Your stable zone of mental health

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Having too narrow a stable zone can be like walking a mountain ridge.  Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

You have a stable zone, within which you operate safely in terms of mental health.  That stable zone lies somewhere between boredom and overexcitement.  When you detect you are too bored, you indulge in evasive activities to seek excitement.  When you detect you are overexcited, you indulge in evasive activities to seek safety.

STABLE ZONE TOO SMALL

Some people’s stable zone is very narrow.  This means that they are rarely at rest in terms of mental health.  They are always feeling either bored or unsafe.

Some will use drugs, uppers and downers, to push them out of the unstable zone they’re in.  But it will swing them into the opposing zone.  For instance, an anxious person, when overexcited, might take ketamine in order to knock them out, but it will push them all the way through their stable zone and into a zombie-like state.  When they reawaken, they will suddenly feel unsafe again, and will seek another drug such as valium to knock the edge off their overexcitement again.

STABLE ZONE TOO LARGE

Equally, some people’s stable zone is huge.  This is great for mental health.  However, because they never feel bored or unsafe, there is a danger of a lack of empathy with the world around them.  They are OK, so they fail to understand why the mentally ill are not OK.

Some will even indulge in thrill-seeking behaviour to push them out of their stable zone.  Skydiving, surfing, drugtaking – whatever brings them a flirtation with edginess.

Sometimes the thrills they seek will start to take over, and begin to eat into their stable zone.  This happens, for instance, if a recreational drug habit gains so strong a hold that it destabilises financial security and/or internal chemical integrity.

AN EXERCISE

An exercise in mindfulness is to keep an eye on your responses when you are bored or overexcited.  How does your behaviour change?  Behaviours which you might find unhelpful include:

  • overspending when bored
  • using food, drugs or sex as a stimulant
  • fluctuating between overexcited mania and zombie-like exhaustion
New behaviours which you might find helpful, because they enhance your stable zone, include:
  • Giving yourself a mundane activity to do when you are overexcited
  • Allowing yourself to follow more of your interests in moderation when bored
  • Meditation, in which you learn to tolerate both boredom and overexcitement without over-reacting
cropped-relo-20180125-remindful-logo-transparent-bg2.pngSUMMARY

Everyone has a moderate stable zone within which they can function easily without self-destructive behaviours.  Too bored, and they evasively seek excitement; too excited, and they evasively seek safety.

With too small a stable zone, people can find themselves falling into dysfunctional, self-destructive behaviours too quickly, throwing themselves out of balance in a mess of uppers and downers.

With too large a stable zone, people can lack empathy, and also mindlessly indulge in thrill-seeking which gradually eats into their own stability.

It’s good to keep an eye on how you respond when you are bored or overexcited.  Watching yourself mindfully, you have a better chance of expanding your stable zone, or, when this is not possible, choosing healthy ways to balance your moods.

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