me, it has an element of realism. I know you can't be on top, super positive all the time, and that's okay. That's kind of a normal way that I think humans should act.
So that's my own personal definition, but I know it's a little different for everybody.
Scot: Yeah. I think that's why this is an interesting conversation. Mitch, what is your definition of meant health or mental well-being? Do you even couch it that way?
Mitch: Well, I guess what's been kind of interesting for me is that I am now, I guess, celebrating, and maybe that's not the word, my one year working with a mental health professional, a therapist I've been with for about a year now.
And for me, originally, mental health . . . I had gotten to a place I was not functioning the way I wanted to. Wasn't working well, it was impacting my relationships, etc.
For me, mental health is as much or is just as important as any other aspect of your health. If you have a broken leg, you can't run. And so, for me, the last year has been identifying what is impacting me mentally, what is holding me back, and working with a professional to try to find a way to get me back up and running, and excited, and enjoying life again.
Scot: Troy, how about you?
Troy: I love what Mitch said. And kind of along those lines, I feel like in terms of mental health, I'm feeling mentally healthy when I feel like I'm in a position to see beyond my own little world and my own bubble and be concerned about others' needs and help them and reach out to them.
I feel that when I'm not in a great place mentally or in terms of mental health, it's when I'm feeling anxious, or depressed, or whatever those symptoms may be. And then I'm just like, "I don't feel like I'm really helping other people," or I'm just so wrapped up in those things, I'm not in a position to do that.
So good mental health to me is being able to see beyond my own little world and feeling like I'm at a good spot to help others.
Scot: Wow. I love that definition. I'm going to defer to Kevin Curtis, who we had on the show. He's a licensed clinical social worker. We asked him that question and he gave us his take, and I think about this a lot. So his take on it is a take that I've adopted.
Kevin: When we talk about mental health, or at least when I talk about mental health, I'm talking about the state of our thoughts and the state of our emotions and making sure that we're taking care of that. Are we having thoughts that are useful to us? Are we having thoughts that impact our ability to function in life? And is our emotional state supportive of us meeting our goals, or is it a barrier to doing the things that we want to do in life?
Scot: The part of that definition I really like is "Are our thoughts, are our mental states helping us to achieve the things we want to achieve or are they hindering us?"
And I think about that hindering a lot. If I find myself in a situation where I'm like, "Am I kind of depressed? Am I stressed? Am I this? Am I that?" I will often ask myself, "Is it helping me or hindering me right now, the way I'm feeling?" So that has really helped me, that definition that Kevin gave us a on a previous episode.
Just like any other aspect of health that we've talked about in our "Core Four: Back to Basics" series, whether it's nutrition, or activity, or sleep, if you are mentally healthy, it allows you to do certain things and it also is associated with certain health benefits. So let's go ahead and have Thunder talk about a little bit what mentally healthy allows people to do.
Thunder: Yeah. So being mentally healthy . . . And I like that term "mentally healthy." It allows us to cope with the stresses of life, so all the little things that happen day-to-day. I think you can better cope and ride those through.
It also allows us to be in a place where we can be productive in our work, in our education, and also in our relationships and how we interact with the community.
And finally, I think being mentally healthy allows us to also engage in other healthy habits, healthy diet that we've been talking about, healthy activity, getting that productive sleep. So I think they all can feed on each other and help enhance each other.
Troy: Along those lines, Thunder, we talk often about how all of these things with the Core Four interrelate. What we find with mental health, it also relates to so many physical aspects and so much of our physical well-being.
Certainly, there are the benefits we know about where, I think, being mentally healthy leads to less risk of disease, we're less prone to illness, and we're less likely to get injured. It also improves our immune function, which, of course, relates to that less risk of disease as well. And I think all that ties into also, certainly, being mentally healthy with those benefits leads to a longer life and certainly a happier life as well.
Scot: We're going to talk a little bit in the show here of some of our kind of struggles that we've had with remaining mentally well or mentally healthy. As much as anybody feels comfortable to talk about.
It's weird, because even though we're doing this, I found myself, as I was thinking about those things that I wanted to talk about, still with that stigma that guys don't talk about this sort of thing, or I didn't want to admit some of these things because it's like admitting a weakness.
So we're going to talk about some of the things to the level that we're comfortable with, and then maybe some of the things we've done that have helped us.
But first, as we've done in previous episodes, Mitch is going to give us the basics. So these are some things that can help you maintain good mental health.
Mitch: Yeah. So when it comes down to the very basics of being able to maintain a positive mental health, to do those things that you want to do, it really breaks down into three big categories.
The first is you've got to make sure that you're taking care of your physical needs. And this is kind of when we talk about the Core Four, how everything is interconnected. You've got to make sure you're getting enough activity. That's going to help your mental health. You've got to eat well. You've got to actually eat some food and maybe limit your caffeine and alcohol. And then sleep. Sleep has a big impact on your mental health. And you've got to make sure that it is a priority in your day-to-day if you want to stay mentally healthy.
The second thing is to engage in self-care whenever you can. This can be any sort of activity, and it's really kind of individual to you. This could be scheduling time for something relaxing, doing some gratitude, mindfulness. Do something that you're good at or you enjoy.
And finally, if things are getting too serious for one reason or another, you might need to see a professional. There are a lot of things that can impact your mental health from environmental factors, biological factors, like your literal brain chemistry, what goes on in your life, your family history, and sometimes those things are easier dealt with, with a professional rather than on your own.
Scot: I think describing what mental health is can be challenging. It seems that the three of you have thought about that, though. You had some great answers that were really insightful and I enjoyed hearing.
I think another thing that could be challenging is realizing when something is going on with your mental health, when should you become concerned? Are there any sort of warning signs you look for that make you realize that it's either like, "I'm a little stressed out, or I'm a little anxious," or it's delving into something a little bit more serious?
Thunder: For me, the warning sign is I can't get it out of my mind. I can't stop dwelling on something. That's not usually me. I kind of have the gift of being able to put things into perspective and also forgetting things quickly. I guess kind of like a dog, how they forget something that happened two seconds ago.
So when I get to a place that I can't do that, then I realize, "Okay, this is potentially something I need to talk to somebody about." And I've had a couple of those instances in my past. So that's my warning sign.
Troy: I think it comes out a lot too in relationships, whether it's at home or work. And I find if I am feeling edgy or I'm saying something snarky . . . I notice it a lot where I start to become very impatient with other people. That's when I'm like, "Okay, clearly, this is on me. I'm not in a great place in terms of my mental health." And that's where I think that becomes the red flag. It'd be nice to catch it before that happens, but oftentimes, that's where I see it.
Mitch: So, for me, I deal with a lot of anxiety and depression, and it's kind of what I'm being medicated and treated for right now. For me, there's just this "blah," this if I am not excited for the day, if there is absolutely nothing I want to do, I don't want to eat food, I just want to sit, that's when I know that something is off and I've got to do something to get up, get moving, and make sure that my mental health is doing okay that day.
Scot: The National Institute of Mental Health says that some of the things to look for . . . Some of you guys mentioned them already, but difficulty sleeping is one of them. Appetite changes that Mitch talked about. And that could either be not eating enough or eating too much and you're gaining weight. Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of mood, maybe difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in things that you used to find enjoyable, or just kind of the inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities.
For me, it's this feeling that I've got concrete boots on when I have to do things in my day-to-day. If it feels like I'm just dragging myself through the day just to get the basic things done, that's kind of the warning sign that maybe something is up and I need to examine that a little bit.
The important thing is that you shouldn't wait until those symptoms are overwhelming. So talk to your primary care provider. They can refer you to a mental health specialist if needed.
If you don't know where to start, we'll put a resource to the National Institute of Mental Health, their tips for talking with your healthcare provider. It's a fact sheet that you can check out.
But it's just really important that if you notice some signs, and they are different for everybody, that you do something about it, whether that's taking action yourself or finding help if you need to.
So what are some of the challenges that you face? Let's start with Troy.
Troy: Where do I begin? I don't know. I mean, this is a tough thing to talk about. I'll tell you one of the challenges I face is even admitting there's an issue. And I will admit part of that is because I work in a profession which . . . Kind of like we talked about with sleep. The irony of the healthcare profession is that we certainly reach out to individuals with mental illness and we help them, but there is definitely a stigma among healthcare providers to the point where . . .
And I think this has changed somewhat in recent years, but every time I go up for re-credentialing every year or two wherever I work, a form goes out to several of my colleagues saying, "Are you aware of this individual having any mental illness or requiring medication?"
And that question has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years on a national level to where now it's changed to, "Are you aware of any physical or mental impairment which would affect this individual's ability to perform their job functions?"
But that's kind of the environment I've trained in where there is that stigma, and you get to a point where you think, "Wow. That could affect my job if I admit I have a problem." So I think a lot, for me, it's been even acknowledging that.
Actually, one place I worked, as part of their security clearance, they actually required that you disclose any mental health provider you had ever spoken with and then they would speak with those individuals.
Troy: Yeah. I mean, it's pretty heavy stuff. And they clarify like, "Hey, we're here to help you. No one is not going to get a clearance because of this." But still, I think that kind of weighs . . .
And so that's been my career path, and it's definitely different, I think, than a lot of career paths. I don't think most jobs are going through that, but I think it does affect you in a way to where you become a little more hesitant to even admit there's an issue.
So I will fully admit that I acknowledge that I have had struggles with different issues over the years. And sometimes I may have swept that under the rug and been hesitant to admit it or to seek any help maybe because of that. I don't think that's necessarily a healthy thing, but that it's probably at least one issue.
And maybe others are in the same situation, not necessarily because of jobs, or credentialing, or whatever else, but I think just maybe stigma or whatever else and are hesitant to even acknowledge that there could be an issue.
Scot: Yeah, the culture that you're in, the workplace culture. There are a lot of workplace cultures where if you admit that, that's not going to help you at your job, right?
Troy: Exactly. It could be workplace. It could be family culture. It could be whatever it is, whatever your social group is. It could just be something that people just don't talk about and you don't admit is wrong. And again, I'm not saying that's a good thing. I'm just saying that's something that I have had a challenge with.
Mitch: I think it's interesting, Troy, that you talked about maybe the family upbringing-type influence. For me, when I was first starting to really come to grips with the fact that I was dealing with kind of severe anxiety and a little bit of PTSD, that I needed to reach out to someone, there was still . . . The way that I was raised, my friend group, the things you see in the media about being a man, etc., it felt almost like a moral failing to go to a specialist.
It was actually one of the very first things I worked on with my specialist. I talked to my therapist and I'm just like, "I feel shame for being here. I feel like I have somehow failed as a human being to be in here." And the first thing out of his mouth was, "Well, I guess we should start there."
And that was what was kind of fun. It took a while to change that kind of mindset, that kind of idea that it's not a weakness. It really isn't. And in fact, the same way as if you work your muscles every day, you're going to get stronger, right? And so if you're having mental health issues, going to a specialist and working on it every day, you're going to be even stronger for it.
Thunder: Mitch, along those lines, to me, I think one of the most positive things that's probably changed in our society over the last 8 or 10 years is that growing acceptance that it's okay not to be okay.
Mitch: Oh, yeah.
Thunder: It's fine to want to talk to people or have issues. It doesn't diminish you as a human, doesn't diminish you as a man. It's just a normal part of what people go through sometimes.
Thunder: And it's very liberating too. When I had a situation that I wanted to see a therapist for, there was one of my friends I was talking to and they said, "I saw so and so for this problem, and you should talk to somebody." It was just very open and it just seemed like, "Oh, I can do that? I have permission to do that? It's not a problem?" It's a very liberating feeling once you accept that.
Troy: I've had a couple of those experiences recently with a couple of my colleagues at work. And this is the first time I've ever had these conversations with other people. Granted, it's been generally by text messaging. We won't actually speak to each other. It has to be by text. But it's been that conversation with a couple of colleagues. This has never happened before.
I mean, I mentioned the medical profession, and then emergency medicine, in particular is very much a profession you suck it up and you do it and deal with it. That's the mentality.
So to talk to a couple people just about some of the things we've been experiencing with work . . . Some of that is COVID-related. I think some of it is just general frustration or whatever it may be, or just some of the challenges and how that's affected our mental health. It has been refreshing to have those conversations. It hasn't happened before, so it's been nice to have that.
Scot: Here's a pro tip when doing those conversations: Go to a baseball game because you don't have to face each other. You can just sit side by side.
Troy: Oh, yeah. Baseball game, or just doing a road trip. Road trips, baseball games, you're just sitting there. You don't feel obligated to talk, but then maybe you talk. Great.
Scot: Exactly. Then you're side by side, so you don't have to really necessarily make eye contact. If something happens it can distract you for a second, and then you can come back to the topic. I just really think that that's a great place for guys to go and talk.
Thunder: Men work best when there's no eye contact.
Scot: Yeah. That's funny. I am also going to just throw in there as much as things change, there are a lot of places where things have not changed. I think about where I grew up, and I don't know how much progress has been made there. Looking at some of the people I grew up with on social media, it concerns me a little bit.
So I guess the bigger point I want to make there is even if it's not accepted by the people, as in wherever you are, your culture, your family, just know that it's okay and you can go do it. You shouldn't feel guilt or shame for it, right?
My challenge is just actively staying on top of it. I've found that my mental and emotional well-being is just like any other aspect of my health, right? It's not just something you can take for granted. You kind of have to actively manage that. You have to monitor it. You have to do things that are going to benefit your emotional health.
Let's jump into the last section of the show. What works for you? What are some strategies that you found that help you overcome challenges or that just kind of help out a little bit? I'm going to go ahead and start off and probably take one off of everybody's list here.
My number one is exercise and nutrition. Some of it is probably guilt, if I'm not eating well or if I'm not exercising, that I'm experiencing. But I think a lot of it is chemical. I know that exercising . . . Troy, back me up on this. Chemical reactions happen, right? And you get these endorphins. The food you eat can impact your mood chemically.
Personally, I think too much sugar impacts my mood in a negative way. And also, the older I get, even if I have a couple beers the night before, just reasonable drinking, the next day I might feel anxious.
So it just really comes down to, again, the Core Four, that exercise and nutrition piece. If I'm feeling out of sorts, that's the first question I ask myself. "How are your exercise and nutrition?" And if it's not great, let's get back at that. After three or four days, I start to feel better.
Thunder: So I'll jump in. One thing that helps me, and it's in some ways related to what you guys talked about, is reminding myself, "It's okay to be selfish about self-care." Really. Make the time to exercise. Make the time to do an activity that's relaxing and fun, whether it's watching a TV show I like, or reading a book. It's okay to be selfish.
Troy: That's great. Yeah, it's really an investment in yourself so that you can then be in a better place to lift others up and help them out. So it seems selfish in the short term, but obviously, bigger picture, it's allowing you to give a whole lot more.
Scot: Mitch, what's a strategy that's worked for you?
Mitch: So kind of along the same lines that we were talking about a little earlier with being more open about it, one of the things that I have really worked on, and this is a tip from my therapist, is to just start talking about your mental health with everyone around you.
And that's not to mean to be irritating or anything, but just think about it. If people don't know what you are going through, what they expect of you, how they see you is very different, if they assume you're just fine, right?
Suddenly, you allow the other people around you to know that you are going through something and be able understand, offer help if they can, give you space if you need to, whether it be at work and saying, "Hey, I'm having a really hard time right now with this, this, and this." Hopefully, you have people around you that can kind of support you.
But if you don't talk about your mental health, then everyone just assumes that you're just grumpy, or you're just an angry person, or . . . And so, by just talking about it with the people around you, it makes social interactions, professional interactions, just so much easier and healthier overall.
Thunder: That's such a great point, Mitch. If you go bike riding with one of your friends and they say, "Oh, I can't ride hard today or do this today because my knee is sore," or you go to eat with somebody and they say, "I can't have gluten in my diet," we accept all those things and we work around them, and, "Thank you for telling me so we can make those adjustments." So that's the same thing with mental health. That's great.
Scot: Before Thunder spoke up, I was going to say I struggled telling people. I struggle talking about it because in my head, I figure most people don't care, right? That's just kind of my thing to deal with, so I'll deal with it. So I still am hesitant. To some extent, that stigma still lives within me.
However, Thunder, the way you phrased it kind of made me reconsider. It might be more a matter of . . . It's not like you have to go into these huge details about what's going on, but just mention it. Mention, "Hey. You know what? I'm struggling a little bit. I'm feeling a little bit anxious today. I'm going to do the best I can, but . . ."
So thanks for framing it that way for me, Thunder. I appreciate that. I'm still working through that ability just to tell people about it.
Troy: See, I'm still just trying to take the first step. I'm still just trying to identify it and tell myself. I can't imagine walking into work and being like, "Hey, guys, I'm feeling anxious today." They'll be like, "Great. Suck it up. We've got two Level 1 traumas coming in, in the next 20 minutes, and a cardiac arrest on the way. So deal with it."
Thunder: You're in the exact horrible place to be saying that sort of thing because, traditionally, it's a tough work environment.
Troy: Yeah. I would love to be able to do that, but . . . Again, for me, I've tried to take that first step at least to be able to say, "These are the emotions I'm feeling. I am feeling this right now," whatever it may be, and at least telling myself that.
That seems to help, at least saying, "Hey, this is kind of how I'm feeling today," and at least acknowledging that. Then maybe I can identify something I can do maybe to address it or maybe not. And maybe it's just a matter of saying, "Hey, that's how I feel." And that's validating to do that.
Scot: Yeah. I think the takeaway there is . . . And again, this is going to vary for person to person, what they feel comfortable with, what the culture they're in is like. And when I talk about culture, I mean the work environment, school environment, all that.
So sometimes you might have to find a different strategy because the talking-about-it strategy doesn't work. But if it does work for you, by all means, you should engage in that.
My number two that I found helpful is just push it way down deep inside.
Thunder: Bury it.
Scot: Yeah, just take a stick and just really pound it down like you're pounding powder into a gun barrel, I guess.
Troy: And then just wait for that gun barrel to explode.
Thunder: Great analogy.
Troy: Love it. It's good. I'm sure every mental health professional would agree with you, Scot.
Scot: It actually plays a little bit off of what you just said, Troy. Just acknowledging an emotion. So if you're feeling something or feeling something going on, and I'm doing it like you, Troy, internally just kind of acknowledging it, going, "Huh." Not judging it. Not saying, "Eh, that's a good or a bad thing." Just trying to use it as a piece of information to determine what's going on. And then is there something I can to help change that.
Thunder, what's yours?
Thunder: I've always tried to, when I can, put things in perspective. And I don't know if it's just the way I was brought up or I lucked into this, but most of the time, I can put things into some sort of perspective where I don't beat myself up too much about things that happened or things that I'm feeling. It makes it easier to do that if I have regular routines, and regular exercise, and just kind of that regular life pattern. So that's one way I cope with it.
And again, I don't know if it's anything that I just learned how to do. It's just something that was kind of in inside me, put it in perspective.
But I've got to say, the times where I feel like I can't put something in perspective, that's the times where I know that I have a deeper issue. And fortunately, there have only been a couple times in my life where I've felt like that, but that's when I've reached out to others, at that time.
Scot: It makes me think about . . . If something happens, I tend to go, "All right. So this happened. What's the worst that could come of it? I mean, what's the worst possible outcome?" And when I play that game, a lot of times, if I'm being honest with myself, the outcome is really not that big of a deal, so it's not going to be worth stressing about.
Mitch: As someone who is the opposite, no, do not play that game. So that kind of goes into what one of mine is, if I may kind of just jump in here real quick. As someone who is a chronic worrier, someone who has sometimes a really hard time seeing the positive, putting things into perspective, if I play the "What's the worst that could happen?" game, it gets real dark, real fast, right? And I sometimes just think that's more my macabre imagination than anything.
But the thing that really helps me, and again, it's something that my therapist said, is that there is no bad thoughts. Well, I guess within reason, but he says, "Hey, recognize that whatever you're thinking, whatever you're feeling, is trying to communicate something to you. And if you are able to listen to it and learn to listen to it and take the time to listen to it, it will direct you how to heal yourself." That's kind of the way that he has explained it.
So if you have that capacity, if that's something that you can learn to do, that's great.
He talked about envy, like if you're envious of someone. That's supposed to be a bad feeling. That's a sin. You're not supposed to be envious. But at the same time, maybe that feeling of envy can point out something that's important to you, something that someone else has that you wish you had, and then you can kind of focus on getting that thing in your life or that aspect or quality in your life.
And so by just acknowledging that there is no such thing as bad feelings and that they're all there to communicate something to you, a need, a want, something not being fulfilled, and just practicing learning to listen to those, that's been extraordinarily helpful to me.
Troy: Along those lines too, something we've talked about on the podcast before, and I know you've mentioned that you've done this, Scot, also, is gratitude. Sometimes it seems cliché. We hear that a lot, like, "Express gratitude. Feel gratitude."I've tried to do that, really put forth more of a dedicated, focused effort with that over the last several months, and really just writing down every day, "What am I grateful for?" Just one thing. "Today, this is what I'm grateful for." The next day, "This is what I'm grateful for."
I find that doing that . . . It's not just that. It kind of makes me think about it more throughout the day. It may be more of a glass half-full thing. Again, it seems a little bit simplistic, but it's something we've talked that before. I've found it's been helpful. It's not something I'd done prior to the last few months, and I've found it's made a difference.
Scot: I've done that practice as well and I've also added to it, "What did I accomplish today?" Because a lot of times, I'll go home at the end of the day and I'll be like, "Oh, I didn't get anything done." But if you really examine, you probably got more done than you think. And to me, that's a source of well-being, thinking that I've contributed.
So I've done both of those, Troy, and I can say they do sound like, "What?" But they do work for me as well.
Troy: Yeah. You talked me into it, Scot. Must have been another episode we did. I decided, "Scot does it. I'm doing it. I'm not going to weigh my food, but I am going to write down what I'm grateful for like Scot does."
Scot: This is a recent thing for me, and that's to avoid mental overstimulation. So this was me about a month ago. I would listen to music online all day. It was '80s music. I have a friend that works at a different place and we would listen to the same online station together, and every once in a while, we'd text each other back and forth about what songs were playing or whatever.
So there was another bit of stimulation. Not only listening, but now I'm texting. And then I had social media on my phone as well that I was using throughout the day. That 24/7 stream of information, whether it's about people I care about or not, that 24/7 stream of news. And at the end of the day, I was just, "Arg."
I took social media off my phone. I stopped listening to music. Unfortunately, my friend and I don't text each other as often, but that's one less stimulation. And I'll tell you, within a couple of days, it has made a huge difference in how I feel mentally and emotionally.
So if you are over-stimulated throughout the day . . . I used to work in an open office plan and I was kind of the same way there because everybody is working out in the open and you hear everything. If you can, maybe find a time where you can eliminate some stimulation or get away from it. That's worked for me.
Thunder: Yeah. So you actually touched on one of the things that I was going to mention for my third, and that was social media. About three years ago, I got off Facebook and I stopped doing any kind of social media, because half the time, it would just stress me out or make me angry. I mean, that was a great moment for me.
And along those lines, I also try to limit how much news I watch on TV. Instead, if I want to get news, I read it. I try to read it.
What I noticed with that is that when you watch a news program, there's this emotional undercurrent of broadcast news when you're looking at someone's face, you're hearing them talk, you're seeing their body language. And for me, I think I was picking up on a lot of things that made me anxious and stressed by that whole visual subconscious stimuli that was coming through.
And when I switched to reading, it was so much easier to put things in a perspective that just didn't rile me up. And that has made a big difference in my overall kind of stress and anxiety level.
And not getting that news through social media, I really think that's huge because news on social media is designed to push your buttons. So if you're already anxious about things, that's just going to pour gasoline on the fire.
Scot: Mitch, number three.
Mitch: So my last one is to stay curious about your mental health. So some of the struggles that I have is that I'll hear something from someone, like, "Oh, keep a gratitude journal," like Scot does, and I guess Troy does now, or, "Hey try this thing out," or, "Meditate for 10, 15 minutes," or, "Do whatever," and a lot of those didn't really work for me. I can see where they came from, I can see their goals, but it just really didn't fit into my life.
And so I think that a lot of times we just assume that these particular behaviors are the ways to get healthy. And I think that's the same way when it comes to losing weight, strength-training, getting swole, whatever. There are all these lists of things that you're supposed to do, and if you do these things, you will be healthy, right?
And if we can apply that same thing to mental health, be curious. Try things out. Thunder mentioned sitting out on his deck. That's something that's very good for him. And if we can continue to observe our own feelings, observe what does and doesn't work for us, it's huge. To find out what helps you as an individual will do so much more than just doing what someone else tells you to.
Scot: All right. Troy, your number three?
Troy: Scot, we've kind of talked about this in terms of identifying emotions. I've come to a point, and again, it's been just the last several months, where I have really tried to identify . . . I think we all have feelings, but then sometimes as those feelings get to the point of what we may classify more as emotions more than feelings. And I've really tried to identify when I'm feeling two specific emotions, and those emotions are anxiety and anger. I don't want those in my life.
I have sometimes been motivated by anxiety. It's been something that has prompted me to action, to whatever it is, whether work, or testing, or academics, and I've used that as a motivation almost, of almost leaning on anxiety to push me forward.
And I have experienced anger potentially with that, sometimes with work-related scenarios, with even sometimes patients or consultants at work who get under my skin. And I don't like those things.
I don't want to experience those, so I've been really been trying to say, "Okay, am I feeling anxious now? Am I feeling angry?" And then to say, "What's the source of that?" Or to identify ahead of time what will cause that, and to try to avoid those things.
Like I said, I've almost been driven by that sometimes. And then to say to myself, "Hey, I'm going to take this wherever it takes me. I'm not going to let anger motivate me. I'm not going to let anxiety motivate me." It's made a big difference.
Scot: If you're not letting anxiety motivate you anymore, what motivates you? Anxiety and fear are great motivators to perform.
Troy: They are. I don't want those.
Thunder: It's just anger at this point.
Troy: Yeah. I don't want it. I don't want anxiety and fear to motivate me. I want it to be the reward. I don't want to be motivated to . . . And this is going to sound funny. We talk so much about running, but I regularly sign up for marathons and sometime it's been the anxiety, like, "There are marathons out there. I've got to be ready for it. There are marathons out there." It's anxiety.
Scot: So now what motivates you, Troy?
Troy: I have tried to take that to the other level and to a different emotion and say, "I'm going to be motivated by the fact that I just enjoy the experience." I enjoy the experience of running. I enjoy taking my dog out. I enjoy the solitude. I enjoy the time. It allows me to process my thoughts. And that's been a different experience.
I'm thinking back where I was five years ago, and I was motivated to go out every day regardless of conditions because I knew a marathon was coming up, and I'd better be ready for it.
Scot: Troy, you just gave me an epiphany when you talked about you're not going to be motivated by anxiety. It's the source of things that we let motivate us.
I think to my school. I am motivated, I think, by not wanting to look dumb when I write my papers or do anything, right? And that causes anxiety. As opposed to, as you said, being motivated, perhaps reframing it, that I'm excited to learn about this thing and I'm excited to go through this writing process because it's going to be part of the learning process, and I'm excited to have this final product.
That produces a completely different emotion when you turn that in, because now it's not about showing how smart you are. It's about engaging and you just enjoy the process. You enjoy learning.
So being mindful about why you're doing things, and try to do them for things that don't cause anxiety and that give you other intrinsic rewards. Did that make sense to anybody listening?
Troy: That makes perfect sense.
Troy: And that's the process I've tried to go through, Scot. Like I said, anxiety has been such a motivator. And I think for a lot of . . . I'll readily admit I am very much a Type A personality, high achiever, achievement-oriented, all that kind of stuff, and I have been motivated by that anxiety and that fear of looking stupid or that fear of failure for a long, long time. And so it is hard to reframe it, but that's what I want to do and what I'm trying to do. So I totally get it.
Scot: And it's being mindful about why you're doing the things you do, which I think is a great point to end on because that's what we've talked about for every one of the components of the Core Four. What is it that you want these things to do for you? They don't have to be what society says they have to do for you. So maybe that's a good place to end. Good conversation, guys.
If you'd like to reach out and comment on what you just heard or have something you'd like to share, it's so easy to get a hold of us. Troy, tell us how.
Troy: Oh, I'm feeling anxious, Scot. I don't know if I . . .
Scot: Mitch, go ahead. You can do it.
Troy: I forgot.
Mitch: Oh my God. What now? No, not me. Troy?
Troy: No, I'll come through, Scot. I got this. You can reach out to us on Facebook, facebook.com/whocaresmenshealth. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact us on our listener line 601-55SCOPE. Again, we would love to hear what you're doing to be mentally healthy and what works for you. We'd love to get your perspective.
Scot: Thanks for listening, and thanks for caring about men's health.
Listener Line: 601-55-SCOPE
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Who Cares About Men’s Health?: https://whocaresmenshealth.com
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