How to Maintain Mental Health Balance in the Midst of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic
An eerie feeling of unrest is constantly present in our lives now. 2020 is full of the unknown, as the Covid-19 pandemic has made great shifts in our physical, financial and mental well being. We are living in a time where all of us struggle to complete the basic functions of life, as hopelessness and separation are filling our hearts, minds and news feeds. Polarizing politics are creating deeper voids between us through propaganda and fear-mongering (no party is innocent of this, either – it’s universal). Words like hate, anger, confusion, isolation, depression, exhaustion, and sadness litter all of our communications.
It’s easy to get lost in it; to feel like your tiny voice in this big loud world is never heard. It makes sense to feel that your problems are insignificant, and feeling the way you do just means you’re weak and broken.
In the “Old World” (pre-2020) the above was generally considered accurate by most of society. It’s only in the last 10 years or so that mental health has become more of a main-stream conversation; that those who struggle with it are not weak or useless, and can continue to make valuable contribution to humanity.
“Close to one billion people globally have a mental disorder and those with severe mental disorders tend to die 10 -20 years earlier than the general population. Suicide is claiming the lives of close to 800 000 people every year ̶ 1 person every 40 seconds ̶ and is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29 years. Relatively few people around the world have access to quality mental health services, especially in low- and middle-income countries where more than 75% of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders receive no treatment for their condition at all. “World Health Organization – Joint News Release |”Global challenge for movement on mental health kicks off as lack of investment in mental health leaves millions without access to services” | October 7, 2020 | Accessed October 24, 2020
The lack of focus on mental health care alone has not prepared us for 2020’s harsh reality. We are all suffering in one way or another. It makes sense that we struggle to view ourselves as salvageable; like we can feel better than we do while sickness, financial ruin, and solitude work so hard to destroy us.
This has prompted me to write for you today. As you may know through reading my other work, my own mental health and well-being has been something I have focused on for a long time. I am honoured to have the ability to share with you some of the coping mechanisms I have learned through my own journey; not just this year, but in all my years of life thus far.
Simply put, this means accepting that you are worthy of a happy and healthy existence as you are right now, despite things that you are not proud of. It’s recognizing that you have done the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time. Acknowledge all of yourself – the good, and the not-so-good-yet. Sure, that can be difficult as we tend to be our own worst critics. With time and repetition, you can make the space in your heart to accept yourself as you are.
2. Acceptance of Others
This is just as important as self-acceptance, for the same reasons. The ability to see that others have a right to be their own unique self; having a right to their own feelings, thoughts and opinions, gives us the ability to feel empathy. When you accept people for who they are, you let go of your desire to change them. Everyone is different. Once you get cozy with this truth you can stop trying to change people into who you want them to be and start accepting them for who they are.
3. Release Judgement
It’s easy to look at someone who is different from you (which is everyone) and point out what we see as their “flaws”. Sometimes we judge and criticize people without even realizing it. Instead, look for the good that is also inherent within them (just as it is inherent within you). They are also doing their best with the knowledge they have right now. Remember, if they could do any better, they would.
Just like you.
4. Face Your Fears
“The best way out is always through”Robert Frost
Fear is normal, and typically starts when we are facing something unknown that we cannot control. It originates in the amygdala, a region in your brain sometimes called your “lizard brain” because it deals with primal human responses. All the things you do carry some level of risk. That doesn’t stop you from living your life, and neither should the things you’re afraid of. Stay focused on your actions, not your involuntary responses and you will be able to face fear like a warrior.
5. Embrace Your Vulnerability
Vulnerability is a double-edged sword, especially in today’s world. We are born vulnerable and stay that way until adulthood when self-awareness and fear of not being accepted makes us want to appear unshakable. When you build walls to avoid getting hurt, you aren’t able to fully appreciate intimacy and close relationships. It’s important to remember that you are in fact a work of art – vulnerabilities and all – and the masterpiece of you is whole; you are brave just for continuing to exist, you are beautiful despite your flaws, and you are brave despite your fears.
6. Foster Your Existing Supportive Relationships
It is common to disconnect with others when you are feeling unwell mentally and emotionally, often because we don’t want to be a “burden” or to bring other people down. The people who love you now, and accept you as you are will be more likely to offer non-judgmental listening, company to appointments, general encouragement, and good old fashioned love! Talking with other people who acknowledge that mental and emotional health requires hard work and support (usually because they are working on their own, too) will help you develop your own fortitude.
7. Seek Professional Help
Seeing a therapist or counselor can be a scary experience. You know I’ve felt this too if you read my post about my own first experience with it. It wasn’t that I was against therapy ad inifinitum, I just didn’t want to admit I needed it myself, because I was too afraid. If you can relate, remember that no human can be expected to navigate the complexities of our brains’ processes around emotion without professional help. Some of us will need more help than others, and that is completely acceptable. You are not less-than because you can’t do it alone. You are brave for being honest, and accepting your desire to improve. Both of those things are wonderful, and healthy.
I’ve struggled so much myself to find ways to cope with the insanity that has been 2020 so far. My hope is that now you can see you are definitely not alone, that you are normal, and that there are ways to achieve the healing you need.
You are part of the beauty and diversity that makes up the human race. You are imperfect, as we all are.
The good news is, you can be imperfect. It is absolutely okay to not be all the things you want to be. You can be unemployed, divorced, addicted, angry, and broken from things that happened in your childhood…
… and you can still be okay.
It’s possible. Don’t give up. You can do it.