Don't Let Shame About Spending "Too Much" Time Working On Your Mental Health Or Social Issues Hold You Back From Healing
Sometimes people get down on themselves, and think they're approaching their healing in the wrong way, if they spend a lot of time working on their mental health or social issues. They might beat themselves up for:
- Reading, watching, or listening to a lot of articles and books, videos, or podcasts on mental health, self-help, or communication skills.
- Filling up pages of a journal every evening as they reflect on their struggles.
- Taking time on their own each day to meditate, or do relaxation, grounding, or trauma processing exercises.
- Spending hours each week doing hands-on tasks focused on recovering from their issues, like practicing their conversation skills, or facing their fear of driving.
- Trying to live an all-around healthier lifestyle, by getting proper sleep, eating healthy, exercising regularly, spending time in nature, and so on.
- Attending classes related to their recovery, like public speaking, yoga, or meditation.
- Dropping in on several support groups or online meet ups each week.
- Seeing a therapist.
- Just devoting a lot of their thoughts to thinking about their problems, trying to figure out what's holding them back, possible solutions, and so on.
They may criticize themselves for being obsessive, self-absorbed self-help junkies. There's a stereotype of someone who's read dozens of self-help books and taken countless personal growth workshops, but they're as messed up as ever. They use all their research and seminar attendance as a way to give themselves a false sense of progress and put off working on their real problems.
Someone might also believe they're approaching their recovery wrong if they have to spend a lot of time and energy on it. They think they're being inefficient and needlessly overcomplicating the process. There's an idea floating around that getting over your social or mental health issues should be simple and straightforward, and if you're doing more than that you're pointlessly navel gazing or going down unnecessary side roads.
There is an element of truth to these points. There are people who research their issues far past the point where they could be taking practical action. It's obvious to everyone around them they're procrastinating on making deeper changes, or that they're semi-addicted to the short-lived motivational high they get from going to the latest Change Your Life! weekend retreat. There are people who write faux-profound insights in their journal every night, and feel like they're making breakthrough after breakthrough, but their outer results show they're spinning their wheels. There are people who spend hours a week creating the perfect, nutritionally optimized diet, and it makes them feel maybe 1% better, and it's clear they should devote all that enthusiasm on something more directly related to their baggage.
There's nothing wrong with having some healthy, reasonable doubt about how you're approaching your mental health recovery. It's good to sometimes take stock of your process and ask if it's truly working for you, or if you're doing a lot of busy work. However, you don't want to blindly assume something has gone awry just because you're devoting a good chunk of your week to feeling better.
The fact is some mental health or relationship issues are complicated, take time and effort to heal, and there's a lot to learn about them:
- You could very well read ten books on things like social skills, anxiety, or trauma recovery and still learn a lot from the eleventh (even if you run into several overlapping concepts).
- If you've got a lot of childhood baggage, which often makes you feel anxious, insecure, depressed, ashamed, or angry, it may take hours of meditation, self-reflection, emotion regulation exercises, therapy and support groups, and cultivating a healthy lifestyle each week to start to get it under control. (You won't always have to work so hard, but at first you do.)
- You may fill pages of a journal each day because you've just got a ton of stuff to work through, especially if up until now you've avoided thinking about any of it.
- Similarly, if you've got a lot to sort out, it may make perfect sense to "overthink" things, by mulling over your issues in your quiet moments. It doesn't automatically mean you're pointlessly ruminating.
- For a problem like anxiety, there are easily half a dozen therapy methods that could help with it in some way, which all approach the problem from their own angle. For some people the first modality they try gives them all the relief they need. Others need to patch together the benefits of several. It takes time to properly test them all out.
- If you've got a lot of fears to face or traumatic memories to work through, it might take months or years before you've dealt with them all.
Again, it's fine to think about what you're doing and question how much it's helping, but at the same time, there's no need to get down on yourself for needing to put a lot of time and effort into your recovery. Try not to put arbitrary limits on how much time you should be spending on your healing. It would be great if all it took was a few easy exercises or uplifting quotes to heal, but it's unfortunately not always that simple.