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Do You Want to Increase Mental Fitness?

imagesWe all know how it goes…. Someone tells you not to worry about something and while it may help marginally, it generally doesn’t. Worrying does not just automatically stop when someone suggests that you stop. Something else needs to happen. You need to be able to tell yourself not to worry and this requires you to have a certain amount of control over how your mind is working.

Hearing from someone else that you shouldn’t worry gives you the idea that for others the thing you are worrying about is not necessarily that worthy of worry, you may even feel that things won’t turn out so bad when you are reassured by another. But to take control of your mind, to actually train your mind to not get stuck in loops of worried thought, that can be a harder thing to achieve and it requires a focus on mental fitness.

Research has emerged that is suggesting a possible link between chronic worrying and the likelihood of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is but one very important reason why mental fitness training needs to become a focus in people’s lives. In the Epidemiology Department of Michigan State University, researchers have found while studying participants over a long number of years, those who as children were prone to worrying a lot over everyday occurrences were much more likely to develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a traumatic event. The statistics indicated clearly that chronic worrying is an indicator of vulnerability to developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder rather than the chronic worrying being a feature that develops as a result of the trauma.

We can’t necessarily avoid the trauma that happens to us as kids or on our journey through life, but there are things we can do to better prepare the next generation to meet trauma with resiliency. Tuning in to how much worrying children do is the first good step in helping them take control of minding their mental health. This is a key part of mental fitness training but it is only a first step. If the child has a natural propensity towards worrying, you can guide them to an alternative way of thinking, not by saying not to worry, but by increasing their own awareness about what thinking is behind the worried feeling. Helping them to explore what thoughts are causing the worry and then to look at the evidence to suggest that that particular thought is not essential. For example, a child who is worried about what may happen in the schoolyard may be feeling worried because something difficult happened in the yard the week before. By exploring the child’s thoughts around this, they may be able to come up with a strategy to deal with the particular situation and then will begin to develop a belief that is along the lines of ‘I am able to problem solve.’ If this belief becomes strong over time, mental fitness increases. This is not only then a route to better mental health but as the researchers in Michigan have found, it may also be a part of the resiliency a person develops to the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is worth learning about and focusing on mental fitness. A fit mind keeps kids psychologically safe.

 By: Anne McCormack

Anne

For simple tips to increase mental fitness, follow Anne @mentalfitnessXX

About Anne McCormack

Anne McCormack is a Psychotherapist and writer living in Dublin, Ireland. Anne is passionate about adolescent mental health. Her first book on preparing young people for social media is due to be published this year. To sign up for more information from Anne on the topic of young people and social media, go to www.annemccormack.ie and follow Anne on Twitter @MentalFitnessXX!


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