Mayim Bialik welcomes you to her mental health 'Breakdown'
So today I have a special guest who's gonna talk about something that I think everyone can appreciate and that is your mental health and your just general well being.
It's a topic that I think has come to the fore over the past year, as all of us have struggled with not only living through A pandemic, hopefully a once in a lifetime event.
How do you stay connected when you're apart if you have kids learning at home, in an environment where you're also possibly working, and so you can't devote time and attention and how you live through just a series of crises in our world, on the political, social, economic climate, all sorts of issues that have Come to the fourth Miam Bialik, who is a very well known television personality and star.
We're talking to you today because of your background in neuroscience.
And you have just recently started a podcast to help people get through some of the challenges they're facing and to tell us now what should we do next?.
So thank you very much for joining us today.
And let's start with what is the idea behind what you're doing.
Introduce our audience to your podcast.
Well, I guess this was kind of my quarantine baby, this podcast.
I've always had a very strong interest in In mental health, I grew up in a house that had a tremendous amount of mental health challenges and that often spills over both genetically and environmentally to the next generation.
And I also studied psycho neuro endocrinology for my thesis topic.
So I studied obsessive compulsive disorder and I worked in The neuropsychiatric Institute.
So this has always been something that's been interesting to me.
But after I got my doctorate, I ended up returning to acting and, and honestly there are a lot of things I'm passionate about, but the question really is sort of what can this platform this reach be used for and During the, quarantine, I realized that many people who already had been struggling with mental health challenges were seeing an increase in those challenges.
And many people who had previously never really acknowledged or experienced mental health challenges, all of a sudden, we're saying.
What is this feeling?
What is happening?
Why can't I sleep?
Why can't I eat?
Why do I have racing scary thoughts?
Many people were asking me the difference between anxiety attacks and panic attacks during last year.
So my partner, Jonathan, and I, we decided to sort of use my neuroscience background and this platform.
I have almost a million followers on YouTube.
So we also do record it for our YouTube followers.
But it is a proper podcast on Spotify and anywhere that you get podcasts.
The idea is we call the mind bionics breakdown so that I could say welcome to my breakdown.
And the the main concept is that it is a human right for us to know about mental health, to even know what we're experiencing, what to call it, what it means what to expect if you do get help.
How to get help, why it's hard to get help?
And the idea is not to have a show about a celebrity who's figured it all out and here are the amazing things that I do.
I'm a person who's still on a path, you know, I'm on a path of recovery.
And many of us are still struggling, but that doesn't mean that there's not information that we can share.
And the idea's to talk to experts in the field and people who are experts in their own journey.
And many of those people are celebrity people or people who have a public platform as well.
And we literally asked them, what's their journey been like?
what worked, what didn't work?
This isn't about diagnoses and here's what you have and what pill you should take.
This is about what are the things that people do for depression, everything ranging from holding crystals and chanting, you know, to pharmaceuticals and psychiatry, so It's been a real exploration of each person's approach to mental health with an eye towards educating people and as we say, breaking things down so they don't have to.
Well, you also pointed out there's a lot of misunderstanding and even a stigma about people talking about mental health, right?
We're in this culture where.
Rah, everybody wins go forward confidence be out there social media etc.
And so when you're sitting down to plot this out, you started with I your first episode was about anxiety, which I think I think everyone can relate to but when you think about the challenges that we've looked back back over the just the past year, nevermind the past decade as our society has, a lot of factors have come together to you know, in Inflict pain on us in a lot of different ways not, not the least of which was it was an election year which brought it down.
There is a lot of myths.
So the first question I have for you is how do you convince people to trust you?
[LAUGHS]I mean, I don't know that I can convince people to trust me What I can do and I sort of, you know, give my my qualifications and my credentials.
Yes, I have a doctorate in neuroscience and it was my my job and my training to understand pharmaceuticals and to be able to read Web MD if you can't.
So there's a certain amount you know, I'm a science communicator.
That's what That's what people like me in science are called you know, I'm a person who was called to teach and educate and I've taught for many years I taught for about five years after getting my degree.
So I typically speak to To young people, teenagers, but I also do explain things to all sorts of people.
So that sort of just my skillset, you either like how I explain things or you don't.
If you don't like this accent, you're not gonna [UNKNOWN] [LAUGH] do it for a long time.
But in terms of my other qualifications, and I talked about this, we have an intro episode and I do talked about it, really a little bit in every episode I've experienced or been close to just about every diagnosis that there is.
And that happens in many, many families.
We just often don't talk about it.
So, you know, it was kind of always a thing like, there was a great aunt who talked to cars, you know, and it was kind of something that was always said with a joke, but That was someone who was schizophrenic.
That was a person who was wounded and now we see all these things.
But, my family has been touched by suicide more than twice.
We have many diagnoses in our family that we didn't use to call diagnoses.
It was just He's like this.
I can't talk to that person.
So that's my family story.
And it's not like I go through every single member of my family and break them over the calls.
My mother a little bit gets.
[LAUGH] She gets the worst of it, but She's very good humoured about it.
No, but I'm a person also and I've been very open.
I've had OCD for literally as long as I can remember.
I didn't even know that's what it was, which often happens with people with OCD, especially children.
I've experienced depression, I think I qualified for generalised anxiety disorder, literally in the womb.
So I definitely i've i've tried just about every medication there is I've tried them in different combinations because psychiatrists thought that would help.
And I've also done a lot of things that have moved me away from a lot of the kind of traditional things people are told which is numb it out, sedated drink, you know, I mean, a lot of people will say, here's what you should do to feel better.
So I have a kind of a personal hard fought journey into figuring out what works and what brings a certain amount of really, serenity and global mental wellness.
Okay, I wanna qualify this by saying I don't just believe you, I actually have listened to all your podcasts.
And I do appreciate that you do show so much of yourself to make it real and that this is not a celebrity trying to sell you the latest face cream or whatever, you know, that is out there.
So thank you for that.
I'm not, even trying to you know I'm not trying to push a particular form of meditation, what I can say is, here's what works for me and I'm really, I'm a very kind of normal person, you know, I'm inconsistent and I'm messy and sloppy and I forget to do my meditation and all those things like I'm much more normal than that.
But people think.
Well, let's talk about some of the issues and the topics that you've already started to talk about.
Your approach is very pragmatic and very practical.
And I appreciate that people want.
They want to hear about the challenges and opportunities, but they also want some guidance.
There's so much information out there.
We're living in the land of information overload.
So let's just start with Anxiety.
When you talk about anxiety, people come to you and say, I'm anxious, we've gone through some crazy stuff.
It doesn't seem to be quite over yet.
What's the answer to anxiety?
I mean, again, this is my relatively lay persons, you know, set of experiences and suggestions because As a neuroscientist, I'm, I'm raised to be a research professor, I'm not a therapist.
I'm not that kind of doctor as I like to say.
But what I will say and this is, largely from my experience.
I spent a lot of years trying to figure out how to not be so impacted by the news, for example, and I finally realized that, I may not be able to have the wavelength for taking in all of that kind of information like I did when I was 20 or like other people might.
So, to me, that's one of the simplest solutions that doesn't involve medication.
It doesn't involve getting a referral Turning down the volume really on what you take in is extremely important.
That also goes for having conversations about what's going on with people who make you feel agitated or yucky.
Meaning if you have family members, for example during the election, with whom you did not agree to the point that it was affecting your mental health.
That is completely in your power and control to lovingly detach from those conversations.
So there are very simple things like that that I think can help shift a lot.
For me cutting out news was able to eliminate the heartburn that I was having for an extended period.
Period of time because it was making me very agitated.
And that's that mind body connection that we like to always, you know, kind of keep as a theme.
Another thing about anxiety, things like caffeine, things like alcohol, things like not having even a roughly regular pattern of sleep and wakefulness That will add to your overall anxiety because it lowers your baseline for tolerance essentially.
So those are really just simple things.
And those are kind of two of my favorites.
I use Insight Timer, which is just a free meditation app.
They don't pay me but they should is what I say.
Learning to turn your brain off even for five, five feels like too little to me seven minutes is kind of the minimum.
Giving yourself the gift of only listening to a guided meditation or a body scan and doing nothing else.
Closing your eyes, not looking at your phone.
That actually adds a tremendous amount of resilience.
And there are physiological reasons what we talked about on the podcast.
But things like that, again, we're just talking about lowering that baseline so that you're not starting the day at this level of anxiety.
Following on that you did another episode on stress, which I thought was fascinating.
Again, something everyone in the world can relate to right now.
Give us a little bit of an overview of some, you know, girlfriend advice on stress.
Yeah, I mean stress and anxiety often do go you know, hand in hand.
So a lot of the same things that I talked about for anxiety also do work for stress.
But this is also a common theme in a lot of especially when we talk to two people like Iliza Schlesinger, who is the subject of our third episode.
Sometimes when we talk to people the topic reveals itself.
And the case of Eliza was that she was having a very specific chronic, physical pain that is Indeed, is exacerbated by stress.
And this is one of those things that used to be, kinda on the fringes of our understanding or like, That's for the hippies to understand.
But we're seeing more and more that Western medicine is finally listening to 1000s of years of Eastern medicine, in that the things that we do, the way that we live, what we think about Absolutely contributes to the way we perceive pain, the way we process pain and the way we heal.
So that episode was a really interesting exploration also into someone who, for most of her life has been burning the candle at both ends very successfully.
Like that's a woman that's constantly on the go.
So it's especially.
It's bizarre right to be laid low by something when you're used to go, go, go, go go.
So that was actually a very interesting episode for us because I wasn't sure what her comfort level would be.
Because sometimes it is it can be.
It can be somewhat embarrassing to say like, here's what's happening and I but she was really open about it.
And that's also been really good people seem to trust me and want to talk to me even when they know they're being recorded.
Which is a it's a wonderful you know gift like to be able to, to hold for people.
You know we talked a lot about holding in that stress episode as well.
Our bodies do hold stress.
Muscle memory is a thing.
emotional memory it is held in places in our body.
That's a thing that we know to be true So we got to explore all of that.
And that's a lot of what our episodes are, they kind of start one place.
And they meander, we think in a very pleasant way.
And then they always come back to that theme, but you can't just ask someone what hurts.
You have to ask what were you raised?
Like, what's your stress level?
What's your lifestyle?
And now we see how this is hurting.
So, three episodes that I've listened to, how do you decide what you're going to cover?
There's so much.
There's a lot to the art of podcasting that I'm learning.
I'm Jonathan Cohen, who's you know my partner in this He's part of a larger podcast team.
And some of the decisions are based on who will come on when we're new.
Because, you know, there's definitely a thing to that.
And also, we wanted to start with things that people talk about a lot.
PTSD we talk about and we talk about Trump, you know in upcoming episodes.
Autism Spectrum Bill Prady wanted to open up about being on the autistic spectrum and he's the creator of Big Bang Theory along with Chuck Lorre.
And so we wanted to talk about things that people are talking about.
We have an episode on suicide.
We have an episode on toxic family relationships which we filmed kind of around the holidays.
So we kind of wanted to hit the big ones.
But here's the thing about mental health.
It touches every single aspect of our lives.
So we had Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein on to talk about women's mental health and how birth control has impacted the way we view women's mental health.
Like There is not a place in your life where we cannot place mental health and mental wellness as as a priority in your work, in your home, as a woman, as a man, as a trans person, it's all in there.
So we've just got this beautiful beautiful spreadsheet of categories, even for depression.
There's 100 million times of depression, we can talk about all of them.
Postpartum depression is very different than Unipolar depression, which is different than the depression we see in bipolar disorder.
So it's just, you know, for people like me who kind of live in this, you know, academic headspace, that it's really it's an infinite set of possibilities.
So we are living in a time when people have embraced technology more than ever, right?
zoom is a verb.
I'm talking to you over technology.
That's a good and bad thing, right?
We're isolated but we can get connected.
Thanks to technology.
But technology can infringe in our space and send conflicting messages, disinformation aside.
So when you think about trying to reach people, you have this great platform.
Do you think about the dichotomy of the platform and asking people to connect?
Yeah, and it's something actually that Jonathan and I talked about because Jonathan operates in kind of the futurist space which like I didn't even know that was a thing that you can be a futurist until he explained it to me.
And that actually is one of the categories of topics.
We do wanna talk about how technology is impacting our mental health both in good ways and bad ways.
And as a classically trained neuroscientist I'm always gonna say that, no matter how we connect, there's nothing like being in a room with someone, and having the opportunity to physically be in the presence of another human being, As a form of interaction.
And I'm a mom of a 12 and 15 year old.
They're both boys.
I don't know why I said they're both boys, like it changes what I was gonna say.
But I do, I have two sons.
And I see the way that they have to be literate, and the way that it also does impact the way their brain processes information and takes it in So I like to remind my children and anyone else who's listening that evolution doesn't change in ten years.
It doesn't change in 50 years and it doesn't change in 100 years.
So the things that we experience are part of a largely evolving set of processes.
But my children's brains are not significantly different from mine.
Even they think I was born in the Stone Ages [LAUGH].
So I think that that is one of and also the most aspects of the challenge of technology, the fact that attention can be so divided so quickly is very complicated and I think that's something Jonathan and I really try and tend to.
We speak very conversationally, and we want people to feel like they are listening in on a conversation that we are then having, you know, with our expert.
There's not a lot of formality to to the podcast which you know, for me I feel like is a more natural, you know, way for people to hear a conversation.
We try and we do have to have ads because that's the thing that has to happen.
And we try and make them as personable as possible and with things that we really believe in.
So we're hoping that that kind of gives a holistic, nice sheen on what we're doing as we communicate through technology to encourage people to power down sometimes.
All right, well, I'm gonna ask you the futurist question as our last question, and that is You've talked about this a lot.
You've lined up your gas had many conversations that I'm looking forward to hearing from.
But as you look into 2021, what do you think are maybe the top two things that are coming our way that people should be cognizant of?
I think we're going to be dealing with The increased impact of isolation.
And I know that there are many parts of the country and world that are getting back to more integration.
I'm here in Los Angeles where it's been a really, really rough road still is.
So I think we're going to be dealing with The persistence of the new normal, which still involves a tremendous amount of anticipatory anxiety, that's what a lot of the kind of anxiety we're having now is what's called anticipatory anxiety.
And honestly not to make it so kind of COVID heavy but I do think that there are going to be long term mental health impacts of this period of time that we're gonna start trying to get out of.
So I see those as two distinct things.
There's kind of a maintenance and then there's also this reintegration that's going to have its own.
I mean, we're already experiencing it.
Many of us have friends who are ready to get back to life and we're kind of like, not quite ready.
It's causing a lot of shifts in a lot of the ways that people relate.
So I think we are going to see the impacts of that and the fact is The thing about doing a mental health podcast, this is something you do because you're passionate about it, because the fact is, there has always been and always will be people who need mental health support Support who are being denied it.
Sometimes because of lack of financial resources, sometimes socioeconomic considerations in underserved populations are increasingly under served in these arenas.
So to me, there's nothing really new under the sun about the mental health crisis that has been going on for a very, very long time.
So really just hoping that 2021 allows me to even do my small part in trying to open up the conversation and reduce the stigma as you said>> All right, I said that was gonna be my last question, but I lied because I do have one other your parents.
You have two boys, as you mentioned.
What do you tell them?
Are you concerned at all about their mental well being?
Yeah I mean look as the kind of mom that I am.
I'm the kind of dad that their dad is we're always very geared and always have been towards their mental health.
You know, especially because I do come from a family with, with it, you know, its share of complexity, and every family has complexity, you know.
So it's something that we've always given a lot of focus to.
And you know, for all the horrible things that people would say about attachment parents and the way we communicated with our children.
For our children, it has made them very, very communicative and sensitive and they are able to articulate a lot about their inner world and have been really, for a very long time in their short lives.
I will say that they do express having feelings, especially my older son, he's very social, of feeling like Why am I getting out of bed?
Why do I need to get dressed?
Do I really need to shower you know, and a lot of those things just come with being a teenager but it is something that I'm concerned about and do continue to be concerned about.
Also, it's it's important to know that I can't make their anxiety mine because that only makes everything worse, which is one of the reasons that you know, Backing off a little bit on my desire for extreme obedience and discipline had to really you know a little bit lighten up the notion of only two hours of screen time that went out the window one time ago.
So the notion that my children were all of a sudden going to become like macro may experts like because I want them to be.
I've had to loosen that up really to reduce honestly the overall strain on them because they're anxious enough hearing about the news and, Black Lives Matter brought this country to its knees, they were aware of that and we educate them about that as well.
And my older son is on tik tok and Instagram.
So he's got a whole new source, you know, of information that I'm grateful he comes to us, you know, at least still might not last forever to help him process so I look anti semitism is a thing and being 2% of the US population I know that a lot of people feel like Jews are everywhere, but we're actually not.
And so also to be dealing with that with my older son has been very, very interesting because a lot of it has increased in this last year that he's seen on his platforms that he's on.
Well, I look forward to hearing your podcasts touch on some of these topics in 2021.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.
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