Much of life may feel like a balancing act between surviving and thriving. Surviving refers to our mundane day to day responsibilities which help to keep us a float and functioning within society. Some of these responsibilities include going to work, going to school, eating breakfast, getting an oil change. These responsibilities add value to our life in the sense that they keep us alive and facilitate our ability to continue fulfilling them. These responsibilities reflect this concept of “surviving”.
Alternately, the concept of “thriving” is less intuitive. Thriving refers to the meaning and value we assign to our lives and how we work towards fostering these values. Instead of the mundane responsibilities that keep us functional within society, thriving entails activities that we seek out primarily for the inherent value and meaning it instills within us, as opposed to the activity serving only as a means for survival.
We Need Both
It’s clear we need both surviving and thriving to live holistically healthy and balanced lives. However, we find that survival can overshadow any attempts towards thriving. We have mounting responsibilities that are central to our life. If we don’t go to work, we risk losing our homes. Surviving is the corner stone of our existence so it is natural that it tends to overshadow the concept of thriving.
In fact many feel surviving is more important than thriving because in order to implement the concept of thriving into our lives we must be surviving at a sufficient level.
Eating healthy, practicing good sleep hygiene, exercising are small steps we can take towards thriving. Finding small moments of relaxation, such as listening to music, reading about a topic that interests you, cooking, and spending time with a friend are also small activities that push us closer to the concept of thriving.
Balancing Surviving & Thriving
The key seems to be balance. Too much of one disrupts our sense of inner peace and overall mental health wellness. When thriving becomes more central to surviving, we may find ourselves unstable financially. When surviving dominates any attempts towards thriving, we may find ourselves extremely stressed, anxious, and in a constant state of worry.
Finding a balance between the two is a day to day process. Our responsibilities are fairly consistent each day, we go to work at a set schedule, we pick our kids up from school at the same time during the week. Our activities for relaxation may not be this structured. It’s good to start with small acts each day and let them facilitate the fulfillment of our responsibilities.
Balancing surviving with thriving makes life more meaningful, more enjoyable, and allows us to make sense of the pain of survival.
Given we have infinite responsibilities that are difficult to “get out of“, we are left with the choice of trying to minimize our responsibilities, or making sense and meaning of them.
In rising above this survival mindset we enter a higher level of thought process and we are able to transform our pain into something greater.
Understanding The “Quick Fix”
We all experience pits in life that affect us emotionally. It's a natural human response to our environment and everyone experiences these types of situations.
Some things we can handle in stride and others may affects us more deeply in ways we can't manage as easily. It feels natural that we seek immediate relief from these painful emotions.
In certain situations a short term fix feels like an impulse towards survival, no one wants to be consumed by the painful experiences we all go through and it is a relatable circumstance across the board.
We are human, we have consciousness and complex emotions so it comes with the territory. It sounds cliche but it is also very truthful.
This concept of a "quick fix" in relation to our mental health struggles is founded in the fact that these negative emotions we experience usually don't disappear along with the fix. Typically they remain and can recur again at moments we can't really anticipate.
In the case of depression, some individuals who experience depressive symptoms may turn to other substances as a form of relief. Some of these substances may include alcohol, marijuana, and other types of drugs.
These substances give us an instant relief from our harsh reality, however in the long term we see the destruction they can cause in our life.
The Long Term Solutions Found In Psychiatric Treatment
This concept of a quick fix versus a gradual process can be evidenced in some of the medications prescribed for psychiatric disorders.
We find that gradual prescribing is healthier for the body in the long term as opposed to instant relief.
Antidepressants typically take 6-8 weeks to work for the most part. It takes time for the serotonergic receptor to sensitize to the whole process of starting an antidepressant.
Experiencing a flood of serotonin in the brain would give an instant sense of relief, however, because that receptor is essential in many other bodily functions aside from one's immediate mood, it is a shock to the body and does more harm than good subsequently.
Your body would feel instant relief from depressive symptoms, however, after the immediate effects wear off, the body will be in a state of repair to compensate and make sure all the other bodily functions are operating correctly again.
The gradual process of antidepressant medications creates a much better prognosis for the long term management of depressive symptoms, as opposed to the quick fixes that an individual would have to repeat each time they experience difficult negative symptoms.
The “Quick Fixes” That Can Also Be Found In Psychiatric Treatment
Xanax, on the other hand, works on the GABA-A receptor mainly, and this leads to relief very quickly. The problem with this is the brain starts to crave more and more of the GABA-A neurochemistry transmission in a “drug induced” form, which becomes increasingly more difficult to provide from natural neurochemistry (i.e from meditation, listening to music, or doing activites that at one point produced relaxation).
Alcohol works on the same GABA-A receptor, and works in a very similar manner to Xanax. Long term effects of Xanax (benzodiazepines) and alcohol lead to increased need for greater amounts of stimulation of the GABA-A receptor for relaxation.
The Healthiest Approach For Mental Health Struggles
Patients sometimes do not wish to start the process of starting an antidepressant, because they want “a quicker fix”, and many psychiatric patients are reminded that the process of having strong mental health does not happen overnight.
It is a process which requires consistency and professional guidance. Psychiatrists are trained to help patients manage their symptoms. Some of these symptoms may be the manifestation of more complex emotions and require more treatment than that offered by a “quick fix”.
Meditation, listening to music, can provide us access to a more natural, and holistic neurochemistry transmission. We feel instant upliftment from these activities and experiences without inducing dependence and damage to our health.
These are considered “quick fixes” but have potential to create long term positive change. In addition to these holistic approaches, there are also safe and effective psychiatric treatments available as well.
There is also Ketamine treatment available which theoretically provides access to a deeper neurochemistry to help one psychologically process their own difficulties in life, similar to the pathways of MDMA psychotherapy that has been studied recently.
The path towards mental wellness unfolds throughout the course of our life. Having the proper resources and knowing the most effective treatments that are available to us makes the path easier.
Understanding the theory
We all are aware that ones parenting is crucial for ones mental health development.
Psychoanalysts say that the development of a child between ages 0-3 or 0-5 is crucial for the child's overall mental health later in life. It is found time and time again that arrests in development at this age lead to various personality disorders, such as narcissism, antisocial, avoidant, dependent, and borderline personality disorder.
Here are 5 ways in which we can practice mindful parenting to help foster our children's mental health as they grow up and navigate the world around them.
1. Active Listening
Listen compassionately to what your child tells you. It may take them a while to express their thoughts and it may not even be coherent but having patience, giving them the space to express their minds is powerful and strengthens the dynamic between parent and child.
When the child speaks their mind, as parents we should ask them questions, show them we care about what they have to say, we want to understand, and we value their expression. So much of our life experience cannot be expressed through language, instead unspoken dynamics
We all have heard "it's not what you said, but the way you said it", this concept holds true for the listener as well, the way you listen to your child ingrains unspoken values in them, the way someone listens to us determines how close we feel to them and how we feel about what we're saying.
It is important that a child feels heard and understood. As a parents we naturally want to provide this climate for our children. This climate of love and positivity. Empathy is when we are able to connect with our child's experience and provide an intimate level of support. It is less about prescribing advice and finite solutions but validating our child's feelings and experience.
Of course guidance is important, however, it should be interpreted with an empathetic touch. When our child experiences emotions of sadness, anger, fear, happiness, let us validate their feelings. Let us show them yes I understand why you're feeling sad, angry, scared, happy. Ask them why they feel that why and affirm their feelings as real, because they are. Regardless of what prompted them to experience the emotion. Start with closeness and build out from that, help them to understand their feelings and not quick fixes to escape from feeling.
Showing keen and genuine regard for our child’s interests can help them pursue things with passion, resilience, and integrity. These values follow the child into adulthood. They are impacted by the positive affirmations from youth to build strong healthy relationships with others and step boldly in the direction of their dreams.
Children are in touch with an innocence and a deep flow, and they internalize rejection in deep ways. We have to encourage not reject and allow them the agency to explore their interests. We have to separate our judgments and crystallized values from our child's natural curiosity of life. Encourage and empower our children to help them flourish.
Children are taught gratitude at an early age. We politely remind our children to say please and thank you and treat others around them with respect. These are highly transformative moral standards being ingrained in the child through instruction and not always by example.
It is nice when the world sees you reminding your child to say please and thank you and show gratitude towards those around them. However, from the child's perspective, these lessons become much more powerful when they observe their own parents behaving in the same manner.
Parents should express gratitude towards their child consistently, telling them you love them, that you loved the drawing they did, the castle they built, the way they packed up their toys after playing, their offer to help you cook dinner. This helps to develop the child's self esteem and sense of value and worth. They see the gratitude their parents express on a daily basis and it encourages them to pursue acts of kindness and respect for others.
5. Cherish Moments
Routine becomes a huge aspect of raising a child and can present stress at times. The burden of getting everything done may overwhelm us and create short fuses. We love our children and don't mean to lash out at small things they do, but it happens. This often disconnects us from the value we can find in everyday mundane tasks we do with and for our children. Making breakfast, getting them dressed for school, driving them to practice, it is a tremendous weight to carry constantly.
Most of the times we are on auto pilot, however we can carry out these tasks with moments of awakening and awareness. Cherishing these moments with our children helps alleviate the stress of care taking. Asking them what they are looking forward to at school as we dress them, let them tell you a story as you prepare breakfast, letting the child's conversation and inquiring mind inspire you as you care for them.