Today, I share with you another letter from a reader. Thank you to readers who have sent in their stories and for those who have responded to them. I will publish as many of the stories and responses as I can in the coming weeks.
I read your column regularly and it has become part of my life now. I am sure you and PUNCH must realise the value of the work you do and the service to the society that you provide. Every Sunday after I read your articles apart from coming away armed with a wealth of new information, I find myself comforted and equipped for the week. It’s quite extraordinary! I compare it to how I feel when I go to church. The difference though is that after reading your column, I actually feel empowered.
I have an issue I want to share with you and readers in the hope that I can get some resolution. I would like to communicate with you privately but you can share this letter if you think it might help others. I request anonymity if you wish to publish it.
I have had a problem for many years that I concluded was an affliction I had either inherited or it had been cast upon me by dark forces. I am now not so sure after reading many of your articles. I would like your views on it.
I am in my fifties now but from as young as my twenties I have always had the urge to repeat certain activities. My family used to make fun of me when I was younger and said I would probably end up a doctor as I liked to wash my hands a lot. They thought it was admirable I was so fastidious. As I grew older, I noticed that this repetitious behaviour progressed to double checking doors several times to see if they were locked even after I had locked them, I would check many times. This behaviour carried on into my professional and private life and started causing me embarrassment and a lot of anxiety. As I said before, I started to think there was something wrong with me. It got worse with relationships with women. I found it very difficult to be intimate because I felt very unclean afterward and I would rush to take very long showers, sometimes two or three times. This would make the woman feel bad. So I did not enjoy good relationships, in the end I decided not to try to have any long, deep relationship and I ruled marriage out.
I just engage in uncomplicated sex and get away as quick as I can. I had come to accept my lot in life and decided these were the cards I had been dealt, until I started reading your column. Strangely enough no one ever suggested to me it might be a psychological problem. I was either told to take it to God or visit unsavoury places. I did the former but nothing changed.
I have found several things you have written that suggest to me there might be a psychological problem behind my behaviour. I can tell you a bit more of my history privately.
Thank you and God bless you
Experts have given many suggestions on improving and protecting your mental health. These are a few:
- It is important to value yourself. Treat yourself with kindness and respect and avoid undeserved self-criticism. Make time for your hobbies and favourite projects, and try to broaden your horizons, Do daily crossword word puzzles, reading, learning new words, or something else to exercise your mind, plant a garden, take dance lessons or learn other new activities, learn to play an instrument or learn another language.
- Make a commitment to taking special care of your body. Eat nutritious foods. Avoid smoking or abusing other drugs, reduce alcohol intake. Drink plenty of water. Exercise is crucial in decreasing depression and anxiety and it improves moods.
- Try to get as much sleep as your body requires. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to a high rate of depression and weight gain.
- It’s crucial to surround yourself with people who will add value to your life, who will make you feel good about yourself. People who have strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a good support network. Make efforts to engage with supportive family and friends and explore making new, healthy friendships. Cut ties with relationships that are not healthy.
- For many people in our fast-pacing world, there is never enough time in the day to do all you want to do, but if you examine how you spend your time you might find things you can cut down or even cut out as they add nothing of value and could even be detrimental to your well being.
- As a society we are not very good at giving of ourselves in volunteer work. This is one of the most satisfying and empowering activities you could do. Volunteer your time and energy to help someone in need.
- Learning how to deal with stress is one of the best ways of enhancing and maintaining good mental health. Stress is a part of life so learning good coping skills is vital. One of the activities that research has proven to be hugely effective is laughter, as it can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and greatly reduce stress. Also remember to smile and see the humour in life.
- Lean how to meditate which is slightly different to religious fervour which can sometimes be very stressful and raise anxiety and even fear in some people. Meditation is about quieting your mind and being still, something known as mindfulness. This could also include gentle prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind, it may help you feel calm and enhance your outlook on life.
- Try to set some realistic achievable goals for yourself. This may be academically, professionally and personally. Aim high, but be realistic so don’t set yourself up for failure. You will enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress towards your goal.
- It’s important and helpful to our physical and mental wellbeing to break up any monotony in our lives. Sometimes we just get stuck in mindless routine that become harmful. Although our routines can make us more efficient and encourage feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can energise a tedious schedule. After you conclude one of your regular routines, switch things up by doing something completely different. This fires up and excites the mind.
- Seeking appropriate help is a sign of strength, not weakness. The right treatment can be very effective and it may be something very simple in your case. People who get the right treatment and care for themselves can recover from mental health problems and get on with their lives.
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