“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”?

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I wish somebody had told me that it’s OK to be anxious. That you don’t have to fight it. That fighting it is what makes it worse. — Mara Wilson

If you’re like me, you probably never heard anyone talk about struggling with mental health growing up. And, if you’re also like me, you realize now that it may, ironically, be one of the reasons you saw so much mental health struggle manifest itself on a day to day basis around you.

Since learning so much more about what it means to struggle with mental health, I’ve been reflecting on the experience of family and friends throughout my life. It occurs to me that so many people I’ve known (particularly my own self) have shown clear evidence of emotional, social, or psychological stress at some, or constant, times in their lives. I used to think that it was a blemish on someone’s character, a sign of depleted masculinity, or analogous to a temporary cold virus, but I realize now that this cultural conditioning only makes anxiety, in particular, worse.

This point has been driven home to me of late as I’ve noticed one of my own children showing signs of anxiety. I always thought the best way I could help a loved one through this was to convince them that what they were thinking and feeling was irrational (which, to anyone other than the sufferer, it inevitably appears to be) and to assist them in “don’t-worry-be-happying” it away. But, guess what? That wasn’t helping.

Instead, I’ve noticed the power of talking about anxiety the way Mara Wilson encourages us to do so below. Name it, look at it, acknowledge its existence and hold over you, then practice strategies and seek support to be resilient in its presence.

I grew up in a time when most people told you not to worry, to be happy. I want my kids to know that I’ll be there to listen to their worries and do my best to support them in overcoming or, perhaps… even leveraging them?

Originally published at the spicy learning blog.