September 3, 2016



Ever feel like you are slightly crazy? Or maybe you are on the border of crazy town and one more thing is going to put you over the edge? Well there is good news. You are actually really normal. I would say that most people, quite often, feel as if they are about to enter into the abyss of madness.

I for one, would say that I often feel like this. Everything will be going along just fine and then one day, or perhaps just in one moment, everything changes and all of the sudden I am fighting with my emotions, on the brink of either anger or tears and feeling like the weight of the world is upon me. In recent years, when moments like this occur I can deal with them quite quickly and I am on to better and happier emotions, but this was not always the case. In the past, these moments of crazy making were frequent and long lasting, and, subsequently, seemed to control my life.

The news media likes to frequently point out the fact that the most common medication prescribed in North Americas is antidepressants, with the two most common mental illnesses being depression and anxiety. This is because it makes all dramatic news stories sound more dramatic when we realize how much the chaos in our world effects us. While many factors contribute to the high rate of depression, it is undeniable that the fast paced, stress filled, workaholic culture we live in is a contributing factor. When do we ever stop? Answer: we don’t. And neither do our brains.

Just imagine your brain being smacked every time something stressful or painful or concerning or worrying or anything of that nature comes up during the day. The poor guy would get terribly bruised. He probably is just begging for a break. And that is, in fact, exactly what he needs. In another metaphor, imagine your life as one of those old fashion balance beam weigh scales. On one side, place all of the stress, worry and such you experience in one day. It’s heavy. It is really imbalanced to one side of the scale. That is what many people’s lives are like. Out of balance. Or in neurological terms, disintegrated. See, your brain needs integration. Its a big word that basically means that all sides of your brain need to work together. Now, the whole idea of brain integration and such is quite big and complicated and I don’t want to tackle it all here, but I will say that one of the first parts of becoming integrated is to become balanced.

So the task remains, how do you balance out the scale and give your bruised brain a break? Answer: play! Stuart Brown is a psychiatrist who, if I remember correctly, studied the pasts of sociopaths in prisons in order to determine what caused them to be.. well, sociopaths. He discovered that one common experience they had was a lack of play in their life. Now, not having play doesn’t necessarily make you a sociopath (take a sigh of relief, you are not that crazy), but it does demonstrate the importance of playing. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty nice solution to this problem. Think you are going crazy? Then Play!

Now when I mentioned play I am sure some of you thought of video games or the horror of playing board games (although some people like them). Be relieved, that is not necessarily what it means to play. While games can be play for some people, the true definition of play is any activity in which when you engage in it you loose sense of time and wish it would continue for the joy that it brings. This could be sports, or hiking, or sitting outside, being with people, or drinking a coffee in a bookstore (my fav), its really up to you. The point is, it is something that consumes you to the point that your brain gets a break as it looses itself in joy. This, in turn, gives your poor bruised brain a break. It also balances the scales with all of your stress and crazy living.

Many adults might look at play as childish or simple, and in doing so they are missing out on what they actually need. It does not have to be ridiculous play, but find something that fills you up. That gives you a break. It will help put a little distance between you and the border of crazy town. If you are really struggling, this may only be one factor that is needed in order to achieve wholeness, but it will help to a small degree. Another way of looking at this is attempting to ‘take in the good’ or ‘find joy in the little things’. It is a bunch of little moments that allow you to take a breath and put down the weight of the world for a time.

Other activities such as mindfulness and meditation can also help give your brain a break and are incredibly helpful in integration. I will address these later. For now, all I will say is remember not to minimize the importance of play. Make sure to have moments in every week, hopefully everyday, that gives your brain a break and allows you to bring a bit more balance into the craziness that is life.

Carissa


(If you are struggling with suicide, suicidal thoughts, or any severe mood issues please reach out for help. Find a friend, health care provider, or your local distress line.. it can get better)