Ladies, can we talk? I have been on this mental health kick for quite some time now. For very good reasons, actually. This shit is complicated. I mean really how many of us have the best mental health, where we are just living everyday positively, knowing how to successfully go with the flow and not less stress bother us? I seriously don't think I know one woman over 40 let alone anyone that is in the best mental state. That is why I have been focusing these episodes more on the mental health and nutrition and fitness. I just feel that, starting with the mental health is key. The nutrition, though is very important, it's easy. I mean, it's, it's easier and as a health coach, I can't prescribe anything. However, I find that educating on eating whole foods is easy. And then fitness is also easier. It's easy to say, "you should go walking or go to the gym for 30 minutes" That's the easier part. But mental health, that is the hardest shit to deal with on a daily basis. It is just like going to the gym though. We need to work out our mental agility practice daily habits that get us closer to either changing our thoughts or even detaching ourselves from the thoughts. In Functional Medicine, there is a tool that we use and it's called the matrix. This is like the bible. It's a one sheet snapshot that gives you the list of your clients history, including pre-birth, what they were doing as a child and also gives you a little snapshot of their current situation. What are their issues? Are they having gut issues? Are they having toxic issues and stuff like that, but it also tells you about their lifestyle. So are they sleeping okay? Are they taking breaks? What's their stress like? Their nutrition? Their fitness? Everything... relationships. But smack dab in the middle of this sheet of this Bible so to speak, is a circle with the three most important pieces of the puzzle of who you are, who a human being is. And that is mental, emotional, and spiritual. So I think these three things are what us as human beings are all about. And truthfully, I feel that if one is not healthy, like the mental, then all three are not healthy. So your emotional kind of ties in with the mental and spiritual kind of ties in with both of them. It is in having a healthy mindset where anyone can start taking steps to living a healthier lifestyle. That is where it starts in the mind then comes the nutrition and everything else. Once you get your mind, your state of mind and not just a positive, but kind of reframing things, you're more able to say yes to better nutrition, say yes to having more vegetables or saying yes to walking more. Doing stuff like that, but you have to be in the right mindset. So that is where it starts. Personally. I have had the hardest time with this. For me, it is a constant struggle daily of having my mind and thoughts controlling my emotions and my actions. And now I have noticed that this is getting worse as I get older. I remember, back when, in my twenties where I thought, hey, I'm invisible. I can make the dumbest choices. Not really thinking about them. I could just do anything. Do you remember that? I mean, it's crazy to think about that. However, I will say that I have always had some mental block about myself. Years and years of not being enough, or always having a negative self-talk has brought on some really deep and dark moments in my life. Finally, I realized, I cannot cure this on my own. So after 43 years of having these negative thoughts about myself, I decided finally that it was time to go to therapy and that I did. Now I know therapy gets a bad rap, only crazy people go to therapy. But one thing I will say is that I don't care who you are or what you have going on in your life. Going to therapy is probably the best and healthiest thing you could do for yourself and your mental health. I feel that it is no longer a stigma of you having to be crazy just to seek help. In fact, mental health is a huge topic now, since this pandemic has happened. People going to therapy have increased tremendously. It is affordable health insurance now covers it if not all sessions. So there is no reason why you should not go and talk to a non-biased person who could offer not only the help that you need, but somebody that'll listen and that's what we need. We need somebody to talk about our issues and our feelings and just get it out. And this professional is there to listen, but also can offer you some guidance, some help on how to think differently or how to kind of get over these issues. So, back to my therapist, I sought out a therapist who specializes in CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy. I've only heard about it and heard about its efficacy, but I never really put it into work. I thought that this was perfect for the issues that I really needed to work out. One thing I will say, though, is that it is easier to change the mindset when you were younger. Really. I have had many years of bullshit ruminating in my mind, in my brain that has to get sorted out and worked on. So I'm figuring this is probably going to take pretty much longer than say if I was 23, but you know, isn't that how it always goes?
What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?
So let's dig into a little bit more about what cognitive behavior therapy is. I want to summarize it by quoting the website Psychology Today; CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts by interrogating and up rooting negative and irrational beliefs. I love those words and is very powerful! Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was founded by a Psychologist, Erin Beck back in 1960. So really this concept is nothing new. It is a noninvasive and practically anyone can use it. Kids, teens, adults, elderly, anybody! And it's really for those suffering from either major depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, and so many others.
How does Cognitive Behavior Therapy work?
So now, you know a little bit about what it is, let's kind of dig in about how does it work? Well normally when you go to therapy or see a psychologist, you talk about your past or your history? This happened when I was a child or, something traumatic normally comes up after you kind of dig in and dig in and dig in. So with CBT, it focuses more on the present circumstances and emotions that going on today rather than what went on in your childhood. Now, I will say though, that the CBT clinician or the therapist will most definitely ask a little bit about your past is so they can get a little sense of the issues, but they will not spend a lot of time there. That's not the focus of it. The focus and emphasis is what the client or me or you is telling themselves that are getting them into this anxiety or disordered states. I mean, we have how many thoughts permitted per second? Clients are encouraged to address the concerns rationally and challenge the irrational beliefs that are ruminating or catastrophizing their life. So without going into too much detail, . I was given a handout and homework and I love homework. So of course I was like, yes, home work! I was given two sheets of paper. One sheet was listing irrational beliefs, listing all of the irrational beliefs that we all have. These irrational beliefs are: I must be perfect, or I must have everyone's love and approval. On the same sheet are triggering thoughts such as people ignore your needs or people control you.
So anytime these thoughts come up, they trigger into an irrational belief. So I had to circle the ones that resonate with me and I struggled with the most.
The second page now has the coping statements. In this page from top to bottom has these coping statements and it helps you reframe the mindset. So these coping statements are things like, "life does not have to be perfect" or "my dreams are coming true"
So I decided for me, really looking at all of these coping statements once just kind of reading them through and then being done with them is not going to help because you can't retain all of them. I took it upon myself and decided to write out one for each day. So I wrote out a coping statement, something that spoke to me a little bit because not all of them do, so I wrote one for each day and I would look at it multiple times that day. So say for example, if there is an issue or a trigger, in that moment, I will search for the coping statement that compliments that trigger. And I find it helpful that if I kept saying that statement it will reframe my mind. Now I do definitely have a lot of work to do with this because again, 43 years of all of these irrational beliefs and all of the thoughts and triggers I have to undo and it's not easy. Definitely takes day after day, week after week and possibly years, but just being consistent will definitely help. And I've already seen results and it's helped a lot.
How CBT helps women over 40
Now you may be asking you, well, how does this work for women over 40? Well, I may be as bold to say that my belief as women over 40 and midlife, we are the most stressed out and anxiety ridden women out there. Even though we tend to get wiser and I don't know about you, but I carry more of a, I don't give a shit attitude, however we definitely do have the thoughts of I'm not getting any younger. Topped with that all of the stress of being a mother, a wife, and at this age, taking care of elderly parents and family, as well as the hormonal changes and dealing with how we look and our finances. And for some of us, I included, we are not where we want to be in life and feel that tug of it's now or never. So with all of these stresses and anxieties that we have, it is no wonder a lot of us have the negative self-talk that we have. But more than that, when the perimenopause and the menopause rears its ugly head, we have an even harder time to cope mentally. So when we do have the perimenopause and the menopause, really what makes us women, and one of our most important things we contribute to the world has been taken away, it is tough to deal with. With that said, studies are now showing that CBT can be effective in managing menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, the mood swings, the depression, the sleep disorders. And I find this fascinating and amazing news! You know why? Because it is no longer something that we just have to deal with. So going through these CBT, these coping statements and reframing our minds really has a lasting positive effect. And when we have a positive mental state it effects positively with our physical state.
Having these statements and doing this behavior therapy is definitely something that we can be excited about because this is a step in the right direction of taking our life and our health back. We now have the ability to age gracefully and on our own terms! So my final thoughts here are being able to control our thoughts and not having our thoughts control us is a powerful thing. Monks have said for years that we are not our thoughts, yet we as women have such debilitating thoughts that create stories that are not even real, that potentially hold us back from living the life we truly want and deserve. It is practices such as CBT, that we are able to empower ourselves to understand that we are so much more than we give ourselves credit for. And just by changing that narrative or our perspective on situations to a more positive and healthy one, might just be that one thing closer to freedom!