Mental Health and Complacency

There have been many moments along my mental health journey where I’ve felt like I’ve failed. I don’t quite know how I’m failing or in what way, but I feel that I am. There’s a sense of impending doom, a fear that I am not living up to my potential, that I’m not accomplishing enough. Enough what? you might ask. To be honest, I don’t know what to tell you. This desire to be enough, to do enough isn’t only tied to what I’m hoping to gain. It’s also about what I’m hoping to avoid. There’s a fear of complacency about my mental health that I never want to test, and that is what I’d like to share today.

What does it mean to be complacent?

Complacency is a challenging word for me. It’s one of the many concepts that are difficult for a young person to grasp, despite how often people use the word. From what I could tell, I was trying my hardest at the things I tried growing up and avoiding complacency. I played sports, I tried my best in school and I tried to take something from the hobbies and activities I wasn’t as talented at.

But in those younger years, the idea of complacency never came up. It was when I was older that I heard adults talking about it, about the desire to to never settle. Complacency breeds failure, I was told. Being complacent will get in the way of winning. The fears of complacency were drilled into me as a teenager and young adult and I think these effects still resonate with me today.

I understand that there are plenty of areas in life where it’s not good to be complacent. That desire to strive and be the best at what we do is understandable. But what about in our mental health? What does it mean to be complacent with our mental health, and is that a good or bad thing?

What complacency means to me

Many of us have worked hard to get where we are with our mental health. It’s taken days, months and years of learning, understanding and trying to grow in ways that help us live healthier lives. We find what works and learn what doesn’t, but each new thing we learn is valuable. If I find something that works for my mental wellness, I want to build around it and make it part of my routine. I want my mental health to be as consistent as possible but given all I’ve been told in my life, that sounds eerily similar to complacency.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s not about complacency at all. It’s possible that mental illness can exacerbate my fear of complacency, or get in the way of it. I confuse a lot of things in life with anxiety and depression, and vice versa. It’s affected my relationship with happiness and joy, fear and panic. It’s changed how I see agitation and aggravation. But that’s okay. It’s all part of me. If I keep that desire to figure out my mental health challenges and move forward, I know I’m not being complacent. I’m simply doing the best I can with what I have which in my mind, is the opposite of being complacent.

Now, over to you! Do you have any sort of feelings about the word complacency? Is it a useful word in your life or (like me) do you struggle with it? Let me know in the comments!

"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it." Quote from George Bernard Shaw over a photo of mountains.

Breaking Down Mental Health Terms: What is a Thought Spiral?

Over the years, I’ve learned a number of words, phrases and definitions that have helped me understand my own mental health. Some of these are connected to mental illness or medicine, while others are connected to mental wellness. In this recurring series, I break down some of the mental health terms I’ve learned over the years. Today, I’ll be breaking down thought spirals: what they are, what they look like and what we can do about them.

What is a Thought Spiral?

There are many other names it goes by (anxiety spiral, downward spiral, spiraling thoughts) but simply put, a thought spiral is a series of thoughts that become increasingly overwhelming as a person gets stuck on them. They are typically linked to anxiety and anxious thoughts, but thought spirals can also exist when people are experiencing depression or other mental illness.

Another similar term (or perspective to think about this term) are the cognitive distortions catastrophic thinking and magnification. Both of these cognitive distortions can happen when a person’s thoughts have been spiraling out of control. Whether they are becoming increasingly overwhelming or unrealistic, our thoughts can spiral out of control and lead us into believing things that are simply untrue. When thoughts turn from rational to irrational, it’s time to take a look at what’s happening in our brain.

What Does a Thought Spiral Look Like?

One of the tricky things about thought spirals (at least for me) is how they can sneak up on us. Sometimes our thoughts will lay dormant, not bothering us at all. But then an intrusive or negative thought could enter our brains and if we’re unwilling or unable to acknowledge it, it gets stuck in our head. Before you know it, one thought has piled on another, and your thoughts are spiraling in a much more negative or overwhelming direction than you’d anticipated.

An excellent example of a thought spiral (image via guelphtherapist.ca)

As someone who has to be aware of thought spirals on a daily basis, I’ve gained a better sense of when I’m susceptible to thought spirals. Simply put, there are just some roads of thinking I don’t need to go down because I know what could happen. That doesn’t mean I’m always successful, but that bit of awareness has helped my mental wellness in ways that are invaluable. Thought spirals have the same method, but the unique properties of it – what those thoughts are, and how they’re triggered – will look different for everyone.

What Can We Do About It?

In my opinion, the most important thing we can do when it comes to this topic is to be as open and honest as we can. I think that all of us should be aware of thought spirals because they can happen to anyone. Sometimes I feel like my anxiety or depression might make me more susceptible to thought spirals. But also, anyone can land in a situation where they aren’t thinking as clearly as usual.

Recognizing a thought spiral isn’t always easy, but awareness is the first step. If you notice when your thoughts are getting increasingly overwhelming, name it and acknowledge it. When I can name or define something about my mental health, the challenge to overcome that obstacle eases. Be on the lookout for an upcoming post about other tips and techniques for dealing with thought spirals but in the meantime, I hope that awareness is helpful!

For a long time, I experienced thought spirals but never knew what they were. Now I want to hear from you! Have you heard of thought spirals, or do you know them by another name? What is/was your experience with them? Let me know in the comments!

Learning and Growing in the New Year

Happy New Year! I’m sure you don’t need to read another post from me about how I feel about New Year’s resolutions; I can save that song and dance for another year. Instead, what I’d like to focus on today is how I’m hoping to approach the year: what I can bring to the table, how I’m hoping to grow, and trying to build on what I’ve learned about myself in 2022.

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A Gentle Reminder To End The Year

My last post of the year is usually one of my shortest ones. It’s a simple message, but one I wish was spread more this time of year, so I try to reflect on it at least once during the month of December. I don’t know about you, but this year certainly had its share of ups and downs. There were a lot of good moments, but there was also a lot of times that were painful and sad. So I want to remind everyone reading this that no matter how your year went, no matter what things may or may not have happened, you did enough.

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Winter is Here

Every single year, it’s the same old story: winter is coming, coming, coming…then it gets here. And we get sad. Growing up on the East Coast (and still living there today), I’m used to the familiar patterns of the seasons. I enjoy being able to experience all four seasons every single year (though autumn is often too short). But for some reason, every year I am shocked at how hard it is to adjust when winter hits. I get sad, angry, annoyed and frustrated at the challenges winter brings. So, what can we do about it?

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Grateful and Thankful

Throughout my mental health journey, I’ve reflected a lot about gratitude and and what it means to be thankful. From reflections on gratitude to what I’ve learned about thankfulness, there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained surrounding these feelings, and it can change all the time. Most of the time, I reflect on the importance of being grateful and of being thankful. There is so much value these things bring to our lives. In the busy day-to-day of things, it’s easy to forget. But this Thanksgiving, I really want to reflect on what I’m grateful for. I want to think about what I’m thankful for, and I want to share that with you all today.

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Taking Things Day By Day

When it comes to mental health, there are many cliched phrases I find myself gravitating toward to talk about health and wellness. I like to think of these phrases are things to turn to when my brain is tired, or I feel like I’ve been moving too fast and need to take a moment to reacclimate myself. One of the phrases I turn to often is a reminder: take things one day at a time. Over time, I’ve realized how important it is to take my mental health day by day – and how often, it’s what helps me get what I need.

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Forming Healthy Habits Amidst Setbacks

Living with mental illness can make people feel like they’re failing all the time. Moments of progress can feel impossible to recapture after a misstep. We can be very harsh on our failures, and our reactions can exacerbate those failures. Mental health setbacks happen to everyone, but they can be hard to deal with. Despite our failures, we should still strive to build healthy habits and goals to work toward. So, how can we form healthy habits when we feel like we have constant setbacks?

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Finding More Ways to Reset and Recharge

Recently, I noticed a lot of my posts this summer have focused on resting and recharging. This got me thinking about how this happened. I know people tend to focus on relaxing in the summer, which makes perfect sense. But all year, I’ve had a fixated interest in the concept of rest. At first, I wanted to unlearn the concept of rest that I’d practiced my entire life in favor of something new. But I learned something else invigorating about resting and recharging, and I’d like to share that today.

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Receiving Permission to Feel Tired

I was reflecting on my most recent therapy session when I realized that there was a recurring phrase I was using over and over again. No matter what the topic was or how I felt about it, everything came back to me saying “I’m tired.” Listen – at some point or another, we all get tired. Physically, mentally, emotionally, we are tired and need rest to prepare for what’s next. But the way I was saying it – the tone I was using, the way I thought about it – is what caught my attention, and it’s what I’d like to talk about today.

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