Have you ever experienced depression or anxiety? Surely you know someone who has. Here’s how you might see it at work. Have you had a hard time focusing on a task? Have you noticed an absent-minded body habit, like chewing your cuticles to shreds? Do you have a team member that mysteriously started showing up late or not completing projects on time? Working through lunch? Missing key meetings? Crying unexpectedly?

I have a PhD in depression and anxiety. These torments of the mind have sabotaged my life several times, so I’m qualified to tell you that these symptoms are manifestations of stress that you can control. Sorry if that sounds too easy. Let me explain.

Last night I spoked at a school district wellness event about anxiety, along with my friend Lori, president of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance in Colorado Springs. Whenever I speak I make a mental note of the things the prompt people to scribble furiously. It tells me this is something they haven’t heard before. The number one thing that I noticed people taking frantic notes on was this: the mind and the brain are not the same thing. When I explained that the brain is an organ and the mind is a component of our soul that impacts the physical structure of the brain, I saw furious scribbling. When I told them that depression is focusing our thoughts on the past and anxiety is focusing our thoughts on the future, more scribbling. When I told them that changing our thoughts can change our brains and the physical manifestations of stress, some were dumbfounded.

The reason I talk about the brain is that my parents didn’t have this kind of information in the 1970s. They medicated depression and anxiety with alcohol and valium. When my parents were hospitalized for mental illness, they were admitted into the psych ward. If anything will make you crazy, it’s admitting a healthy person into a psych ward in a mental hospital. Today we know more but we don’t talk about mental illness enough.

Lori talked about how far we’ve come in 100 years talking about and treating cancer. We don’t have time to wait 100 years to solve our mental wellness crisis. People are losing jobs over treatable depression because they’re afraid to talk about it. Managers would rather fire someone for underperformance than help them get the treatment they need to flourish. Kids, whose brains are not fully formed yet, are handling stress in silence and finding relief in a pill or the trigger of a gun.

Isn’t it time we bring crazy out of the closet?

Mental health awareness week is coming but I’m talking about the mind all month. If this is something you’ve seen and want to know how to support someone, let’s talk. If this is something you struggle with and you need a strategy out, let’s talk. That’s what 360º Life Strategies is here for — strategies for living your whole life on purpose.

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