Mental Health Lessons for a Global Pandemic
I haven’t written in awhile. To be exact, it’s been almost three years since I last wrote a proper post. The reason being is that the last three years have been hard. I’ve been working really hard to get my mental health to a stable place — I just haven’t had the right headspace or energy to write.
I finally got into a manageable place at the start of this year and then COVID hit and the pandemic happened. My anxiety skyrocketed and my thoughts went to a very dark place as I was away from family and friends due to restrictions. Three weeks into our first lockdown, I made a really quick decision to fly back home to Melbourne for the lockdown as I just wasn’t coping anymore. Some people may not have agreed with it, and even though I have now found myself in the middle of a more intense lockdown than the first, coming back to Melbourne to be with family has been the best decision I made this year for my mental health.
And so I’m writing this post to share how the stuff that I learned over the years in my journey with dealing with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts has helped me cope with this pandemic and Melbourne stage 4 lockdown.I hope it helps you, especially if this is your first time experiencing a decline in your mental health.
1. It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK that you’re not feeling your best self at the moment. It’s OK that you’re feeling sad, down, unmotivated, anxious, etc. In fact, they’re actually quite normal feelings to feel in uncertain times. Just remember you’re not alone, and to always reach out for help and let people know you’re struggling. Even reach out for professional help if you need. Don’t do this alone.
2. When your mind in a really dark place, instead of mulling over it, do something that will distract yourself. That could be anything from calling/texting a friend and telling them how you feel, to blasting your favorite song, to rewatching a feel good show. Whatever it is, do something that makes you feel better and helps break your thought train. However if this doesn’t work, and your dark thoughts are still raging in your mind and getting louder, and you don’t feel safe, please call the emergency number and/or a mental hotline. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when dealing with really dark thoughts, especially if you intend to follow through on harming yourself
3. Do things that bring you happiness or joy. No matter how small that is, add them to your day. It could be cooking your favorite dish, reading a few pages of your favorite book, watching an episode of your favorite show or playing games. Whatever it is, add it to your day.
4. Don’t let others tell you what you need to be doing or how to use your “free time” in this lockdown. It’s OK if you have to take it slow right now. You don’t have to be productive in this time. You don’t have to start a business, hit your fitness goals, write a book, learn a new skill or any other thing that people are doing. If all you can muster up is the energy to do the basic necessity in your life, that’s enough and OK. Don’t compare yourself because we all have different ways to cope and energy and mental capacity, so it’s OK if at the moment yours is not enough to do something huge. What you’re doing to get through each day and to survive is enough.
5. Get fresh air and do something physical each day. It can be as simple as a 10 min yoga stretch, a quick walk around your block or a proper workout. Whatever it is, try to move your body each day.
6. Reach out and stay connected with your people. Text them, send them a meme, call or video them. Whatever it is, try to lean in to community. Don’t do this season alone. We may be physically apart, but we have technology that can help us stay connected so use it.
7. Break down tasks into small parts. Don’t feel guilty if you no longer can tackle it in one go. It’s OK to break it down and spread it across different days and time slots.
And for those who are Jesus believers, here are some extra reminders.
8. It’s OK if you’re dealing with mental illness. It’s OK if you need to get professional help or take medication. None of this makes you a bad Christian and it doesn’t mean you don’t have enough faith and didn’t believe enough.
9. It’s OK if at the moment all you can muster is reading a verse a day. Don’t feel bad about it. Remind yourself it’s better done than not doing it at all. God cares about our heart and intention more than how we “perform.”
I hope this helps at least one of you. It’s a hard time for many, but please don’t give up, there is light at the end and brighter days are ahead. I can’t say it’ll be easier but you’ll learn how to manage it better as time goes on. And like the saying goes, “this too shall pass.” So please keep holding on and be here to see the other side.
I’m proud of you and I thank you for riding this out.
Much love xx
Getty image via Lyubov Ivanova