This week we welcome Clinical Psychologist (and Troy's wife) Amy Felman to the podcast as part of our Mental Health Month series. In addition to working in clinical psychology, Amy hosts a podcast for early career psychologists, “We All Wear It Differently”. In this interview, Mike chats to Amy about the difference between mental health and mental health disorders and the importance of regularly looking inwards in order to look after yourself.
Tune in for that and more on this week’s WP Elevation Podcast!
Watch the Video
Amy began her career in media and the arts. In her mid-twenties, seeking a change, she enrolled in psychology to pursue her interest in the human story. Now with a Masters in clinical psychology, Amy also hosts a podcast for early career psychologists where she interviews psychologists from various backgrounds. She also enjoys working with Smiling Mind (a mindfulness meditation ap), in training and content development.
Amy begins her discussion with Mike by noting that mental health is important in all industries, but there are additional issues facing people like who work alone. The way workplaces are set up can add to potential isolation, and working from home means that there are none of the benefits of a face-to-face team environment in terms of social support and connection. On top of this, managing deadlines, challenges, and even remote staff on your own can be a stressful situation.
Mike mentioned that not having his phone in his bedroom at night has been a game changer for him. Amy goes on to explain that your mind receives a dopamine hit every time your phone flashes. Attending to that flashing alert means that you lose time via the distraction of checking your email or message. She recommends getting phones out of your bedroom and turning them off. Amy does it and wakes up in the morning with a much clearer head.
How do we start to look after our mental health?
We need to slow down and look at ourselves. Amy suggests starting by asking yourself what’s going on in your internal world. Check in on how you are interacting with your environments.
Cultivate a mindfulness practice in a non-judgemental and open way.
You can do this by regularly checking in with yourself. Through mindfulness training, we gain a lot of information that can help us respond more positively to the various problems that life throws our way.
The act of simply stopping and paying attention can help you find calm and clarity in the moment. Once you’ve increased your self-awareness, you can them implement an action to help you, whether it be calling someone, a breathing routine, reading a positive affirmation etc.
Mental Health vs a Mental Health Disorder
Amy explains the difference at the 14-minute mark of the interview. Mental health sits on a continuum of optimum functioning, moving right up to a serious disorder. We all sit somewhere on the continuum and can move up and down it during different phases of our life. The severity of a reaction to a situation can inform where you are on the continuum. Tune in as Amy delves further into this concept, explaining the difference between a short-term response as opposed to a slow building response over time.
What can we do to work our way out of these things when we feel them happening?
When things get bad for Mike, he notices that he begins to think far into the future, catastrophizing events that ‘could’ happen. He’s learned that if he takes the time to sit down and write out what could happen, he comes to the realization that the worst case scenario isn’t that bad.
He’ll also take a break, cut the spiral of thinking by putting the thoughts aside; taking a walk and focussing on something else. Amy confirms that by acknowledging the thoughts and not judging them, you are giving them less power.
Develop Self-Awareness before jumping into strategies
Amy explains that you need to cultivate self-awareness before diving into strategies. “How can you dive into a strategy if you don’t understand it, or know what’s happening?” You can start to do this by looking for your patterns of behaviour, your physical and emotional responses to situations – check in and ask yourself how you’re feeling. Remember to also pay attention to your environment, including people and places and how they impact us.
These things can help us identify our triggers.
Did you know that we have 50 – 70K thoughts a day? Many of them – about 90 percent Amy says, are thoughts we’ve have had the day before; so we’re actually on repeat to some extent. Our core beliefs (often repeated thoughts) remain quite similar. Become aware of this and realize that you don’t have to respond to all your thoughts as if they are ‘factual.'
What else can you do to aid mental health?
- Exercise is one of the greatest antidepressants available. Amy explains the need for prioritising exercise, sleep, and diet in order to prevent mental health decline.
- Check in with your values system and how balanced you are in your life. We’re often hitting the quadrant of work, but not balanced in family/relationships, spiritual growth and health.
- Set boundaries as a solopreneur: define your negotiables and non-negotiables by figuring out the value of your work, what you’re willing to do and sticking to that.
- Work during your peak hours. People often work more efficiently at different times of the day or night. Not having to work in an office gives you the flexibility to work at the times that suit you. Make the most of it!
Gold Nugget TakeawayDevelop Self-Awareness by…
- Paying Attention
- Checking in with yourself
- Responding to what’s happening in your world