It goes without saying, mental health is a hot topic currently, due to the pandemic, quarantine, and all that it encompasses. This May, Mental Health Awareness is possibly more significant than any May, ever, due to the large amounts of people suffering from anxiety, depression, and many symptoms of any underlying issues are exacerbated during this time. The month itself, is an opportunity to learn about mental health, the stigma surrounding mental illness, providing support to those who suffer from mental illness, and advocate for policies that expand access to treatment.
We have shared our thoughts in regards to mental health through our blogs, more specifically surrounding grief and its effects on us. Our need to proactively stay on top of mental health is of the most importance, but especially during this time of so much uncertainty. We’ve talked about ways we stay healthy physically, that also tends to help mentally, like sanity walks, staying in touch with friends (old and new), and finding things to be grateful for each day while we toast the sunset, but let’s face it, staying ahead of the curve of the low points and negative thoughts is like a job in itself.
The pandemic has worsened the mental health crisis for everyone. Not only has the coronavirus created new psychological trauma due to economic uncertainty, death of loved ones, and social isolation, it has also triggered and intensified symptoms in which you may or may not have even recognized in the past. There are a ton of social media posts, and memes attempting to make light of the transition of emotional stages in a day of being in quarantine. I (Shannon), for one, have felt comfort in reading how others have found themselves spinning from being perfectly content, to feeling uneasy and unsettled the next. Misery loves company, am I right? Seriously though, it’s nice to know that I am not alone in these states of uneasiness. There have been days where I cry at the drop of a hat, and then can find myself making the most of the quarantine time I have, by meeting goals, setting new ones, and trying to make new, positive, memories through it all.
I worked with a therapist a few years ago, who helped me with ways to reframe a spiral, or a sense of anxiety, and I have resorted to venturing back to that series of coping mechanisms during this time. I will share them with you, in hopes that you find them useful.
- Ground yourself, physically. Close your eyes and recognize that your feet are flat on the ground. Take a few deep breaths and recognize that your body is firmly planted on the ground. This helps to generate a sense of realism- knowing exactly where you are at this very moment.
- Recognize your current thoughts. Are they thoughts of fear, sadness, grief? It’s ok to have them, just recognize what they are.
- Categorize the thoughts. Are those thoughts real, or just anticipatory? Meaning, do you have a fear that you will catch the virus, or are your thoughts surrounding finances? This is a time to make a list of what you can control about these thoughts. It helps to recognize that perhaps you can do something about those fears, or issues you are thinking about, and know that some things you cannot, and that can often help.
- Validate your concerns. If you are experiencing a negative situation in your life, you don’t have to always make light of it. Sure, it is great to use the negative to make a positive, but if you are grieving, that is ok. If you are struggling with finances, act on that. You don’t have to always say to yourself, “it can always be worse”. Yes, that is true, but it is also ok to experience what you are experiencing and create action items based on your concerns or current situation.
- Focus on your self-talk. Melissa Ambrosini wrote this phenomenal book a few years ago called, “Mastering Your Mean Girl”, which can totally help guys, too. It is about the inner mean girl, or mean guy, we have inside, and controlling the way we talk to ourselves. It is great practice to start focusing on that inner dialog and ask yourself, “would you let someone say these things to your close friend, or family member?” You can start to realize that we are often more critical of ourselves than others are of us.
- Meditate. If you know me well, you know about the times I have meditated and finished with a “to do” list that I created in my head. I must work on meditation being an effective tool for me, though it does create a stillness in a spiral of anxiety, help you with #1, grounding yourself, and being here now.
These are just a handful of ways that I have found to help me when I am in a difficult period. There are tons more, through self-help books, blogs, and podcasts. If you are looking for some great outlets in the self-help arena to help get you though this, let me know. I am always full of recommendations in that arena. I am a work in progress, and myself, nor Gerry, has it down to a science, but it is something we both find ourselves working on, regularly.
Lastly, if you are having a difficult time right now, know that you are not alone. Honestly, if you are finding this whole process easy-peasy, that would be a little odd. Ok, more than a little odd. This Mental Health Awareness Month, aim to do what you can to take care of your mental health and prioritize your emotional well-being, day by day, so that you may tap into your inner strength, recognize your own resilience, and prepare for a recovery as we make it through this, to the other side.