Coping Skills Series - #1B - Monitoring Your Mental, Emotional and Physical Condition
My first psychiatrist, Dr. Sol Levy, taught me to constantly monitor my mental, emotional and physical condition, as well as my immediate environment. My last Blog on coping skills [posted January 27, 2008] was entitled - Coping Skills Series - #1A - Monitoring Your Interactions with Others. It dealt with monitoring our immediate external environment, especially our interactions with other people.
This blog deals with monitoring our internal environment or condition. As with Coping Skill #1A, this coping skill is foundational. In other words, it's a basic skill that can affect our ability to master most of the remaining coping skills I'll introduce in subsequent blogs.
Once you begin to develop the skill of monitoring your internal environment, you're bound to discover that it is more difficult than it might seem at first blush. First, it is a challenge we must deal with during every waking hour; it never goes away. Second, as with anyone else, our mental, emotional and physical conditions are intertwined to such a degree, it's often difficult to tease these apart. Each one has an impact on the others. No one who has had a panic attack or a bout of severe clinical anxiety will disagree. It is also one of many reasons you often hear consumers talking about treating the "whole person".
OK. So we need to monitor our internal mental, emotional and physical conditions, but what are we supposed to be watching or watching for? When one or more of these conditions becomes a problem, what are we suppose to do about it? What is our objective in monitoring these conditions in the first place?
Let's start with the last question [What is our objective in monitoring these conditions in the first place?]. Our first objective is stability. If one or more of these conditions gets out of control, we have a problem. If the problem becomes serious, it's probably because the initial troublesome condition is destabilizing the other conditions as well. Stability in this case involves maintaining control over all three of these conditions. In my experience, it also requires a balance among the three. If we can control each of these internal conditions and maintain a balance between them, we will have achieved stability.
Now let's look at the first question [What are we supposed to be watching or watching for?] In other words, what is an early warning sign that we may be headed for trouble? Although our mental, emotional and physical conditions are intertwined, and each has its unique collection of characteristics, some characteristics are shared. Fortunately, there is a characteristic associated with each of these three conditions that forewarns us of trouble. It is a nasty word familiar to us all: Stress.
This leaves us with the second question [When one or more of these conditions becomes a problem, what are we suppose to do about it?] The answer is that we should take action(s) that will reduce the level of stress we are experiencing. The stress can originate from within any one or more of our internal conditions or be precipitated by a stressful external event or environment. The secret for dealing with any of these stresses is early detection. By continuously monitoring our internal condition (and our external environment), we will be able to determine the source of our stress quickly and deal with it before it spreads or spirals out of control. The best way to manage specific stressors depends on the stressor, its source and severity.
The third blog in this series [#1C] on coping skills will deal with multi-tasking. Coping Skills #1A, #1B and #1C form the foundation on which all my other coping skills have been constructed. After next dealing with Coping Skill #1C, we'll launch into a discussion of a number of very specific and powerful coping skills that will provide relief from a wide variety of stressors. More importantly, with practice, these same coping skills can enable us to avoid destructive kinds of stress altogether while remaining functional in society. And by internalizing these coping skills, we can learn to deal with many stressors subconsciously.
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Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions. If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.