In the name of "keeping it real" (which is always my goal)...
I don't feel 100% mentally healthy right now. Interestingly, my "decline" began not with the arrival of COVID-19, but at the beginning of 2019 when I found myself newly 40, dealing with an ongoing and uncomfortable injury, and frustrated with a couple of previously close relationships. I took steps to get myself back on track and planned enthusiastically for 2020, when I would "start anew".
HA. HA. HA.
As it did everyone, 2020 hit me hard. The global pandemic, however, wasn't the primary source of my stress, anxiety, frustration, and anger, at least at first; a few months into 2020 my mental state took a hit because of 1) a series of physical health ailments and issues that have in various ways continued to plague me for the last 16 months, and 2) politics, the election, and what felt to me like the unraveling of our country's moral fabric. Fast forward to 2021, when 1) and 2) not only remain unresolved but have taken turns for the worse, and add in a third crisis: the "return" of the global pandemic accompanied by the degradation of our respect for science and collective common sense.
Some days it feels like I've reached my breaking point.
So today, I want to share a few of my favorite ways to cope when it all feels too much.
I am not a medical professional. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or another mental health challenge, please talk to your doctor.
- Go for a walk. Even if it's just slowly meandering once around the block in dirty clothes and flip flops, move your body. I usually find that even if I don't want to exercise, once I start, the endorphins kick in, I can crank out a few miles, and I feel at least somewhat better.
- Sit outside. Take deep, controlled, thoughtful breaths and focus on how the fresh air (and the sun, if you're a sunshine person) feels on your skin. I don't like sun and heat together, so in the warmer months I sit on the back porch under the fan.
- Take a shower. Sit on the floor of the shower and cry first if you have to (the floor of the shower and the floor of my closet are my favorite "let the tears out" places), but then wash everything top to bottom and finish with a cold burst. Dry off and put on clean clothes.
- Drink a glass of water and eat a healthy snack. I often choose a can of sparkling water because it feels "special", and my go-to snacks are apples or graham crackers with peanut butter, carrots or pretzels with hummus, grapes with string cheese, or popcorn.
- Do something productive for a short yet set period of time. Set an alarm for 15 minutes - less if necessary - and spend those minutes folding a load of laundry, picking up toys, unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming the living room, or answering emails.
- Snuggle a kitten. I can't explain to you how significantly our kittens help us when we're feeling down. Pet a kitten. Walk a dog. Cuddle a...any animal that will let you cuddle it. And if you don't have an animal to love on, let me know and you can come over and spend time with one of ours.
To be clear, this post isn't a cry for help. I know I'm not 100% mentally healthy right now (just like I'm not 100% physically healthy right now and probably never will be again - it's so fun getting older 😩), but I'm also working hard to find ways to cope with the things in my life that are frustrating, maddening, and stress- and anxiety-inducing.
I just wanted to share all this so if you're going through something similar, which I know A LOT of people are, you'll know I'm right there with you. We can do this.
This article may not make parents feel "better", but it will probably make parents feel less alone.
"My kids spent a year at home, following the rules, then got vaccinated, and are now choosing to mask at schools. They’re pulling their weight. They made real sacrifices that they don’t expect to be acknowledged for making. And of all the lessons they’ve learned as students of life this year, the hardest one to accept is that leadership can fail us…and some people truly do not care about how their behavior impacts others…especially those who need more protection."
A quote from my wise friend, Julia, after reading this article. I feel exactly same way.
Scheduling note: this post is taking the place of tomorrow's post. See you on Friday!
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