How does mental distress affect the mind in 2021

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Our behavior is greatly affected by what happens inside our bodies and in the environment that we live in. The stimuli from the internal and external environment is what has kept us alive up to this point. In my previous article, I stretched the importance of our innate capability to adapt to any stimuli that aims to shift us from our comfort zone. We are made in a way that the body can automatically adjust for our wellbeing and safety.

When we begin to feel cold, we wear warm clothes or bask in the sun if it’s in the daylight. When somebody steps on us, we feel pain and then react angrily. What happens if we do not adhere to these actionable instructions from the mind? For example if we feel cold and brush it off, what does the wise body do to make you feel warm? You start shivering and you also start to notice goose bumps on your skin. Who has controlled these automatic adjustments from the body, not even the mind can although it’s possible to tell yourself that you do not want to shiver but you still endure it until you wear warm clothes. The inside of the human being is not just a random collection of chemicals, there are some aspects we cannot really explain like the mind. We also receive stimuli from our body’s organs, tissues, cavities, chemicals and all the elements inside our bodies. When the stomach detects food deprivation we start to feel hungry, we cook and eat until we’re full.

The concern is on how the mind react when we feel lonely, isolated, abandoned, stressed, uncertain, traumatized? If we choose to ignore these sensations how does the mind react to make us feel better? There are mainly two ways in which the mind reacts, psychosis and neurosis.


If one experienced a catastrophic or terrifying event e.g. earthquakes, wildfires, covid-19 etc. that left them traumatized, the brain to alleviate pain may reboot to safe-mode. The individual may develop psychosis, a condition in which he or she may lose contact with reality and start seeing things in his/her own way. There are many mental illnesses that fall under psychosis, these include schizophrenia, lunacy, bipolar etc. In this state we may feel very happy (mania) or have strong beliefs that we have super powers. The belief that we have super powers is dangerous because one may believe that they cannot burn or feel pain and may jump into the fire or cut their fingers. Psychosis can happen to anyone if the brain is left with no choice. The way our brains are wired influence how we adapt to mental distress, a number of people having experienced same event some may and some may not develop psychosis. I want to stretch that psychosis is a normal brain response and we shouldn’t take it foreign or mysterious. The onset of psychosis is noticed by sudden changes in personality, thoughts and beliefs of persecution or strong belief in conspiracy theories. If you start noticing these in yourself or a friend/ family talk to someone or a therapist.


This is a milder form of a mental illness and it happens to almost all of us on a daily basis. All of us at one point feel sad, boredom, stress, heartbreak, guilty or anger but what’s important is how we react to these stimuli. If we lose a loved one we may enter a phase of sadness and sometimes guilt. We may feel guilty when we perceive that we didn’t treat the late the way we were supposed to. We are engulfed with feelings of “I should have”. If these feelings persist and we do not find a solution in time the mind will resort to safe-mode and we may become depressed.

According to NIH Depression stands for:

  • D = Depressed mood
  • E = Energy loss/fatigue
  • P = Pleasure lost
  • R = Retardation or excitation
  • E = Eating changed— appetite/ weight
  • S = Sleep changed
  • S = Suicidal thoughts
  • I = I’m a failure (loss of confidence)
  • O = only me to blame (guilt)
  • N = No concentration

If one was heartbroken and their mind fails to solve it positively he/she may trust less, cheat or hurt others as well. If we do something but then perceive it as wrong or not acceptable in our society we may feel guilty.

The most challenging thing to the brain is time, specifically the future. When we perceive the future as dangerous or when we are uncertain about the future for example when we are anticipating exams or to deliver a speech the mind seems to be in a state of cluelessness. The mind may resort to anxiety, a state of fear of failing or anything bad that we think may happen. Anxiety is dangerous because it can lock you down, make you feel hopeless and you might lose interest or become fatigued. Anxiety can be relieved by practicing mindfulness an act of focusing on the present moment. If you are a student this might involve coming up with a time table that has everything that you’ll do each day.

We have to practice not to focus on “what if’ but on studying, think about how you can make studying more effective and think about whether there is any more effort you can put and if there isn’t then become present and let the future take care of itself. If we won’t make it but at least we’ll be proud knowing we put our all and did our best.

In this article I was only covering the mechanism of the development of distress. I only added solution for student anxiety that affect us as students but on how to reduce the impact of mental distress, read my other previous blogs and if you need to talk to someone you may contact me.

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7 thoughts on “How does mental distress affect the mind in 2021”

    1. We have to address the issue by first training more mental health professionals, last time I checked there were only 13 psychiatrists in Zimbabwe out of a population of approximately 14million

  1. I might have just realized I may be low key suffering from one of these. I definitely need to talk to someone who can help.

    1. there’s so much that’s going on inside our minds, sometimes it’s hard to notice but usually the ones that notice it are always willing to talk to someone about it. Feel free to reach my inbox anytime, I can also refer you to professionals

  2. Pingback: How the mind processes heartbreak (The psychology of a heartbreak) - Alphalife Center

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