For Mental Health Awareness Month this year, I’m placing a focus on the pandemic’s impact. At this point, I’ve been working from home for 15 months, my life has seen drastic changes, and I have hit more mental walls than I ever thought possible in only a year. Part of me hoped I’d never really write about my mental health approach from this last year and a half. Now that this is the second Mental Health Month in a pandemic, I decided to share parts of how I’ve been able to find peace and wellness where I could find it. This approach includes a dose of pessimism, an emphasis on focus and a willingness to let out my emotions when I need it.
Using Pessimism to My Advantage
Since last March, when I was told that I’d be working from home “for a few weeks” after COVID cases were reported more and more in the United States, I’ve grown more and more wary about any sort of timeline when it comes to pandemic updates. Early on, I would have a little bit of hope when reading some encouraging news when things could get “back to normal,” but that hope quickly dissipated.
Each bit of hope I felt made it that much harder to learn how to deal with how everyone’s lives had changed. In short, having hope at that point was detrimental to my anxiety – and certainly my depression. At that point, I decided instead to focus not on finding the positive side of things, but on managing how I was handling the negative side of things. It might be shocking to hear, but I’ve long been an optimistic person in my life. But it was embracing that pessimistic side that helped me get a handle on the anxieties I was feeling.
Maintaining Focus Away from the World
A pandemic in 2021 means you’re being inundated with content daily about a deadly virus spreading around the world. For me, that meant being a little more focused about what I was doing and the content I was consuming throughout the day. I didn’t have the mental stamina to interact with every post I saw or read, but I also didn’t want to remain uninformed about what was going on around me.
I’ve tightened my focus more in the last year than ever before. Centering my wellness (and the wellness of people in my life) has helped me discern what information is important to know, and it’s helped me learn when to disengage. There’s still plenty in this world I engage with that I wish I hadn’t, but even the little I’ve been able to cut out has been instrumental to my mental health.
Let Out Every Emotion
One of the most important ways I’ve managed my mental health during this pandemic sounds simple: I’ve cried. I’ve cried when I’m sad, I’ve cried when I’m happy, I’ve cried for no reason at all. Crying spells are a well-known symptom of depression, and since I’ve lived with them for years, I’ve realized that crying is one of the ways that I express heavy emotion. I know that not everyone expresses it in the same way, but I DO know that we all have healthy ways to expressing our emotions. And if we don’t – well then, it’s time to learn!
I used to try and put of those heavy emotions to save up those feelings for when I could better get them out, but this year-plus has taught me that the more you embrace what you’re feeling, the easier it is to feel those things and move on. Those feelings will return soon, and the more room we make to feel, the easier it is to handle what’s coming our way next – which feels like a necessity during this pandemic.
Now that I’ve shared some of the ways I’ve managed my mental health during the pandemic, I’d love to hear from you (if possible!) How have you managed your mental health during the pandemic? Have you relied on what you’ve always done, or tried something new? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments!