Dr. Linda L. Moore is a licensed psychologist, speaker, executive coach, author, and blogger. Though her private practice is in Missouri, she works throughout the United States and internationally speaking on stress management, human relations, leadership, addictions, and empowering women.
Here, Dr. Moore answers all our questions about mental health, mental healthcare, stress, and healthy living!
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This is part of Nutrishatives’ Ask an Expert Series, where we chat with movers and shakers in health, wellness, nutrition and medicine about their careers, their current work and their expert opinions on… well… their area of expertise!
Even briefly skimming your written work, it becomes fiercely clear that you have deep compassion for people and a passion for helping those struggling with mental health issues, especially stress and depression.
Was this passion the driving force behind your decision to become a psychologist? Or did you enter psychology for other reasons and found your passion for mental health as your studies and career progressed?
I grew up in a family that encouraged “being involved” so I was engaged in volunteer work with a focus on helping others, including political campaigns, from an early age.
My first jobs were with anti-poverty programs initiated by the Johnson administration, then briefly teaching, and a natural gravitation to graduate school in counseling psychology. It’s quite simply a professional expression of who I am.
One of the key topics you speak and write about is stress management. It seems fairly clear that everyone needs effective stress management techniques to protect their mental and emotional health, but do you have the feeling that our current society exacerbates this need?
There is a widespread feeling, at least, that we are far more stressed than previous generations. Do you think this feeling is true? And, if so, what do you think is causing us much more stress than we used to have?
Although working with stressed people daily can alter my perspective, I’m confident there is indeed an increase in “reporting stress”. And clearly, there’s a distressing increase in suicides.
My book YOUR PERSONAL STRESS ANALYSIS is one I urge clients and workshop participants to read to normalize the reality that we ALL feel stress.
The only thing I can point to regarding the [cause of the] increase [in stress] is an exaggerated and gradual culture change in emphasizing “externals” — consuming, making money, looking amazing/perfect — as the key to happiness.
Exaggerated by social media, this focus pulls people far off center and away from the need to RELATE in meaningful ways and [promotes] negative self-evaluating because [people regularly have the feeling] “I don’t measure up.”
One thing you promote in dealing with stress and more serious mental health conditions, such as depression, is a healthier lifestyle — exercising and eating healthier.
Can you talk a little bit about why a healthy lifestyle and healthier physical body can help promote a healthier mental state? Could you offer any specific lifestyle changes that can be helpful when dealing with mental health issues?
Our bodies “speak to us” when we take time and listen. There is a flow, an interaction between mind and body when we tune in, focus, and listen!
I believe ignoring physical well-being simply results in the body “escalating” symptoms to get our attention! Ignoring either signs of depression/anxiety or physical pain/discomfort result in more serious symptoms.
I’m torn between recommending physical exercise and meditation! I teach meditation to all who agree to learn! Hopefully, quiet and focus tunes the meditator into the language of the body…. thus overall health benefits.
Still, I want to recommend BOTH!
The evidence that physical health can influence mental health seems really strong and is pretty widely accepted. Mental health affecting physical health, though, is more hotly contested.
What do you think about the ideas of a “healing” or “healthy” mentality leading to actual better physical health?
I think I’ve answered this in the last question… I see them as interacting. Most simply if my mental health is strong, I feel and see the importance of physical health and a strong and deliberate health care routine.
It appears that, as a society, America is becoming more conscious of both the seriousness and importance of mental health. There are far more candid discussions about depression, anxiety, and suicide than even a couple of decades ago.
Nevertheless, from personal stories we’ve heard, it’s clear that there is still a stigma, or at least a feeling of being stigmatized, attached to seeking mental healthcare. Can you offer any insight into where this stigma comes from and what we can do to continue to reduce its influence?
When I explore the difficulty in saying “what you feel” with a client, the most common answers come from childhood patterns — the family, the church, and school. Old patterns are hard to “unlearn”….so the behaviors carry on through each generation.
Most of us want to be liked and loved and approved of, so discussing flaws and mistakes and shameful past behavior and decisions feel far, far too risky. I have clients who come because a friend or colleague has SHARED they have been in therapy! We need permission! We need to feel like our peers… and it’s risky to see if we might not measure up.
Watch the new documentary on the PBS program “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” to see what needs to happen in childhood to move us in a healthier direction.
If some of our readers are sitting at home right now worried that their thoughts and feelings might not be quite normal — that they may have (or maybe developing) depression or anxiety — what advice would you give them?
A good start is to grab a notebook and write, write, write what you feel! Doing so can help identify “thought distortions.”
We all, sometimes often, take a difficult situation or feeling and make it worse through thoughts that are basically lies — like “this is terrible, it’s awful, it will never be better, and I can’t stand it”. More realistic is: “it’s hard, challenging, I’m not sure what to do, and I will see if I can figure something out.” [This shift in thinking is] NOT so easy to do at first. But giving it a try can be a starting point.
ALSO, do some reading. Check my blogs for my suggestions. TRY, as hard as it feels, to talk to someone you trust about what you feel. If that doesn’t work, call a “helpline” in your community.
The key: don’t let the thoughts and feelings stay stuck in your mind and your heart.
This may overlap a little with your answer to our question about mental health stigmatization, depending on your answers, but what do you think the most damaging misconception about mental health and mental healthcare is?
Perhaps the simplest answer is the belief that “nothing works.” That “I’m too damaged.” And that is simply not true.
Another of my books: WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? MAYBE NOT THAT MUCH! was written simply because I see how easy it is to feel you can’t be helped — that you are broken. While I know it can be challenging to find the best resources, they are available in most communities
What about stress? Are their misconceptions about stress and feeling stressed that you wish you could erase from the public consciousness?
Yes! That STRESS is not NORMAL.
Stress IS normal.
When we don’t recognize stress or try to ignore stress symptoms/signals, they typically escalate to DISS-stress… and that’s what is heading into more serious territory.
Just pay attention. Listen to your body. Learn when you need to act, to do something to quiet your body, your mind.
And meditation is one of the best ways to learn what your body, your mind, is trying to tell you.
If you could get everyone in the world to make a single healthy lifestyle change, what would it be and why?
This is always a toss-up between meditation and exercise, but here, I’ll go with meditation. Imagine the impact of increasing numbers of people everywhere putting that kind of calm, positive, focused energy into the world!
What impact would you like to have on the world?
To help people to genuinely talk with one another: to [help them] learn conflict management, talk across differences, want to make a difference in the well-being of ALL (thus eliminat[ing] poverty and discrimination). And to provide quality education and mental health services to everyone.
What is one question you’ve never had the opportunity to answer in an interview that you’ve always wanted to?
Question: Is there an area of your work in psychology you wish you had the opportunity to pursue more?
Answer: YES. I would like to do more media work. I once hosted a radio talk show, and I would still like to find a regular way to continue that work because it reached/educated so many people. And, I’d like to finish the novel I’m working on (whenever I can)!