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These 'Inner Conflicts' Might Explain Why You're Having a Hard Time Taking Care of Yourself

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Life during the COVID-19 pandemic is surreal. Public streets are as quiet as they’ve ever been, while grocery lines are packed with shoppers in increments of six feet. So many out-of-the-house activities have been cancelled or moved online. Stuck inside, it may be tempting to try to squeeze more productivity out of all of this new free time.

For those of us with a mental illness, it’s not that simple.

A graphic made by The Depression Project does an amazing job explaining why. You see, struggling with your mental health can be a series of inner conflicts. You know what you should do, but don’t have the energy to do it. You know reaching out and connecting during this isolating time is important, but you might feel like you don’t deserve to. You know there are certain expectations you need to let go of, but you’re afraid of what your life would look like if you did. The Depression Project calls these things “The Inner-Conflict of Mental Health,” and they’re relevant now more than ever.

I have a massive list of passion projects. Music to remix, novels to write, books to read and free classes to attend. But even though I have an extra 45 minutes every day with no commute, I can’t seem to get traction on any of them.

That’s because being cooped up inside takes its toll. I miss a lot of my regular social gatherings. While I have cracked open several projects, I continually get distracted or sidetracked. It’s easy to lose a sense of the current time or the day of the week. Everything kind of blurs together. It’s like all of my anxieties and depression are getting thick in the air of my apartment, and I can’t open any windows to fan them out.

This goes to show that time is not enough by itself. You can have all the time in the world, but without energy, peace of mind or a strong sense of self-worth, your brain will give into those inner conflicts and fill that time with anything it can to curb your doubts and emotional pain. And when it comes to a choice between the easy path and the hard path — cooking microwavable meals and scrolling through memes on social media, versus preparing a three course meal of whole foods and tackling an intellectually challenging project — your brain is apt to choose the easier one. Especially if you’re already tapped from your mental illness on a good day, and you add all of the trauma and emotional collateral damage that accompany an uncertain future in a virus-stricken world.

There’s an old saying that knowing is half the battle. But the other half — acting on what you know — is just as hard.

So if you’re behind or slacking on the things you know you “should” do, that’s OK. Take a few deep breaths and realize that your worth is not based on your productivity. Let me say it again. What’s good and valuable about you is who you are, and not how many boxes you can tick on an arbitrary checklist.

This is an absurd and wild time to be alive. There are a lot of real, scary things in the air right now. The economy is listing and taking on water, we’re all stuck inside all day and there’s a virus that has no current vaccine or cure spreading all over the world. If you’re giving into these inner conflicts, feel unable to perform basic self-care or to use your time efficiently, that’s completely understandable. You’re human, and you’re allowed to be afraid, to sleep more than usual, to spend time on seemingly frivolous things and to mark time instead of maximize your time. Staying alive and sane is priority number one. Your dreams of learning an instrument, getting fit, eating well, learning a language, fixing the house, saving for retirement, graduating, landing that new job or promotion or whatever are not gone. They’re just on hold for the moment. And you’re not obligated to make them go forward when the rest of the world has ground to a halt.

This crisis will pass. Social distancing is already starting to work, and in some states, the rates of new infections are coming down. We have a few treatments being studied that could help if they are shown to be effective and safe. We’ll get a vaccine for this, and we’ll be able to contain it.

For now, if you make just incremental progress on yourself or are just treading water where you are, that’s enough. The things you “should” be doing with extra time will be here for a while — just know you do deserve to reach out to people, and you can work on fighting these inner conflicts when we all feel a little safer. So sit back, put on a movie or scroll through some memes, and remember that just to be is all you really “need” to do right now.

Concerned about coronavirus? Stay informed with these articles:

You can follow The Depression Project on Instagram here.

Lead image via The Depression Project

Originally published: April 12, 2020
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