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Mind Matters

Getting healthy in your head is the first step to getting healthy. Often it’s some sort of mental blockage that keeps us stuck on the couch, tossing and turning all night, or stress eating.

Article
Tiffany Duncan
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
August 28, 2018

When it comes to working out, eating well, getting enough sleep, and just generally living a healthy lifestyle overall, there’s one element that often gets left out of the picture. It’s something you can’t just pop like a vitamin, or drink in a smoothie. It can’t be gleaned through a butt-busting workout. It’s not a quick fix, some miraculous superfood, obscure protein powder, yoga breathing technique, or exotic and expensive mineral water only found in the Swiss Alps. But once you finally discover this elusive element for yourself, it can overhaul your life in ways you never thought possible. So what is it exactly?

I’m talking about mental health. Getting healthy in your head is the first step to getting healthy anywhere else.

Often it’s some sort of mental blockage that keeps us stuck on the couch, tossing and turning all night, or stress eating. I know, because I’ve dealt/deal with severe anxiety and depression. And let me tell you — it’s powerful, and it’s taken a toll on my body in the form of migraines, bouts with severe vertigo, blurred and spotting vision from stress, and weight gain.

But one day in 2015, I decided I needed help. I sought out a counselor at Plumbline Ministries in south Tulsa because there was just something to the sound of that name. Deep inside of me I knew something was very, very off, and it was keeping me stuck in a cycle I desperately needed to escape. Plumbline sounded like a place that was going to help me get down in there and dig out the clogs. And for the next almost two years, they did.

I am not being dramatic when I say it absolutely changed my life. With the help of my counselor, I was able to see certain patterns, habits, and negative ways of thinking I’d gotten stuck in because of things that had happened in my past, and how I’d learned to see the world from a young age. I started to feel like I could see above the clouds for the first time in years. My counselor equipped me with certain tools to deal with everything ranging from social anxiety to anger to helping me communicate better with my husband. And through all of that, I was able to start dreaming big dreams again and truly believing that I could make things happen.

This past December, I felt like I was ready to face the world by myself, but I actually started going back to counseling this month. I’ve just started to feel stuck again in a few areas, and I’ve learned that there is no shame in asking for help. I’ve got big dreams and big plans, and I simply cannot afford to allow my anxiety to live my life for me anymore. I need the help of my counselor to help me see where I’m getting hung up, because often we are too close to the problem ourselves to see it clearly.

But a counselor has an unbiased eye and can speak into the crux of the issue and supply powerful clarity.

If you’re not quite ready to visit a counselor, at least go and pick up this amazing book by Rachel Hollis. It’s all about how to stop believing lies about yourself and fully engage with life.
If you’re not quite ready to visit a counselor, at least go and pick up this amazing book by Rachel Hollis. It’s all about how to stop believing lies about yourself and fully engage with life.

Personally, I believe everyone needs counseling. Yes, you. Therapy and counseling are not only for those with deep traumas in their past; it’s for anyone that has to live in this broken, jagged world. No one successfully navigates this place without cuts. No one. And those cuts quietly fester for years and years until turning into full-blown — albeit invisible — infections. These are the kind of un-dealt with wounds that can cause heart-pounding insomnia. That make you feel like everyone in the grocery store is staring at you. That cause you to feel so full of some unnamed shame, you can’t speak kindly to yourself or engage in healthy relationships with others.

When we let unexamined wounds control our thoughts and behaviors, that may look like frantically driving to Sonic to order a vanilla diet coke and cheddar bites and to sit there for so long that the carhops start to side-eye your car and wonder if they should call the cops (not that I know from experience or anything). But now, when I start to desperately crave bad-for-me foods or flop onto the couch to watch unholy amounts of Netflix, I know it’s time to check in with myself and see what’s really going on in there.

There is, unfortunately, such a stigma surrounding mental health. It’s true that it has gotten more attention in the past couple of years as the term “self-care” becomes more prevalent, but mental health is far more than just getting a massage once a month (although that’s a good start)! Hear me: there is no shame in getting help, because sometimes we just can’t see in our own lives what a licensed therapist can help us to see.

Getting healthy mentally can be the first step toward breaking out of the cycle of self-sabotage you may have found yourself in. Getting healthy mentally can help you talk down the anxiety that’s telling you everyone is watching and judging you during a fitness class (spoiler alert: they aren’t). Getting healthy mentally can help you stop blowing up with anger at the slightest provocation and deal with what’s really going on. Getting healthy mentally can help you see that you deserve good things, and are allowed to dream big dreams, too.

Take your mental health seriously. If you’ve ever even mildly considered that it might help you to talk to a counselor, stop reading this right now and go call. If you’ve never considered counseling but feel unhappy, anxious, guilty, angry, resentful, foggy, fearful, or depleted for unknown reasons, stop reading this right now and go call. You don’t have to live your life in fear and passivity. The hardest step is to actually make the call, but once you do, I promise, if you are honest and open and let all of your ugly hang out, you’re going to come out on the other side a brand-new person.

What are you doing still reading this? Call!

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Utilizing as many free and cheap resources as she can find in the 918 area, routinely forsaking her fitness comfort zone to discover effective workouts, and cooking more intentionally from home, Duncan is publicly documenting her progress in each issue as she works to lose 30 pounds in 2018.