A Mental Health Minute

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Role playing

Here’s a can-do solution for those times when life seems to suck all the mental health out of you: Spend a minute reflecting on how you’d be proud to handle a problem soon after waking up each morning, then rehearse your behavior in front of a mirror or with someone you trust.

The biggest problem with handling some sort of difficulty often seems to be the “What am I supposed to do about this?” question. The answer is “Anything that makes sense.” And the way to figure out what makes sense, plus the way to carry out that action, is to practice dealing with difficulties before they happen. You can practice with someone willing to talk you through the steps necessary to solve some specific problem, and then brainstorm with them. Or, play both roles yourself. You can simply speak out loud, to literally hear yourself think, or look yourself in the mirror, to better imagine how a particular conversation might develop in real life. The technique is called Role Playing.

Role-playing is a proven tool for changing attitudes and behaviors for the better. The best part of the role-playing scenario is that there are no negative consequences to it. Think of it as a rehearsal that can only help you to identify problems and how to prevent or overcome them. You can conduct do-overs without penalties, blushing, or the loss of your goal.

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Let’s suppose that you’ll role play the situation on your own. Look yourself in the eye when you face the mirror, and think back to when you finessed some difficulty. You’ve already realized how you could have done things better. Spend time on that thought. Consider other options, too, now that you’re not pressed to respond before you’re ready to do so. Next, practice handling a different, specific situation that you need to take care of in the foreseeable future. Let the conversation, so to speak, flow. Allow new ideas to develop in your mind. Acting tends to let us realize nuances that matter. You can practice your posture, body language, and facial expressions as you face the mirror and finesse the situation to be solved.

You can also discuss reasonable choices, and even unreasonable choices, with a trusted confidante. That trusted friend, relative or colleague can give you feedback about effective solutions to specific problems. Another option is to role play with a mental health professional, either 1:1 or within a group setting.

Role playing is a win-win situation no matter which option you use: You’ll come out wiser for the experience, without having bothered anyone and without having harmed yourself. The game can take a minute or as long as you wish. The more you practice, the more quickly you’re likely to figure out the actions you’ll need to take.

Yocheved Golani is a popular writer whose byline has appeared worldwide in print and online. A certified Health Information Management professional, she is a member of Get Help Israel. Certified in Spiritual Chaplaincy (End of Life issues) and in counseling skills, her life coaching for ill people puts a healthy perspective into a clients’ success plan for achieving desired goals.