Mental Health in a Pandemic

     The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world. State and country lockdowns and quarantines that were implemented to stop the spread of the virus has affected people physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually. Therefore, the emphasis of mental health is all the more important.

    Many people’s mental health has been impacted negatively by the pandemic. Many have become distressed and discouraged from the lack of financial income, in-person connections, and established treatment for the virus. Many are stuck in abusive situations due to being unable to leave their homes. Furthermore, for those who are essential employees, they are risking their lives while dealing with the cruel and ignorant portion of the population. 

   The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While a month dedicated to mental health is great, mental health must be emphasized every day and every month of the year. When our mental health suffers from overwhelming neglect and stress, we are unable to function well; in fact, we become a hopeless shell of ourselves. Therefore, more resources and avenues need to be implemented to help those suffering emotionally and mentally.

   The world is able to repair itself from this pandemic. However, our mental health deserves more care now than ever.

Business Does Not Equate to Fulfillment

     Hey, everyone, I’m back with another blog. In the past three to six months, many of us may have been experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of you-like myself-may not be able to work at this time, or you’re an essential worker and may need to work in distressing circumstances (if you are, thank you so much for your sacrifices and services in this chaotic time). Life either has slowed down or sped up for you throughout the quarantine procedures your state or country has implemented. Yet, even in such a rough time, we are able to learn things about others or ourselves.

     As I’ve said in past posts, the middle of last year to the beginning of this year was unbelievably rough for me, with my mental health declining to very low points. I lost a lot of relationships in this time-due to situations or my own decisions to end these interactions-and had numerous academic and professional stressors. Fortunately, by the grace of God, as well as the presence and increase of healthy, positive people in my life, I began to improve mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. 

    I also started to incorporate and embrace moments of alone time; this has helped me to not only learn more about my character, flaws, and goals, but it helped me to become more comfortable with being alone and still. I started to feel peace in not being busy and accepting my thoughts and feelings for what they were, and letting them go. All this information brings me to something that has been cemented for me in this quarantine: business does not equate to fulfillment.

   For most of my young adult years, I was around busy people. I was friends with them, I dated them, and I went to church with them. I often felt insecure with my own life and myself in seeing everyone constantly on the go, and seeming to have productive days, weeks, months, and years. I attempted to create a busy life for myself because I honestly led myself to believe that a hectic schedule was normal; furthermore, because of past hurts and fears of my own depressive and anxious thoughts increasing, I didn’t want to allow myself too much space to rest.

    Here’s where my lessons begins to form: I realized that I was excruciatingly miserable and exhausted in trying to be overly busy. I neglected important relationships, obligations, and my own self-care. Partially why I think I was able to overcome that painful time period I discussed earlier is because I had no choice but to sit with myself and evaluate myself; I had to allow myself to rest, recuperate, and reflect. From these painful circumstances, I truly developed healthier relationships with God, with people who matter, and with myself. I grew in self-love and appreciation towards those who truly cared about me. I was able to clearly think about my academics and career without overloading myself with plans and activities that were genuinely draining and fruitless.

  I think often, we live in a society that has the idea of, if we do more, we show others we’re living fulfilling lives. We convince ourselves that packed schedules indicate happiness and success in our lives. In reality, we’re burning ourselves out. We barely have time to create and deepen bonds with wonderful people and with God. We barely have time to focus on projects and duties that are actually able to benefit others and ourselves. We barely have time to give ourselves care and love.

  I look back on the memories of those “busy” people, and I realize that a lot of them were probably upset and tired in their own lives; they constantly seemed to run on fuels, and couldn’t provide deep connections with those around them, as well as cultivate self-care and self-love towards themselves. Instead of being jealous of them, I feel empathy for them. I hope in this quarantine, they have been able to rest and reflect on the goodness of rest and self-love, as well as the importance of cultivating deep relationships with healthy people and God.

  My final piece of advice: create a balance between productivity and rest. Some business is necessary for our lives in order to advance our careers, academics, and interpersonal relationships. However, business does not equate to fulfillment in life; too much business will only lead to burnout.

Know Your Limit with Others

     (Hey, all! I’m sorry for not being active and for not updating my blog. I’ve had a busy month with completing my second semester for my master’s, as well as dealing with a lot of new changes academically and professionally. Now that I’m finished with my semester, I’m going to be returning to blog at least once a week. So, with that being said, let’s go to the topic of today.)

    I want to discuss the importance of knowing your limit with others. Too often we burn ourselves out in attempting to help or please people with our time, energy, and resources. And while selflessly helping your loved ones and others in need is commendable, you have to make sure you’re not at risk of being emotionally and physically drained. 

    Likewise, when you attempt to please others through giving them what they want and shaping your identity in their values, you’re going to experience emotional and physical depletion. Your time, energy, and resources will not be used for the right reasons. Furthermore, you begin losing pieces of yourself in an endeavor to receive acceptance and affection from those who most likely don’t deserve either. 

   Therefore, we need to know our limits with others; we need to create boundaries in our relationships that assist us in being able to love those around us while protecting ourselves from potentially avoidable hurts and weariness. We’re not able to help anyone if we’re too empty emotionally and physically in our own lives. Additionally, we should not be willing to lose ourselves for people-especially for those who don’t care about us for the right reasons. 

   Boundaries are able to take time to cultivate, but they are worth creating in order to help those who genuinely deserve our assistance, as well as taking care of our own needs. If these boundaries aren’t respected by those around you…well, then you have a clear understanding of who truly deserves your time, energy, and resources.

Be Intentional in Relationships

     We are in some crazy times with the pandemic of the COVID-19 occurring throughout the world. Many places (including where I am) have implemented social (or, rather, physical) distancing, in which we as civilians need to distance ourselves from each other in order to slow the spread of the virus. However, despite the physical separation, we are able to continue to cultivate our relationships.

     We need to be intentional in our relationships; not only for our own mental health, but to give support, compassion, and love to those who are struggling physically, financially, emotionally, and/or spiritually-especially in this time. We might not be able to give all those things in person; however, we are able to still call, text, or video chat with someone to see how they are and if anything is able to be done for them. We are still able to give some kind of encouragement and accountability from afar.

     Furthermore, even outside of this pandemic, we should be intentional in our relationships in general. We need to continue to grow in relationships we deem beneficial, healthy, and fulfilling in our lives. If we truly care about those around us, we will do our best to be there for them; and, if we truly can’t be there for them due to our own issues or business moments in our lives may cause, we should explain that to them in order to lessen fears and worries (this is outside of relationships in which distance may be needed to help both parties cool off and reflect on things).

     My biggest encouragement and advice are for people in relationships-platonic or romantic-to foster vulnerability, honesty, empathy, accountability, trust, and care for one another. Let the people around you know that you love and support them. Pandemic or not, we are able to be intentional in our relationships.

What to Learn in a Pandemic

     Pandemics are tough to experience. They are able to affect millions of individuals physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. Recently, most of the world has been undergoing the COVID-19 pandemic-also known as the Coronavirus. This virus is a more strenuous strain of the flu that attacks respiratory systems of the body, especially those who are elderly and/or who have compromised immune systems.

     Yet, despite the fears, confusions, and hopelessness this pandemic has brought, lessons are still able to be learned from it; hope is able to be cultivated from even the ugliest circumstances. Some lessons I personally learned are: the importance of being hygienic; discernment of real and fake news; being intentional in learning about the affairs of the world; the emphasis of continual self-reflection; and intentional appreciation and communication toward loved ones.

      The first lesson is about hygiene. We all are able to do better with hygiene, for others and ourselves. I’m twenty-five, and I’d still see people my age not wash their hands after using the bathroom; that’s gross. When we don’t take care of ourselves, we’re able to negatively affect those around us by getting them sick. We are also able to get others sick if we’re sick and we’re going out in public instead of staying at home to rest and recover. Therefore, this pandemic is able to teach us the importance of being hygienic by washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth with your arm or elbow when you cough, and staying at home when you’re not feeling well.

     Secondly, we are able to learn to discern which is real or fake news. Too many people are posting fake articles about this virus, which gives readers either misleading information, more fear, or false hope. Basically, fake news creates more harm, confusion, and hopelessness. Therefore, we need to be careful what articles we read, as well as be careful with what news we watch on television. Go to your state or country’s government websites for updates on what’s happening within each state or country. Diagnose whether or not certain headlines are accurate or misleading. We are all able to work together if we’re well-informed on what’s happening.

    Thirdly, we-including myself-need to become more aware of what’s happening around the world. A lot of countries are in deep disparity and poverty, with extremely corrupt governments. We need to have sound information and compassion for those around us in order to better understand how pandemics such as the COVID-19 are able to spread throughout the world, and how they are able to be stopped in their tracks. We also are able to learn from one another in how each country handled the virus.

    The fourth lesson we are able to acquire is the emphasis of self-reflection. Many of us are unable to go out much due to state lockdowns, lack of employment, and not wanting to potentially pass the virus to others. I know for me personally, I hated being stuck in the house in the beginning of this pandemic. I felt completely trapped and suffocated, and felt unfulfilled in not being able to work and be more social. However, through God and the encouragement of friends via phone or video chat, I’ve been able to self-reflect on myself; I’ve been able to have introspection on how I’m able to use this time wisely, and how I’m still able to be productive and fulfilled. This pandemic is able to be a time to catch up on tasks, spend time with loved ones, and grow as a person for the better.

    Finally, I believe this pandemic is able to teach us to be more appreciative of those around us. Socializing in person has been cut drastically due to this whole pandemic. I know this has created a lot of loneliness for me in the beginning-as I’m sure it has for others. Yet, I was still able to find ways to communicate through the use of video chat, phone calls, and texting. This time period has truly increased my appreciation and love for my friends; and I will be extremely excited and grateful to see them all in person once this whole thing is over. 

   My advice and encouragement is to reach out to the ones you love. Maybe you owe someone an apology. Maybe you lost touch with someone. Life is insanely short-and this pandemic has reminded us all of our mortality. Therefore, we need to be more intentional in how we use our time and energy toward others and ourselves. We need to grow in self-care, compassion, understanding, appreciation, and love. 

   This pandemic may be our temporary “normal,” but the lessons we are able to learn from it are able to be permanent.

Quick Fixes Prolong Problems, Not End Them

     Negative events and emotions aren’t fun to experience. We cringe at the notion of enduring anything humiliating or painful. Yet, as life has good moments, it also has bad moments that are unable to be avoided. Furthermore, quick fixes to negative emotions or events create temporary solutions-and even bigger problems.

     We have moments in life in which we try to numb our pain in order to avoid the problem in front of us. We may rebound into a new relationship in order to not feel the pain of our breakup. We may turn to substances and alcohol as a way to keep negative feelings at bay. We may use supplements and natural remedies in order to put a bandage on a more serious health matter. Yet, when we make these temporary solutions, we’re only prolonging the problems we’re desperately trying to avoid; thus, we end up worsening and lengthening problems that would have been able to end through time, self-reflection, and care. We also deny ourselves the chance to live a fulfilling and loving life.

     Pain is unavoidable in this life. We will face it constantly in any stage of life we have. Yet, pain doesn’t have to be all that bad. It is able to teach us lessons of who we want to be, who we should have around us, and how we’re able to take care of ourselves. It is able to help us see what is good or bad in our lives, and if those things are able to be fixed. When we create quick fixes, we’re denying ourselves the chance to grow and to be better to others and to ourselves.

     Quick fixes seem like great solutions, but they’re only merely bandaging a problem that will fester and rot if not dealt with immediately. In order to grow and to heal, we need to confront what we experienced and felt. Then, we’ll be able to head toward solutions.

Cultivate an Identity of Self-Worth

     I’ve been learning a lot about myself the past eight months. I’ve learned about negative interpersonal patterns I’ve developed from my childhood. I’ve learned about my limits in different areas of my life. Mostly, I’ve learned about the importance of my self-worth-and why I need to grow in my identity as a person.

     Self-worth is an important concept for us to embody in our identity. Self-worth means to have respect for ourselves; to confidently believe that we have worth in our character and abilities. A lot of us have lost our sense of self-worth from painful experiences in our childhood, heartbreaking relationships, and increasing insecurities. However, our self-worth doesn’t have to disappear from our lives; rather, it is able to be built and cemented into our identities.

     We need to cultivate an identity of self-worth: not just to be healthy in positive platonic and romantic relationships, but to be healthy in our bodies, souls, and spirits. We have so much worth-more than we realize. Therefore, we need to blossom into who we are in order to continue to grow as the healthy people we’re meant to be. 

    I’ve come to accept and to embrace my self-worth, as well as the importance of cultivating a healthy sense of self-worth in who I am. My encouragement and hope are for everyone to learn to see themselves in a positive light-and to see how much worth they truly have.