Hi everyone. How are you? But like really? I wanted to use this post to check in on a very important, and very universal topic that seems more prescient than ever.
I know I’m not alone in saying that this year has been a roller coaster of emotion so far. It’s been a whole lot of crushed expectations, changed plans and “just getting through the day.” It’s taking a toll on all of us in different ways. And as we get closer to the middle of the year, the turning point into summer that is June… it feels like a good time to take stock of what we are going through, and where we go from here.
I was one of those people who went into 2020 with lots of optimism and big plans. On top of launching ETL, I was ready for major wedding planning action, I had several trips and visits lined up throughout the first half of the year… and was even considering looking into going back to school.
Fast forward to May….not a single one of those trips or visits has happened…and most of them won’t be rescheduled. School plans are on the back burner until who knows when. I’ve already had to postpone some wedding festivities…and while the big day is still on… it’s tentative at best and giving me a lot of anxiety. While I am grateful to have had the opportunity to move forward with ETL… it has unfolded on a scale that looks quite different from the plans I had to dive in head first before the pandemic happened.
It’s true that it all just sucks sometimes, and it makes me concerned and unsure about what the future looks like and what my next steps in life should be.
It’s also true that I could put my suffering in comparison with others who have lost so much more, or are sacrificing so much more on the front lines every day. They deserve to be honored and acknowledged. Maybe I really don’t have anything to complain about in the grand scheme of things. Cue the guilt, to add to the anxiety.
I would argue that line of thinking isn’t healthy and it isn’t helping anyone. But it certainly epitomizes the destructive mental health cycle that I have struggled with during my teen years and adulthood, and is very applicable today. “Whatever is causing me grief is nothing in comparison to others’ grief, and I’m a terrible person for even wasting time focusing on this when there are better things to be doing…” Sound familiar anyone?
That vicious cycle almost destroyed my body and my mind, as I’ve written about in previous posts, until I was able to get help.
Today, I find joy and serenity in accepting my mental health for what it is, respecting my needs in that regard, and learning to shift my perspective. My hope in sharing this post is to help others feel like they are not alone in their mental health struggles… and show that breaking your own cycle can be possible.
It’s not like there’s NOT a lot going on right now….
It feels like there is so much focus lately on our physical health. And for good reason, don’t get me wrong! We need to remain vigilant about protecting ourselves and our communities from disease right now, and do what needs to be done to slow down the progression of this COVID-19 pandemic.
I’m not trying to minimize that in any way by pointing out that our mental health is also at major risk here and needs to be tended to.
Everything changed almost overnight. Offices, schools and businesses closed, shifting the center of our lives and disrupting our established routines. For many, those changes were even more detrimental, leading to the tragically high numbers of job losses, and the fallout from that. Furthermore still, many people have had to face the terrible reality of themselves or someone they love contracting the virus and the horrors that can lead to.
We are being told to socially distance from friends and strangers, changing the way we shop, exercise, even how we interact with neighbors passing on the street. Prices in the groceries stores are fluctuating, as are inventories, and entire industries of production are struggling (you’ve seen all the headlines about meat production.) We are more isolated, more inundated, and more uncertain than ever about the future.
How could any of those things not have some kind of affect on how we are feeling about ourselves and the world we live in?
One of the first things I had to remind myself when I started feeling overwhelmed about everything was that this is a normal, human reaction. We react to change and discomfort as a survival instinct. It doesn’t mean I am weak or somehow lesser than the people that seem like they’ve got it all together, are wearing pants on the regular (also, why?), and finding all the bright silver linings in every situation. For one, it’s probably not true, no one has it as together as it may seem on social media. Surely we all know that by now. And secondly, hating on myself wasn’t going to make anything better. It’s like when I broke my arm in the 6th grade, and realized I couldn’t just will it to be healed with my mind…
Making sense of the beast…
Okay, mental health struggles acknowledged and accepted. Now it’s time to do something about it.
The first thing is to assess yourself and your essential functions. Is your sleep being affected? Or your appetite? Or you ability to get work done? Do you feel physical pain or discomfort (which can be a manifestation of a mental health issue).
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then the first thing to do is have a conversation with your doctor (or doctors) immediately to deal with those issues. At the end of the day, if you aren’t eating and sleeping well, none of the other measures you employ will really matter.
Beyond that, I’ve had to really learn to start looking at my mental health as something to be maintained in much the same way as my physical well-being.
I try to eat a healthy, plant-based diet, I exercise regularly, and I take natural supplements to boost my health and add even more nutritionist to my body. All of that is part of physical self care that I make a priority every day. And I’m certainly not alone in that. The $4.2 trillion dollar global health and wellness industry proves it.
I finally asked myself (with the help of my therapist) why I wasn’t applying that same care and attention to my mental health, but yet expecting it to function at 100% regardless….and beating myself up when it didn’t.
And then I was finally able to reach a turning point.
A whole new perspective on taking care of myself…
Nowadays, mental health is something that I try and think about just as often as my physical well-being, and take steps to address it in my daily life.
For me, that means taking quick stock of where my head is at and how I’m feeling first thing in the morning. I keep a daily journal that I use first thing each day to document what mood I’m in, and set my intentions for the day. Even just that 5-10 minutes of quietness with myself makes such a HUGE difference in my outlook.
Another mental-health practice I try and embrace constantly is gratitude. Sure, we are all told that we need to be thankful and most of us (hopefully) have manners and appreciate when good fortune befalls us. But that’s not what I mean necessarily. I mean the active, conscious practice every day of focusing on the things in my life that are bringing me joy, peace, contentment, etc. Reveling in those things, and people, has become as important to me as brushing my teeth every day.
My nighttime routine is also another important factor of mental health care for me. In the past, my anxiety, depression and other issues had a major impact on the quality of my sleep…and a big part of that was stress about work, obligations to friends and family, news and social media. So turning off my devices and reading an uplifting novel before bed every night has been an important ritual for me to end the day on a peaceful note.
I’ve also found a nifty little friend to assist me in my mental health journey:
LSW Mind Cards … a perfect little dose of inspiration to help cultivate mindfulness
I just started working with this company, and I’m already in love with this lovely and creative idea. The card prompts fall under the categories of gratitude, reflection, ritual, kindness and journal, with each one suggesting unique things you can do to add mindfulness into your day.
CLICK HERE to get your own set for under $15!
Ending this post by sending everyone a huge hug and a big giant “IT’S OKAY” to apply to whatever you need to today.
I’d also love to hear from you. Let me know how you are doing through all of this, and how you’re trying to shift your perspective from the future.
I truly believe we are all in this together and can only grow stronger by leaning on and learning from one another.
*This post contains affiliate links. That means I may get a small commission if you purchase something. I only recommend products I love and trust! For more on ETL’s policies, see HERE.