Mental health problems cost the Irish economy over € 8.2 billion annually, according to a new OECD report.
Ireland has one of the highest rates of mental health illness in Europe, ranking joint third out of the 36 countries surveyed in the annual Health at a Glancereport.
Some 18.5 per cent of the Irish population was recorded as having a mental health disorder, such as anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, or alcohol or drug use.
Now we can all hazard a few reasons as to the causation of this increase in mental health issues, some even would say that these issues are not new, we are just aware to these issues now and the stigma is less so than in the past.
However, I am not going to go down that rabbit hole today, instead I want to talk about how to help solve the crisis and give a better understanding around why we are suffering from mental illness in today’s society.
In order to work through our mental health issues, we need to at least understand what and why we have these issues and it all stems from our basic biological make up, our central nervous system.
Many people once believed this system to be linear, we
where either in a para sympathetic aka rest digest / pleasure or a sympathetic state aka fight or flight / pain state.
And this may have been true 100,000 years ago as hunter gathers they had to be super alert to threats as they went on the hunt and avoided being the hunted. They would have experienced similar spike’s in cortisol you now feel when your in a traffic jam and late for work etc and when they where back in their cave cooking up their meal they probably experienced the same flow state you have during some “netlix and chill” time as your safe, warm and fed etc.
And while our pre historic ancestors had it pretty tough, from a biological stand point, they where mainly either hunting and where full on in a sympathetic state where they either fought and won their meal or fled from a bigger threat but upon their return to the cave they could momentarily switch off to a para-sympathetic state as they relaxed by a fire in their cave, safe from predictors.
In contrast in today’s society we struggle to ever get out of a sympathetic state, we are constantly turned on and tuned in. We wake up in a mad rush to get to work, we are always under pressure, over worked and under appreciated, before we jump back in the car to head home and do our daily chores while scrolling through social media comparing our lives to the Jones ext door. Rince, repeat until we work ourselves dead, for a job we don’t like.
Everyday the caveman was expressive and was met with a fight or flight decision as he had to fight to win his dinner. Everyday you too are met by fight or flight decisions, but more than likely you where suppresive, you wanted to say something to your boss but didn’t, you wanted to express your unhappiness with your partner but didn’t. Every day you continue to suppress more and more emotions, running further and further and further from challenges until you end up one day in a black hole and you have no idea how to get out and you my friend are stuck in a depressive state we call freeze mode where you are frozen, lifeless, unhappy with your self, your life and unable to take action to get out because you see no way out.
I’m no clinical psychologist and I’m not qualified to talk about depression, but I do have a good understanding of our the central neverous system and ultimately what effects our mental health and while it seems crazy to compare our current state of evolution with a caveman the reality is that in the years that have passed since we evolved our CNS hasn’t changed all that much.
We where designed to fight, and while we live in a civilised politically correct society, we cant be confrontational, we cant express feelings of anger, hurt, frustration etc anymore and we keep having to suppress these feelings until one day you lose the ability to fight all together and your in a deep dark hole as I said above.
And while you cant just break into ranting lunatic in the middle of your office, or become one of those psycho’s who loses it in a traffic jam, we need to learn to EXPRESS and to fight, but in a healthy way. For a long time, exercise has been proven to help with mental health issues such as anxiety (fleeing from challenges) and worse again depression by helping people channel their energy and aggression in a healthy manner.
As such we regularly program workouts where we want people to fully express themselves and “scream & shout to let it all out” we want people to go to a point where the bear is coming for them and to not run from it, but to embrace it, attack it. No data, no recording, no measuring, just you Vs you and the goal is to win.
The effect is instantaneous, we take people and ask themselves to express themselves, its a safe place and to just let it all go, and they enter a fight mode and win. They get a massive endorphin rush and end the session on a massive win as they return to a flow / para sympathetic.
Mental health is now a widely spoken topic as the stigma has been lifted, its something we all struggle with from time to time and its good to be able to know you can ask for help, because we all need help from time to time. But prevention is better than any cure and prevention lies in the ability to express and fight, two things the vast majority of people no longer can do in a safe and legal way. Prevention for some is to turn to alcohol and other hallucinogenics and some turn to yoga or forest bathing, but neither really work, as one momentarily helps you forget of the problem while the other teaches you to deal with the effect of the problem, none help you face the problem which is why you can namsate or breath the bear away, you have to attack the bear.
My way is to get to the gym, grab a sled and push it so hard and to push past the demons, my way to grab a slam ball and to smash it so hard with such aggression and expression that you let go of the shackles weighing you down.
Tell me this, when was the last time you let it all out, I mean truly vented, I mean when was the last time you face a fight head on and won? If you don’t know the answer to that Ill say you struggle with your mental health, if you do, then I don’t think you have anything to worry about.