This month on My Brain’s Not Broken, I decided to intentionally focus on the pandemic’s impact on mental health. We’re also closing out Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’ve been very pleased to see the content that people have created and the wonderful ways that people have embraced conversations about mental health. Today, I want to focus on what’s ahead – not necessarily on what our mental health should look like after the pandemic (if that’s even a thing), but what we can do now. We’ve been living this way for 15 months now, and that’s brought a renewed focus on how we can better take care of ourselves in many ways, including mental health.
Part of the inspiration for this post is an article from The Atlantic that I read recently titled, ‘What Happens When Americans Can Finally Exhale.’ The writer, Ed Yong, does an excellent job of focusing on the effects that the pandemic might have on people’s mental health, utilizing the concepts of grief and trauma to explain how feelings around this pandemic can linger for a long time (at least, that’s what I took from it!).
I’ve been reflecting on how I’ll move forward with my mental health this year, especially as things are open up around me (I live in a city, so this is all new to me) and I’ll have to start making more decisions on where to go and what to do. As an introverted homebody, that will be difficult. As someone who lives with depression and anxiety, that will be doubly difficult.
I’ve prioritized my mental health more in the past 15 months than I ever had before, and I think that it’s helped me for the better. There have definitely been obstacles along the way, but I also learned that I exacerbate my mental illness when I don’t prioritize it.
The Effects of the Pandemic
I’ve said this before, but I don’t think I’ll understand the pandemic’s impact on my mental health for a long time. That didn’t sit well with me before, but I’ve gotten more comfortable with the idea now. Mental health is not linear, so why would my reaction have to be? I would never advise someone to try to process something that’s still a massive part of their lives, so how can I do that myself?
Moving on quickly can be helpful in some cases (so I’ve heard – I don’t think it’s for me), but I really don’t think this is one of them. Part of that is not wanting to go back to my pre-pandemic life, but part of it is also acknowledging that like mental health, feelings aren’t linear. I don’t want back to normal; instead, I want to play a role in creating a new, better normal.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I reflect a lot on my mental health approach during awareness months, especially Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a good time to take stock of your approach to find more ways to focus on health and wellness. I’ve come to terms with some of the areas that I’m limited and where I can push myself. But the most important thing I learned is that short-term prioritizing helps build a mentally healthier lifestyle.
There are some moments in life where I just won’t be able to be in a mental space to do them, and that’s perfectly fine. My life is not a series of all-or-nothing decisions, and I hope I can remember that going forward. Either way, it’s a continuous journey I’m on, and the biggest thing is to keep on moving – not always forward, but always moving.
What’s something you’ve learned about your mental health in the last year and a half, and wow do you plan on using that as part of your mental health plan going forward? Let me know in the comments!