October 3-9 is Mental Health Awareness Week, but I think at this point we’re all pretty aware that our mental health is, collectively, not great.
I by no means want to downplay the importance of recognizing and seeking help or support for mental illnesses such as clinical depression, anxiety, and the like. But rather, I hope we’ll all realize it doesn’t take a formal diagnosis to understand that our mental health, much like our physical health, has its ups and downs. What is going on in the world around us is taking a toll on our mental health in ways we may not be familiar with.
We’re more than a year and a half into a global pandemic and it is taking a toll. As a parent, and an overthinker on a good day, I find myself questioning and analyzing every decision I make. Is this activity safe? Should I change what we’re planning? Should I add some precautions, or am I being too cautious? How is this going to affect my children, mentally and emotionally? It. Is. Exhausting.
What is even more exhausting is that we can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. There are still upticks in not just COVID cases, but in the number of arguments over what we should or should not be doing about the pandemic at this point. Everyone wants this to be over and to go back to “normal,” but we certainly don’t agree on how to get there.
That mental exhaustion seeps throughout our lives. We allow too much screen time. We let messes go too long. We wait until the last minute to write something because we’re too fried to come up with a good idea. Our patience is shot. Our short-term memories are shot. Our communication skills go down the toilet.
But what can we do about it? Even before the pandemic, our mental healthcare system was overloaded. Many people feel they can’t afford to seek help in the form of a therapist or medication. Some are able to find a level of relief on their own, through things like journaling, meditation, spirituality or a new hobby, but many are too mentally worn out to try to figure out something that will help them.
I don’t really have a solution for all of this. My only suggestion – and hope – is that we can all adapt a stronger empathy for those around us and believe that we’re all doing our best. I came across a Facebook post the other day that really resonated on this front, and I’d like to share some lines from it for everyone to consider:
“If someone is falling behind in life, you don’t have to remind them. Believe me, they already know…. It’s what consumes their thoughts each day. What you need to do for those who are struggling is not to reprimand, but encourage. Tell them what’s good about their lives, show them the potential that you see. Love them where they are. When we can’t see clearly for ourselves, we need others to speak greatness over us.
“People don’t need you to tell them what’s wrong with their lives, they already know. They need you to reassure them that they can still make it right.” (credited to Brianna Wiest, who, according to Wikipedia, is a writer known for work on mindfulness and is a graduate of nearby Elizabethtown College)
Maybe in our efforts to lift others, we’ll find ourselves uplifted.