In recent years, the mental health crisis in the U.S. has dramatically accelerated, and therapists and psychiatrists struggle with ever-increasing caseloads. When someone actually gets a psychological appointment, it sounds like an urban legend.
Addressing mental health in America is essential for everyone but critical for women; they exhibit higher rates of clinical depression and some anxiety disorders than men. Such mental health struggles typically begin in adolescence when girls start a pattern of internalizing negative emotions such as sadness, guilt, and fear and carry that into adulthood. This habit of internalizing unpleasant feelings births a cycle of anxiety and depression.
Los Angeles Times bestselling author and doctor of clinical psychology Dr. Venus Nicolino, Ph.D., says it’s time for people to confront negative emotions seriously. As an esteemed and experienced doctor of clinical psychology, Nicolino gives people the tools to channel emotions positively.
“Stress, pain, and old traumas can cause us to take out our internal issues on others — or, just as bad, on ourselves,” Nicolino says. “That stuff inside us will come out; there’s no way around that. Take it out, but not on others and yourself.”
Dr.Venus Nicolino Shares How People Can Avoid the Blame Game
Nicolino and other mental health experts educate the public about neurological disorders involving thinking, emotional regulation, or behavior disturbances. Mental illnesses aren’t uncommon — 1 in 8 people worldwide live with one — but while effective prevention and treatment options exist, most people don’t have access to such care.
Even though mental disorders can affect people of any age, race, religion, or income, the public’s information about these health problems is often wrong. For example, it’s scientifically inaccurate to say that personal weakness or lack of willpower is behind mental health problems. Sadly, such stigmas can cause sufferers additional agony.
People living with a stigmatized mental disorder, from obsessive-compulsive disorder to social anxiety to bipolar disorder, can grow to blame themselves — or others — for their difficulties. This blame game often leads to tragic outcomes, so Nicolino tells her patients and audiences how to avoid it.
Stress Increasingly Pressures Americans, and Dr. Venus Nicolino Explains How to Combat It
The American Psychological Association recently conducted a poll among American workers that revealed stress continues to climb among their ranks. Respondents reported struggling with multiple types of stress, citing potential inflation as their leading cause of anxiety (83%). Poll participants said concerns about violence and crime (75%), the political climate (66%), and the racial climate (62%) are on the heels of their inflation worries. Such high levels of anxiety can be disastrous to psychological and physical health.
According to a National Institutes of Health study, the level of the body’s primary stress hormone, cortisol, increases to approximately nine times its normal level when humans come under excessive stress. The Mayo Clinic reports that an unrelenting flood of cortisol, over time, alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, reproductive system, and growth processes.
“If you’re stressed-out all the time, you’re producing cortisol in your brain,” Nicolino explains. “Cortisol messes you up in all kinds of ways.” She notes that prolonged periods of heightened stress can cause shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, fatigue, and even muscle pain.
“It’s normal to feel brief anxiety now and again,” Nicolino says. “Anxiety and its physical symptoms alert your body to threats and possible danger. Short stress responses are vital to our survival. But kept in this gear for too long, it’s a crash-and-burn situation.”
Stress Hurts Americans, and Dr. Venus Nicolino Explains How To Decrease It
Dr. Venus Nicolino thrives on helping others manage their mental conditions. She wrote the bestselling book Bad Advice: How to Survive and Thrive in the Age of Bulls–t, a fresh take on mental health. She also gives sound advice on her podcast, “The Tea With Dr. V.”
One of Nicolino’s most remarkable abilities is teaching people to build resilience to anxiety and healthily manage it. Internalizing negative emotions — blaming oneself for problems — is far from healthy. According to the NIH, a significant relationship exists between self-blaming and the degree of distress, anxiety, and depression people experience. Stress is a normal part of the human experience. Responding to it responsibly versus unhealthy self-blame is crucial to mental and physical well-being.
“Start by acknowledging you have some issues deep inside that bother you,” Nicolino advises. “If you don’t, you’re the lucky 0.0001% of the population. But if you’re like the rest of us, you need to figure out where those issues came from. Some of it isn’t pretty, but you are strong enough to look at it. If you’re strong enough to live with it, you’re definitely strong enough to examine it, right?”
Dr. Venus Nicolino Describes Various Strategies That Lessen Stress
To relieve stressors, Nicolino recommends writing or journaling. She says this habit can include putting down one’s feelings, writing a short story, or listing weekend activities. The journal entries testify to how much a person accomplishes, a notable mood booster.
“You don’t have to join a kickboxing gym, climb rocks, or run ultramarathons,” Nicolino says. “You can also take the pain out on an easy nature trail where steps and beauty hit their stride together — where minds tend to drift, just like some pain will. Any method will do as long as it gives you peace, joy, and a feeling of accomplishment.”
Dr. Venus Nicolino recommends remembering and repeating those feelings to free yourself from hurt and stress. Tell friends to remind you to stick to these activities, too.
Finally, ask your partner to join you in taking out your frustrations more wisely. You’ll both have a release and find more peace together.
Nicolino adds, “People have your back, so seek their help with that part.”