I have been meaning to write and do a few videos [and I will.. I just happen to be working on a slow and compassionate timeline;)] on mental health as we really do need to eradicate this stigma on talking about what we are facing, what we are going through at any given moment and more so if it is affecting our mental and emotional health which can also lead on to affecting our physical health. I do know it has been a rough year for many with the challenges that comes with COVID-19 - the lockdowns, the job securities, students graduating with no prospects in sight, bills looming, social connectivity, and more. For many, going to work - having a sense of purpose, meeting friends - to connect, and going for holidays - to destress, are ways that we regulate our stressful lives and are great for our well-being. However, what do we do now with all these changes going on around us, more so HOW?
Firstly, let us understand how these challenges are / have been affecting us.
Staying at home and not leaving for work takes out the regularity of our daily schedule, the travel where movement, sense of smell, sound and sight are engaged when you leave home.
Next, assuming that you stop for coffee/tea at the coffeshops or cafe, the ability to make conversations, smile at someone or paying for your drink / breakfast - the ability to provide for yourself is in itself a sense of freedom and power.
Next you meet the people that you see daily, perhaps they have offices near you and then your colleagues. The social connectivity at work gives one a sense of constructiveness and purpose / meaning.
After work, you meet up with friends. Social connections uplift a person emotionally and there is a sense of belonging and perhaps of safety and joy.
For those who have lost their jobs, all of the above counts plus the feelings of rejection and disappointments.
For students who have just graduated, some dreams may need to be shelved for now to find any work to pay off study loans. Probably the sense of motivation can be difficult at times.
So, imagine if all these have been taken away. It is a sense of loss, and we all need time to adjust and to 'grieve' over these losses. For some, these losses are momentarily perhaps a few months, but for some who have lost their jobs, or family members, it may be a tough adjustment. How do we go about adjusting to these losses then? Here are some tips and there are more out there and whatever works for you, keep doing it.
Pause and breathe. Mindful breathing helps. There are a few online that you could follow and this is one of my favorites: https://youtu.be/uxayUBd6T7M
Create a new schedule. Include some form of movement into your schedule, walking around the neighborhood or following an online workout.
Connect. Find ways to connect with the people around you, Smile at the people you meet along the way (you never know what they are going through), make phone calls, send an email or post some letters or cards. I tried sending cards and realize how much people enjoyed getting them because it had been a 'thing of the past'. To receive a card or letter makes it tangible and people know the time/effort you have taken to think about them.
Reflect. Take this time to reflect on your journey. In the stillness and quiet is when our heart speaks to us.
Journal. Write down your reflections and include gratitude in them. For in the quietness, you can listen to your needs, your thoughts, your emotions. You would be able to make more decisions with clarity.
Persevere. Have a goal, mind map or a vision board that reminds you of the dream you will seek to achieve. Writing or drawing this out helps to put thought to matter and it then becomes a reminder and motivator. To note: This map or vision may change from time to time as we keep refining our life's dreams/purpose in life - be flexible and not hard on yourself.
Be aware of your thoughts and behavior. This may be a quiet time for many and it is a time where feelings from unpleasant memories or event resurface especially if they had been suppressed. These feelings manifest out as anxiety, depression, or addictions. There are many ways we harm our bodies; take note of when you start to reach out for drinks, cigarettes, food etc. These are some ways we cope with difficult feelings to forget them, to numb them or just to have a 'sense of safety'. Most of our difficult / painful / hurtful emotions if left unprocessed, may come back to remind us that we have yet to forgive, to let go, to move on or sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that we are safe. Some situations can't be changed and we hurt ourselves by holding on to them, the fears, shame, guilt, regret, disappointments, rejections. Learn to let them go for your health's sake. If it helps, ask yourself what you have learnt from these lessons (not mistakes).
Speak with someone. Talking to a therapist or a counselor lends us with different perspectives and also helps to lift us up because they provide us with a save space to talk about anything and everything without the fear of being judged or criticized. If this has been a practically difficult time for you, please do reach out and speak with a therapist. Do not be afraid or ashamed to seek help. Even the strongest amongst us need help sometimes.
Lastly, this has been a year of adjustment for many. Be kind to yourself and practice compassion. Find ways to make your world a better place, be it music, reading, talking, dancing, painting, singing etc. As with our thoughts, change them from thinking it has been a terrible or difficult year to a great year of blessing for releasing, for transformation, for healing, and just as the phoenix rise from the ashes, so will you.