2020 has been quite a year. It’s hard to believe we are already in December and the year is almost over. It felt like 2020 was just getting started when the pandemic hit and crushed all of our plans and expectations. I can’t wait to put 2020 to rest and I hope 2021 is a much better year for all of us! As we enter this cold and isolating holiday season, I hope you’re doing okay and taking care of your own mental health and wellbeing. It’s a very hard time but I think we have a lot to be hopeful about too. 2021 can’t be much worse than 2020 was, so that’s something right?
Many people are experiencing mental health issues for the first time right now. We’re all going through challenging circumstances: Not being able to spend holidays with your family, all gatherings being canceled, business closures and restrictions, uncertainty about the economy and jobs, and not to mention fears about the health of your family, loved ones, and yourself. It’s a lot! It’s completely understandable if all of these things are weighing on you and you’re experiencing mental/emotional distress unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.
I understand. Mental health issues aren’t new to me. As I blogged about in the past, I have anxiety. I’m a seasoned anxiety sufferer. It’s something I’m well-versed in and know all too well.
So for you, my friend, who may be struggling mentally or emotionally right now, I want you to know a few things that I have learned the hard way over the years.
Here are a few things I’ve learned that might be helpful for you too:
1. You are not alone in this
I know your brain is telling you that you are the only one going through this. Your brain is telling you that you are alone, but I can assure you that you’re not. There are so many others that are struggling too and experiencing a mental health issue is actually surprisingly common. In our culture, it isn’t too common to talk openly about mental health struggles, so it can be easy to think that you’re the only one. Know that there are probably many people in your life who are going through or have gone through the same thing at some point! You are definitely not alone.
2. Talk to someone about it
Talking to someone about mental illness symptoms you are experiencing can be really scary. It took me years to talk to anyone about my own anxiety, mostly because I didn’t realize I even had anxiety. I just thought everyone felt this way. But I learned the hard way that this only makes things worse. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, please reach out to someone about it! Having someone to listen to you and validate your emotions can be a great first step in getting help.
3. Take care of yourself
Self care over the next few months is going to be critically important. Where I live in Pittsburgh, the weather is very cold now, it’s getting dark early, and we’re not able to see many people due to soaring Covid-19 transmission rates. For me, self care looks like getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising regularly, socializing and having a spiritual practice. Mainly it’s about staying in a healthy routine and taking care of my mind and body. If one of those things starts to fall out of balance, my anxiety will begin to creep in. Socializing might look different than normal for a while – I know I personally have been on more zoom calls than I prefer, but any way to connect with other people is good. Take some time for yourself and focus on something that you really love. Maybe that means watching some of your favorite movies to take your mind off of everything going on in the world right now. Maybe that means starting to do some online workout classes. Whatever it is, commit to it and see how much better it makes you feel!
4. Seek professional help
This is probably the most important piece of advice. Do not be afraid to seek professional help if you need it. There is no harm in speaking to a therapist to get some help and advice. A therapist can help you deal with many things, such as symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, grief, anger, relationships, etc. Most therapists are doing virtual sessions right now so you probably won’t even need to leave your house to talk to someone. If you need help finding a therapist, you can check out the post I wrote, How to Find the Right Therapist for You. There are also a lot of really awesome new therapy apps to try, such as Better Help. NAMI also has some really great resources for finding support.
Seeking professional help is the single most important thing I ever did to manage my own anxiety, and it definitely has made the biggest difference. It can be a scary step, but can make a huge difference in how you feel!
5. Remember this too shall pass
It doesn’t always feel like it, but everything in life (including this pandemic) is only temporary. Nothing in life lasts forever. The tough things we are going through right now will probably seem irrelevant one year from now. Also, if you are feeling emotionally distressed, know that things can and will get better if you reach out for help. You do not have to feel this way forever. I can honestly say that I am in a very good place mentally right now because I have prioritized my mental health, and I reach out for help when I need it. The pandemic will pass, and we’ll move on to the next big challenge. My biggest piece of advice from this whole post is this: Prioritize your mental health, seek support when you need it, and take care of yourself. Life is too short to suffer in silence.
For immediate assistance with a crisis, you can leverage the following resources:
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline – We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
- NAMI Help Line – The NAMI HelpLine is a free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resource referrals and support to people living with mental health conditions, their family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public. HelpLine staff and volunteers are experienced, well-trained and able to provide guidance.
About the Author: Lauren Sheu is mental health advocate, speaker and writer, full time project manager, running coach, mother, wife, and founder of Running for Wellness, a blog and run coaching business with the purpose of breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness and helping others to improve their mental health through running. Lauren is also a NAMI In Our Own Voice Presenter and Trained Family Support Group Facilitator for Spouses of someone with a mental health diagnosis.