Updated: Feb 5
At the start of 2021, I opted against making any year long commitments to better myself and instead shifted my mindset to creating monthly “to-dos” around things that I want to invest my free time in. Whether that is reading 1 book, cooking new recipes, scrapbooking, working out, etc - I want to invest my time in at least one focus for the month, this way instead of drifting towards my phone or the TV every time I’m bored, I’ll remember to pick up that month’s focus.
Don’t get me wrong - TV and my phone still keep me busy, but especially in the pandemic I didn’t want it to consume the majority of my free time.
For January, my “to do” was to not watch any TV past 9 PM. As something that was usually my mindless nighttime routine, I struggled through the first couple days, pacing around my room and feeling bored.
I eventually turned this time to listen to a podcast, continue reading the Barack Obama book I got for Christmas, and working on noise projects for 2021.
It was past 9PM that I found inspiration to write a new blog post for noise and hopefully continue this as an initiative for 2021, filling the pages with both content from myself and from the community (if you’d like to share your story, let us know!).
I focused my adventures past 9PM to finding and listening to mental health podcasts, in order to share with everyone what I’ve learned in January. I hope you find something interesting yourself, or it inspires you to write about your podcast experiences!
Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown
Episode: Comedy from Home Beats Anxiety with Grace Helbig
Description: Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown is a quirky, informative, and interactive podcast breaking down the myths and misunderstandings about mental health and emotional well-being. Neuroscientist Mayim Bialik combines her academic background with vast personal experience to provide listeners with valuable practical advice focusing on removing the stigma surrounding mental health and encouraging an understanding of the mind-body connection. In this episode, Grace takes us on a journey through her childhood as a young comedian and why she chose to become a "comedian from home."
I really enjoyed Mayim’s energy while listening to this podcast, and how she tied together personal experiences with her background as a neuroscientist. She went into describing common symptoms of anxiety (brick in your chest, shortness of breath, unstoppable worry) and also the externalizing behaviours people do to dampen anxiety (smoking, picking scabs, sleep disturbances, anxious eating, trouble concentrating).
What I found most interesting in this article is I learned a new way to think about anxiety, and the root of it.
Mayim describes that anxiety is actually an important adaptive feature as a species and it keeps us aware of our environment. There is a certain healthy amount of anxiety that is wired within us to perceive threats. It is something that helps us with fight or flight. The challenge with anxiety becomes when it feels overbearing and hinders our ability to function - the fear part taking over.
For myself, I had never really thought about anxiety in this way.
When looking up Mayim’s website, I was impressed that she had also written a blog post relevant to the topics of that podcast episode and included other relevant articles, linked at the bottom of the page. These are a couple excerpts from the articles that I found insightful.
The way anxiety attacks and panic attacks differ is that panic attacks tend to carry with them the symptom of “dissociation,” a clinical term that means that you experience a very tangible sense that you have left your body. Panic attacks can be so disturbing and powerful that your consciousness is altered and you may experience what seem like very real fears of dying, suffocating or losing control of your body and mind.
In the podcast, she talked about how a lot of people say they’re having a “panic attack”, when in many cases the symptoms actually represent an anxiety attack. She notes the importance of recognizing the difference when describing it with your doctor.
First off, exercise plays a critical role in regulating the fight-or-flight response of your sympathetic nervous system! Studies have shown that prolonged exercise recalibrates your body’s natural stress response, reducing overall anxiety.
I know this is something I’m guilty of - it’s like every time I start to workout again I’m “surprised” how much better and brighter my mental health is. Thankfully, working out was another one of my January "to-dos".
So the next time you hear someone describe stress as, “All in your head,” you can rest assured, knowing that your mind and body are inseparable. Stress causes a very real physiological response and should be acknowledged in society in the same way other physiological conditions are.
Valuable point to continue to recognize mental health as important as physical health.
In summary, I suggest you look into the Bialik Breakdown and listen to some of the topics she discusses! I found it both interesting and engaging, and I took away a couple key lessons from it.
Listen to your body, and take a breath. Not just a regular breath, but a deep one up to your collarbones.
Some anxiety can be natural, however be mindful of when that part is taking too much space in your life.
The difference between a panic and anxiety attack.
Thanks for reading!