Social distancing is the buzzword in the U.S. right now, and rightfully so – it’s important and necessary and it’s not that hard to figure out what it means. And while it’s extremely important, it’s also not easy for people who are used to being out and about for the majority of the week. In fact, if you’re used to a more social lifestyle, social distancing can have a real impact on your mental health.
I started this week feeling a bit off. To be clear, this wasn’t in a good way or a bad way, it’s just kind of the conclusion I came to as my Monday progressed. Part of it is that this week will take me out of my usual routine, which always does something to make me slightly anxious. But the other part of it is this feeling that I’m missing something.
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.
I’ve been trying to work these two words into my vocabulary for months, trying to say it out loud as much as I can. It’s possible. There are a ton of ways to say it too, based on your inflection, so it was also important that I was saying it in the right tone of voice. At first, I was saying it wrong and turning into a negative phrase, but after some repetition, I’ve been turning it into a more positive reminder and tried to strip those words of their negativity.
So it’s October! While September is a little less in your face about it being fall, by the time we reach October people are pretty much in full-on Jack Skellington mode or sending Dwight Schrute’s pumpkin head to their friends. But for me, October can signal a lot of changes – the most important one being that summer is over, and this year it’s especially important to me.
Things have been very strange for the past month. Not happy or sad, good or terrible, difficult or easy. Just very, very strange.
This month, I was supposed to move to Europe and begin a job teaching English. It’s something I’d been looking forward to for a very long time. In fact, I’d taken all the necessary steps months in advance because of how sure I was about this situation. But last month, about six weeks before I was supposed to head out, a feeling hit me. It would be easy to just say I had second thoughts and leave it at that, but that wasn’t it.
Sometimes with second thoughts, you’re just afraid that you’re doubting yourself, and it’s not uncommon to go ahead with the decision you’ve made. But once I got that feeling that I didn’t want to go anymore, it stuck and it stayed there. And while I’m not feeling any one type of way about it, it is…weird.
I’m not going to get into the details right now, because that’s not why I’m sharing this. Maybe one day I’ll share that story on this blog, but that day is not today. At the moment, the most important part of this decision isn’t the decision that I’ve made – it’s everything else that’s going to happen to me now. Say what you will, but a decision not to do something is still a decision – it might not sound that way, but it’s true. And now, even though I’m not moving halfway around the world, my life is still going to change. That’s the nature of making any sort of important decision in life. In some form or other, it will change the trajectory of where you’re headed.
I’m sorry I was gone from here for a while – I couldn’t post as much as I wanted because honestly, it’s been hard to wrap my head around what I’m doing these days. But I’m in a good spot in a ton of ways. As I long as I focus on that, I’ll be good to figure out what’s next. I’m hoping to continue to give you all some #premium mental health content going forward in addition to joining me on this journey. Hope you’re along for the ride!
I don’t really like myself. That is not a put down, that is not a criticism. That does not mean the world, or my world, is ending. That is just what I believe.
I am currently plodding through work, wading through the vast amount of things I need to catch up on, and I’m fighting the post-vacation blues. I visited family in Texas over the Memorial Day weekend holiday and had a great time! As is typical with short vacations like this, I didn’t feel like I had enough time, but I really enjoyed seeing everyone being able to soak up the beginning of summer. Continue reading
This weekend, my laptop broke for the third time in three years. Since the reason I bought it was that I thought it’d be a reliable piece of equipment that wouldn’t break easily, I was pretty angry. First at the computer and at the company that manufactures it, which is understandable. But then I quickly turned that anger on myself.
I thought it must be my fault somehow. I must have done something, or forgotten to do something, and my carelessness is what led to my laptop breaking. I went to get it fixed yesterday (I should get it back this weekend) and the whole time I was at the store, all I could think of what how could you be so stupid? I could not get out of my head, and it really bothered me.
Now in the grand scheme of things, the situation isn’t all that bad. The fix will cost me some money (more than it should, but that’s a whole other issue), but in the end, I will be okay and my life will go on. But to me, it’s minor setbacks like these that are some of the most dangerous to my mental health.
Why are they such a big deal? Because they make me reexamine my actions, which is one of the last things an anxious person wants to do. I spend all day thinking about the choices I make, the words I say and the things I do. I don’t need another replay of a mistake I made; nothing good will come from it. I’ll only dig myself into a deeper hole and chalk everything up to how stupid I am. In this scenario, I suffer mentally and not only does the situation not improve, but I do not either.
Getting Past a Minor Setback
How do I get past a setback like this? Repetition, repetition, repetition. It’s worth telling yourself that it’s not the end of the world, that it will be okay. But only saying those things once means that they don’t have any staying power. Repeating these positive thoughts is a good way to have them take up more space in your head than negative thoughts. I’m not guaranteeing success (I know from experience), but I would say it’s worth trying. Like any other skill, you get better at it over time. While I’m not where I want to be with this repetition, I’m in a better space than I was, and it’s been super helpful.
I also view setbacks as an opportunity to spend more time doing something else. Instead of focusing on the closing door, I look around to see what door is now open. In this specific case, I don’t know what the open door is, but I do know from experience that it exists. It might not always be what we expect, but it can be better than we ever imagined.
Again, this is my advice for minor setbacks – the things that happen in our everyday life that can get under our skin. There are major things that happen that can really set us back, which are much more difficult to process and deal with. But in most cases – like with my laptop – things aren’t as bad as they seem. The sun will rise. Life will go on.
A setback doesn’t make you a bad person, and I hope you don’t let yourself believe that it does. You have so much more going for you than a broken laptop, a flat tire or bad day at work. It might not always feel that way, but it’s true. It’s not how we fall, but how we get back up that defines us (that’s a cliche for a reason). You’re allowed to be upset, to be annoyed, but don’t let those feelings dictate your mood for too long because eventually, that will become who you are. And you’re a better person than that.
How do you deal with the little setbacks that happen to you during the day? Let me know in the comments!