Protect Your Mental Health

Since last year, I’ve made it my priority to keep happiness as the baseline, not as the exception.

When I say ‘keeping happiness as the baseline” I really mean protecting mental health against an onslaught of negative thoughts and feelings.

Once the fragile gates of your mental health have been overrun it can be hard to pull yourself out of the rabbit hole. During this global pandemic, it is incredibly important to protect and maintain your mental health before it becomes a chronic issue.

Step 1: Accept Your Emotions

There are many reasons the COVID situation is sad. Deaths, lay offs, being separated from family and friends. You are allowed to mourn the loss of normalcy.

It is possible though to still mourn and feel content. Too much sadness is hard to hold onto and is not a sustainable way to live. You can be sad your friend got let go, and happy that you still have a job. You can be sad you can’t see your friends, but glad knowing you are doing your part. You can be grateful that we still have running water and can enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning.I think that’s about the best we can do right now. There is space for more than one emotion at a time, even if the emotions are seemingly conflicting.

The goal of life isn’t to be happy all the time- if it is, any negative experience or bad event will send you into a tailspin. Pivot your expectations, and look for meaning and purpose, not necessarily happiness.

Step 2: Thank Your Emotions and Let Them Go (without allowing guilt to replace them)

Sadness isn’t a bad thing; we need sadness to make us balanced, caring people. So, let’s accept our sadness, thank it for reminding us to have empathy for our neighbors, and Konmari it goodbye. Our sadness has served its purpose, so we can let it go now.

Once you let your sadness go, there will be a gap. Don’t allow feelings of guilt to settle in where sadness once resided. Guilt is just sadness masquerading as another emotion. I give you permission to not feel guilty about feeling content when so many other people are distraught. We must take care of ourselves and put our oxygen mask on before we can help others.

Step 3: Find Meaning

Times like these make me realize how human and vulnerable I am. A lot is out of our control. However, because everything is so out of our control, we don’t have to try to control it. I can’t begin to comprehend why this is happening, so all I can do is trust the universe and look for meaning.

Here is what I have learned from COVID:

-Without suffering there is no compassion or gratitude. I have seen so much compassion over the last few weeks, and that is what I hold onto.

-It is possible to maintain close relationships with people that live across the country. I talk to my friends more than I did before quarantine, and virtual hangouts are no longer burdensome but something I look forward to.

-Even with an extra hour of time (no more commute!) I still struggle to carve out time to work on drawing (AKA, it wasn’t commuting that was holding me back). When I am done grieving, I will hold myself more accountable.

-I usually rush through things because I’m always thinking about what’s next. Now that I’m forced to stay still, I am diving into topics more deeply, and I’m learning a lot about graphic design and my cooking has become rather artisanal.

Faith us trust, not understanding. We will make it through this. I hope this helps.

-Deidre