Prescription For Sanity

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Sanity in its everyday sense means feeling normal in our usual circumstances. Feeling like we’re losing our sanity is what we experience when we are radically out of step with the world around us, or with life as we want it to be, or when we are out of balance with our own heart and soul, or with friends, family, and the sense of normalcy.

Psychologically speaking, the reality or perception of living in troubling times — of having the world around us, whether our individual personal world or the multiple shared situations of the planet we live on, seem like it’s gone crazy — often makes us feel like we are losing our minds.

How can we maintain sanity under such stress?

I often recommend a combination of

(1) self-reflective and critical thinking,

(2) brainstorming and developing creative options, and

(3) nurturing yourself through the process. Used together, these psycho-spiritual ‘hygiene’ practices can turn stressful and troubling times into an opportunity to meet life challenges head on, with more effectiveness and empowerment.

Self-reflective thinking means to think about how you’re thinking about something. It’s about becoming aware of your thought patterns and processes, making them more conscious. When thought patterns and processes are conscious, they are also open to productive, beneficial change.

Critical thinking is the application of analysis and evaluation to self-reflective observations. By thinking critically you see where your choices for change might be hidden. It’s thinking for your grounded, whole Self, rather than acting on the fears, worries, opinions of others, or even your own past experience, that may be influencing you. Critical thinking isn’t self-judgment, but rather self and situation evaluation.

Brainstorming is where everything holds some potential. Nothing is pre-judged and discarded too early. Pre-judging limits what we can imagine. It’s a binding force. Brainstorming is a freeing force. We feel more sane when we feel like we have more freedom, more choices.

I tell my clients and students to brainstorm in stages. Take several hours, days, even a week to let your imagination fly. Capture everything you can on paper for further processing at a later time. Meditate or pray, or engage in guided imagery work. Listen for answers that bubble up from your subconscious mind, or that rain down from your higher power.

In a second brainstorming stage, involve others in helping you imagine new ideas, new ways to approach your situation. Consult professionals. Fresh perspectives often provide the best kernels of change. When you have lots of options, evaluate each one for their potential to restore your sense of sanity, according to your own energy, style, beliefs, and preferences.

What do you recommend for nurturing yourself?

Remember we are at minimum body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Each need nurturing. Nurture body by getting enough sleep. Most of us are sleep deprived, and that robs body, mind, and emotions of an absolutely essential healing mechanism. Be strict with yourself and get those eight hours every night. Good nutrition, helpful supplements, exercise, and fresh air are also required to nurture the body— just like mom used to tell us.

Nurture mind by giving it something new to focus on. Sometimes this is called distraction therapy, and it can be an excellent strategy for overcoming stress. Decide to learn something new, even if that’s only bits of trivia, or a new way to cook a favorite dish. Learning stimulates the mind’s readiness to consider new options, which is vital in combating stress during troubling times. You don’t have to tackle calculus or computer programming to get the stress relieving benefits of learning. But approach as much of the day as you can from a mindset of “what can I learn from this?”

Nurture the mind also with something inspirational. Read poems or brief hopeful anecdotes. Watch a good movie, listen to a motivational book on tape or CD.

Nurture emotions by doing what you can to get your needs met, to feel a sense of safety, control, balance, and comfort in your daily life. Ask for help. Let others know how you are feeling. Interact with good boundaries. Withdraw from your over-scheduled interactions to renew your emotional energy. Keep re-grounding yourself in possibilities and realities.

Nurture spirit by incorporating spiritual practices into daily life. Meditate, pray, develop a soothing ritual of some kind. Use projective imagery like tarot cards to center and focus and open to spirit’s voice within you. Engage in random acts of kindness—you’ll be amazed at how that lifts your spirit.

What are some quick tips for creating sanity?

I have a handout that I give away at networking events that elaborates a bit on five common sense strategies that we’ve all heard before, but tend to forget when we’re stressed out. The five things are:

1. Accept the things you cannot change.

2. Change the things you can.

3. Process stress and share dreams with 2 or more kindred spirits.

4. Make contracts for success to move boldly forward.

5. Allow spirit to work through you in three ways: being grateful, communing with nature, and celebrating your creativity.

These five approaches to creating sanity are a sound psychospiritual wellness prescription for everyone all the time.

Deah Curry PhD, is a holistic psychotherapist in Kirkland, WA. For more details on her work, and other free articles to read, see []

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