The sun rise not to be mediocre but to shine. Before you can begin to deal with the emotions involved in facing bankruptcy, you have to allow yourself to feel them. There’s often a strong compulsion to keep negative emotions buried so that they won’t distract you from the work you need to do.
Emotional intelligence can be the most potent weapon in our armory. It helps boost our self-awareness, self-control, motivation, empathy, and social skills, all of which help us become much better leaders or champions. But If your mental well-being is a finite resource, like money, then what can good money management teach us about how to keep our balance when life threatens to disturb our peace?
MANAGING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH LIKE YOU MANAGE YOUR MONEY _ When you’re financially broke, there are well known signs and symptoms. Creditors start calling. Your credit card stops working. Your phone, electricity or gas gets shut off. Not everyone gets the message at this point, but the message is clear: something needs to change in order for ends to meet. Maybe it’s more income or maybe it’s fewer expenses, but something has to give.
Psychological bankruptcy is a concept that might seem less familiar, but I’d wager the phenomenon is at least as common as financial insolvency. Just like real bankruptcy, mental bankruptcy has definite signs. If you’re not sleeping well, or your eating habits have degenerated and your weight is moving in a direction you didn’t intend and don’t like, you could be approaching emotional bankruptcy. If you’re snippy and quick to anger when you didn’t use to be, it’s a sign that your mental bank account is approaching zero. If you feel “burned out” or like life has no meaning or purpose, there’s a good chance you’re over your mental spending limit.
Sadly, while financial distress is accepted as a driver for change, most of the symptoms I’ve described above are far more likely to be dismissed as “no big deal, a moral failing, or something to be “pushed through. Unfortunately, trying to overcome psychological overwhelm by dismissing it is spectacularly unsuccessful and only leads to more and worse symptoms. One of the greatest weaknesses of the medical model for mental health is that it assumes that people are either mentally health or mentally ill. Please hear me clearly: mental bankruptcy does not require mental illness! A diagnosable mental illness may be a very late indicator of a life out of balance.
SLASH YOUR MENTAL EXPENSES: If you haven’t been paying much attention to your budget, you may be able to find line items in your credit card or bank statements that serve little or no purpose. It might be a membership to a website or health club you never use. Perhaps you own a boat or ATV that’s brings you no enjoyment but a lot of expense. The list is endless, but it’s very hard to balance a budget until these “leaks” are found and plugged. Our lives are also full of activities that might have once been pleasurable, nourishing and refreshing but now are stale or even destructive. Has that occasional glass of wine at dinner become four or five every night? Have your friends turned from trusted allies to actual liabilities? It’s time to find out what’s costing you peace of mind and get it out of your life. Making these cuts may not be comfortable, but remember to consider the long-term upside of unhooking from these anchors around your neck.
PUT YOUR BRAIN ON A BUDGET: It would be great if you could cut all the fat out of your finances one time and be done with it. The trouble is that the beliefs and behaviours that got you into trouble in the first place are likely to remain. It’s not uncommon for a whole new crop of expenses to pop up just when you think you have everything under control. You can resist the financial impulses with a firm budget, where you decide to spend only so much on each sort of expense and no more. You can budget your mental reserves in a similar fashion, except that you usually measure these resources in hours and not currency. How many hours at work are too many? How many visits from a troublesome in-law can you afford to endure? Just as with a financial budget, you tend to make better decisions if you make them long before you take out your wallet or make commitments to others.
BOOST YOUR EMOTIONAL INCOME: Every budget has two parts: income and spending. So far I’ve just talked about spending, but the good news is that just as you can increase your earning power, you can boost your levels of mental health with good self-care. I’ll never understand why we admire people who strive to earn more money and praise those who go to the gym to improve their physical health, but we shyly look away when we admit that we took a “mental health day” from work. The truth is that our ability to work and function is dependent on our mental well-being. Just as there is an industry dedicated to helping people find the right career, it makes sense to find out what activities are most refreshing. Some people need peace and quiet, others require activity and excitement. For some, solitude is a necessity, while others need to be the centre of attention.
There is no right answer that works for everyone, and finding your ideal self-care regimen is something you’ll have to discover for yourself. But if you make the investment in learning what you need to stay mentally healthy, you’ll be not only happier, but also more effective in almost everything .
YOUR TURN Here I’d like to offer a concrete exercise to put the ideas above into play in your own life.
1.Take a moment to see if you have any of the signs of impending mental bankruptcy. Are you already in over your head?
2.Whether you are or not, start working on your “mental cash flow statement,” a list of the activities that drain you (liabilities) and those that recharge you (assets). See if you can reach an intuitive feel for whether you’re running a deficit.
3.Next, look for something in your life, that if you stopped doing it, would immediately improve your quality of life. Either commit to cutting it out right now, or explore what’s holding you back.
4.Finally, what could you add to your life that would improve your mental well-being? Or how can you change something you already enjoy to make it an even bigger positive influence in your life?
I suggest that you seek out emotionally satisfying relationships with people who will nurture you. Find those who ask about your day, who are willing to help you when you need it and people who make you laugh. Relationships should be a two-way street, so find people who are willing to give back as much as they take. When you do, your emotional bank won’t be so depleted