How I want to improve my mental health and release stress

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by Ari Anderson |

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I’m just a normal guy who happens to have physical limitations because of SMA. At least, that’s how I want others to see me.

But is that how I see myself? I ask because I can be extremely hard on myself, sometimes even getting on my own nerves. Some days I obsess over every little thing I say and do and wonder if someone took it the wrong way. But I won’t talk to those people right away to see if they got the wrong idea; instead, I worry about it for weeks or months.

What a fruitless obsession! Especially when the other person has long forgotten whatever it is I’m worried about. Eventually, I do get to talk it out with that person, and almost 100% of the time, he or she never took what I said or did the wrong way in the first place.

Please take this as an example of how not to hold on to stress. I beg you, please talk to someone about your worries, because keeping your stress inside produces terrible health symptoms, no matter who you are. This is especially true for those of us with rare diseases. I already have issues with severe respiratory infections because of SMA. I don’t need to add hypertension and other stress-related problems to the list.

Even if you don’t have a rare disease, no one wants to endure health complications due to stress.

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How I release stress

Sometimes I’m unsure about how to start an important conversation with someone because I can’t think of the right words. I get either too nervous or too uncomfortable. Before I talk to them, my mom usually helps me break down my feelings into words I’m comfortable with. She also helps me to see things from another angle.

Having a go-to person who can help you brainstorm before a conversation can help lessen any apprehension you feel. Any form of expression is better than keeping everything inside indefinitely.

When you keep your emotions inside, your mind has a way of becoming more and more self-critical. As someone who always wants to show gratitude to others, it’d be nice if I showed myself a little more appreciation. Unfortunately, I haven’t been putting much self-love into practice.

This must change, or else it will be a hard, uphill battle to accomplish anything else. I’m realizing more and more that without a sufficient amount of self-love, it’s hard to get motivated to do anything. There’s too much at stake, for both me and others, to get caught up in a state of inaction.

Again, by keeping communication channels open and talking things out, I can hopefully untangle myself from all of this silent self-criticism. If I need more help, like prescribed medication to help with my mental state, I’ll seek that out as well. I take Evrysdi (risdiplam) to increase my muscle strength, so I see no problem in taking something to strengthen my mental health.

I’ve written this before, but if you need counseling or medication to help with depression, go for it. It’s totally worth it to raise yourself up. You and I deserve it.

Being willing to share this requires a lot of bravery. Why? Even as I write this, I worry that people will take my words the wrong way. There I go again. It’s a mental cycle that I have to stop.

Please don’t worry about me. I have every confidence that I’ll be just fine and will work through these things. I have this confidence because of my faith. I believe that even when I have to work on self-love, God’s love for me more than makes up for it. Plus, I have the love of so many other people.

In conclusion, all of this proves that I’m just a normal guy. We’re all vulnerable to unhealthy, obsessive thoughts that do no good. I’m no exception. But good can come from it, as I can help the wider population relate more to those who have chronic medical problems. People have said I’ve done this in past columns, and I really hope I’ve done it here, too.

We’re all told to care about others’ feelings. One way we can do this is by being emotionally healthy ourselves. Think about the soaring heights we could reach if we cared more about everyone’s emotions, including our own.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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