A few months ago, one of my posts focused on how to sleep with anxiety for those out there who struggle. Since sleep and mental health have a direct connection, I thought there were people out there who, like me, have tremendous anxiety around bedtime. Even then (in January), I knew I wasn’t alone. Now, I’d guess that almost all of us are having trouble around bedtime as we end another day of living through a pandemic (“Day ??” is my go-to phrase) and try to sleep before starting another one. And though bedtime is more difficult for all of us, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to feel that way.
There are plenty of new (essentially important) buzzwords that have gained traction over the last few months. An abundance of caution and self-quarantining had their time, and now social distancing, AKA physical distancing, continues to be used often. But there’s another phrase I’ve heard a few times: a new normal. As in, we’re living in a new normal and the world is different now. So how do we adjust?
I’m heading on a trip everybody! This week I am leaving to visit a close friend of mine who currently lives in Spain, and I am extremely excited to experience a new place and culture. I’ve written about my travels before and I will continue in the future, but in mentioning my trip to a few people I heard a few things that got me thinking. After telling a co-worker about my trip, she lamented on all the trips she could have gone on but either wasn’t able to or chose not to which, I mean, is life. But it did get me thinking about the reasons I don’t do certain things, and whether or not they’re as valid as I make them out to be.
Let’s face it – at some point, everyone feels overwhelmed. Whether it’s school, your work or another aspect of your life, there are times when we feel like the world is closing in on us and we feel trapped. While it’s more common for some to feel this way than most people, make no mistake – most people you know have felt overwhelmed about their lives at some point.
In the year and a half since I started this blog, I have undergone a positive transformation in regards to my mental health. I have started to prioritize healthiness over happiness, and that decision has paid dividends. But what are the long-term goals for my mental health? The reason I’m asking this question is because I don’t have an answer.
One of my most reliable coping strategies is living present and taking each moment as it comes. A speaker at a work event said something last week that stuck with me, and it’s an approach I realized I’d been taking with my mental health.
“Just make it through the next meal. If you can’t make it through the next meal, make it through the next hour. If you can’t make it through the next hour, make it through the next minute. And if you can’t make it through the next minute, make it through the next moment.” – Jon Sanchez
I’ve focused so much on getting through every hour, every minute, every moment, that I haven’t thought much about what I’m trying to accomplish. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; sometimes you have to use whatever you can to get through the day. But those days can add up, and sometimes knowing that you have a long-term goal to work toward is a source of inspiration and strength on the days when things aren’t so great. It’s been that way with other aspects of my life, and now I want it to happen with my mental health as well.
There is no shortage of information on setting and achieving goals (if you don’t believe me, just Google it), and while it’s a good place to start, you need to make sure that your goals are unique to you and your lifestyle. This is where I struggle! I don’t know how to cater goals to suit my needs, and the result is that no goals are made at all.
I could also chalk this up to not really feeling secure in what my purpose is at the moment. While I’m extremely excited about my impending move, I realize this decision will not provide more security, which makes having long-term goals all the more important. I guess it’s a step in the right direction that I’m even thinking about this; a year ago, having a long-term mental health goal was a pipe dream. I was just worried about making it to the next day. But now that I’m able, I’d like to figure out what it is I’m working toward. And when I have, I’ll be sure to let you know.
What are some of your long-term goals? Whether they’re mental-health related or not, I could certainly use some ideas!
Guilt almost ate me alive last week – I’ll explain. I didn’t wake up on time for work and was about an hour and a half late.
That’s it! That’s all that happened. It wasn’t fatal to my job, and I got all my work done that day. But I felt very guilty about it. And it took much longer than it should have to make that guilt go away.
Why did I feel guilty? A more accurate question would be why did I not feel guilty? I felt like a bad employee and that I let my team down, which consequently led me to think about the worst-case scenario of the ramifications of my actions. I felt lazy and unreliable and perceived my lateness as a character flaw. I didn’t look at being late as a rare occurrence but as an indicator of who I am as a person. Is that true? As I came to realize, it is not, and that is not who I am.
I’m sharing this because I know I’m not alone in this experience. Guilt plays a much bigger role in our lives than I’m sure we want – at least, it does it mine. If guilt doesn’t affect you, please let me know how you’re able to exist in this way because I am all ears on that topic.
But let’s say you’re like me, and feelings of guilt are hard to get rid of. How do you get rid of them? I came up with three things I continued to repeat to myself until my guilt subsides.
This is not who you are – you are more than this
This is my favorite of the three things because, as I wrote earlier, my guilt comes from the fact that I believe my mistakes – even if I only make them once – are all character flaws. Reminding myself that there’s so much more to me than what I feel guilty about is a reminder that I am a complex person who is not defined by any one thing – good or bad.
Is it really that bad?
I’ll be honest; sometimes the answer to this question is ‘yes.’ Sometimes we do things that are just as bad as we make them out to be. But the reality is that our guilt permits us to make things out to be much worse than they are. Was being late to work one time, after not being that late all year, really all that bad? In the grand scheme of things, maybe not.
Who does this effect?
Another way my guilt becomes exacerbated is that I think that so many people will suffer from my mistakes. Did I miss a meeting when I was late? No. Did someone need me during the time I was missing? They did not. In reality, this situation affected me and my boss, who was wondering where I was, and no one else. The office didn’t come to a halt; people moved on with their day. Sometimes our guilt can make us think that our mistakes are the end of the world – oftentimes, the opposite is true. Most of my mistakes only affect me, if I’m being honest. That minimizes the impact of my mistake and gives me a good perspective to look from.
I don’t have all the answers. I continue to feel guilty about plenty of things – mistakes or not. But taking steps to assuage your guilt and remind yourself of who you really are, and that you’re more than one or two bad choices, is key to overcoming the debilitation that guilt can produce.
What’s something silly that you’ve felt guilty about? I want to know!