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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Self

In Elemental. More on Medium.

It’s okay if your mental health is not bouncing back. Here’s why.

Photo: valentinrussanov/Getty Images

At first, Lindsay Pearson felt hopeful. She was getting the Covid-19 vaccine, and case rates around the country were going down. The pandemic was, by many accounts, finally getting under control. Like many of us, Pearson, 23, who lives in Bakersfield, California, has had a miserable year — she has struggled with mental health problems her entire life, but being unable to work as an actress, her main creative and social outlet, made things so much worse. After Pearson got her first jab, she did feel some relief — until, suddenly, she didn’t. Her depression began to bear down on…


My Therapist Says

As the pandemic recedes, I’ve got to decide what kind of life I actually want to live

Illustration: Xinmei Liu for Elemental

When school let out for winter break of 2020, I finally started to lose my shit. It wasn’t the holidays, a possible election coup, my kids off Zoom school for a couple weeks, writing deadlines, managing my newsletter, or having to ready my online classes for a January 4 start date that had me at a breaking point. It was the upcoming vaccine rollout.

Everyone was starting to plan their vacations; schools were talking about bringing the kids back to campus; my partner was talking about going to a fall 2021 concert. Yet, I felt anxious. At the culmination of…


My Therapist Says

Excavating those ‘little t’ traumas has helped me chip away at the bigger ones

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When I first started going to therapy at 19, I had a pretty good idea of the traumas I wanted to excavate: divorce, parental addiction, eviction — the “big T” traumas that are easy to define in a word.

I used to think the only reason to go to therapy was to talk about trauma like this. I sat in the offices of half a dozen therapists, balling wet Kleenex in my hand and sipping on lukewarm chamomile tea in paper cups, while trying to get them to talk about these big things and changing the subject whenever they wanted…


Training your mind to find meaning in everyday life

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When was the last time you felt truly fulfilled? When your life felt meaningful and rewarding, or aligned with some deeper purpose or motivation? Take a moment to really think about that and observe what comes to mind. Most of us remember specific events when we think of life’s meaningful moments: the birth of a child, a major accomplishment, a rare moment in nature when all felt right with the world. These are the peak moments of life, and it’s true that they are also often the times when we feel truly fulfilled.

But these moments are aberrations.

We remember…


Observations from a reluctant exerciser, in a pandemic

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I have always been a sporadic exerciser. And, yes, that’s euphemistic. My periods of regular exercise historically come in fits and starts, then disappear as quickly as they arrive — replaced with dark chocolate and binge-watching.

In fact, years ago, I pitched and was hired to write a “reluctant exerciser” column for a popular women’s magazine, which wound up being a bit more reluctant than the editors had hoped. Sure enough, the stories quickly became about what lipgloss and cute headbands to wear while hiking, instead of about climbing mountains.

Most of the times when I’ve successfully maintained an exercise…


Surprising ways the ‘yuck factor’ affects our brains

Photo: Cherdchanok Treevanchai/Getty Images

It turns out that you don’t need a thick self-help book in order to “change your thoughts.” All you need is a bottle of — wait for it — fart spray. Not a big vial either, just a small whiff of “real fart” smell. This is according to David Pizarro, professor of psychology at Cornell University, who investigated whether the smell of something disgusting could affect people’s judgment.

Pizarro’s experiment builds upon a growing body of research that shows disgust, once labeled the “forgotten emotion of psychiatry,” is far more influential in shaping our beliefs, bonds, and behavior than previously…


MONDAY MOVE

You’ll be so glad you tried this

Photography: Andi Elloway

I was not an active kid — always picked last for dodgeball teams, terribly uncoordinated, self-conscious about my knobbly knees in gym shorts. In eighth grade, I broke my pinkie finger playing kickball (figure that one out). But in my twenties, a pathetic-sounding reason arose to kickstart me into a regular exercise routine: I kept throwing out my back. A weird stretch after too much time on the couch, a sudden turn of the head, even a sneeze could do it. …


My Therapist Says

Here’s how I learned to transform present pain into future growth

Illustration of a person making a voice recording while overlooking an aurora borealis of sound bites.
Illustration of a person making a voice recording while overlooking an aurora borealis of sound bites.
Xinmei Liu for Elemental

At 13, I told my grandmother that one day everyone would know that I was único, Spanish for unique. That was my code for being queer.

“You already are, my son. The past and the future can never meet. That’s why God placed the present in the middle,” she told me.

My grandmother’s words came back to me in an unexpected way, thanks to the chaos that the Covid-19 pandemic wrought in both the world and my life. Before the pandemic, I had a thriving special events business in San Francisco. I planned elegant galas for startups and cooked and…


How to cultivate moral resilience instead

Image: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is a centuries-old proverb inspired by a Japanese carving that depicts three monkeys, each with a hand covering eyes, ears, and mouth, respectively. In the West, the phrase has come to be associated with turning a blind eye to something that is legally or morally wrong, but the original meaning was that a person should always avoid evil, including in deed.

But what do we do when we find ourselves in a situation where “evil” is unavoidable? When we can’t stop seeing or hearing it, or else are powerless to prevent…


Trans experiences of isolation reveal what it really takes to come out

Illustration by Mojo Wang for Elemental

It has been years since my egg cracked.

In community parlance, an “egg” refers to a transgender person who doesn’t quite yet realize they are trans. We “crack” when that first realization happens — oh wait! what if?…

Getting out of that shell takes work. I came out as nonbinary five years ago. I didn’t immediately claim the title trans, thanks to internalized transphobia. The process of setting offline boundaries on pronoun use took several years more. …

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