Disclaimer: These are not tips and lessons that may relate to everyone, these are purely what I have learnt for myself in this situation.
1. It’s okay to feel negative emotions and to not always look for the positive.
Recognising and affirming how I feel can be extremely validating. Extra points when someone else just listens and validates these negative feelings.
2. Social media and news outlets have a negative effect on my mental health.
How often do you find yourself aimlessly scrolling through feeds hoping to find some inspiration, or even a slice of something that will make you feel happy? Then, after absorbing yourself (even for 5 mins) in this world, how often do you feel even worse off than before you began. Yes, I may occasionally read an inspiring article, see a funny meme that I share to my nearest and dearest or even read a viewpoint that makes me feel validated, but for the most part being on social media has the opposite effect on my state of mood.
Sad news stories, controversial news stories, freak stories... these are what sell in the media. I’ve also learnt something else which I already knew. The more I click on similar stories, the more they are fed to me. The internet knows all & feeds us more of what we engage in.
3. Good food makes me happy.
Yes, good food definitely releases some kind of endorphins for me. This may not be scientifically backed, but good food is definitely a win for me. As much as restaurant food & ice coffees are not great for the budget or diet, these are the one luxury that enable me to treat myself in a tough time. So yes, we may have scrapped takeout out of our budget back in 2017, but in 2020 a yummy in house date night dinner is important.
I’m by no means saying to completely blow your budget and/ or diet, but I have learnt that it is okay to treat ourselves to provide us with one of the few things that can cheer us up in an extremely trying time. Learning to not be too hard on myself is definitely a work in progress.
4. Forward planning is so passe’.
The truth is we never were in control, but living with so much uncertainty at any given time, I have learnt and am still learning how important it is to live day by day, in the moment.
5. Recognising triggers to mental health issues is imperative.
Recognising what activities or interactions heighten negative thoughts and feelings is so important to manage feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, sadness etc… Being aware of these enable me to stop myself from placing myself in a situation that may be a trigger or to distance myself when noticing negative impacts on my wellbeing.
6. Everyone reacts differently and RESPECT is key.
Just because someone may not wear their heart on their sleeve, or someone else may have a different viewpoint to me, does not mean that they are not struggling in some way or another. Everyone is different, everyone has their own story to tell and showing respect to others even when they may grate at us is vital.
7. Don’t underestimate the power of ‘checking in’ with others.
Yes, there has definitely been a lot of rubbish out there and yes there are a lot of limitations in how we can support one another, which has frustrated me to no end! But in saying that there have been people in my life who have regularly checked in just to see how I am going. And on the flip side, I have tried to do the same in return. With social isolation being a major roadblock in our lives, this small gesture has meant a lot and this touching base has almost become a part of my new routine.
8. What may work for me to cope may be so different for the next person. There is no one size fits all.
If you follow my social media you probably know that I love meal planning. This gives me a sense of control, structure and achievement. This suits my personality. But for others, such a notion of having to think about what I’m going to cook for an ENTIRE week is just plain daunting and overwhelming.
Similarly, some people have used this time of lockdown to channel their creativity. For me, I am just trying to get through the here and now and taking on anything extra would probably throw me off balance.
9. Humans were made to be social beings.
There is a verse in Rashi’s commentary in the Bible in regard to the story of Noah and the flood, in which “only” Noah remained, which expresses that Noah was lacking as “man was not made to be alone.” Humans are social beings and being isolated is unhealthy and is incongruent with who we are. Whether one may be extroverted, or more introverted, social interactions are a healthy part of our existence and without these our mental health is negatively affected. This is not a new phenomenon. Noah also suffered because of social isolation.
10. Humans are fallible and there is a higher being who is ultimately in control.
From not being able to control an infectious virus, to political dramas worldwide, to miraculous stories of survival and to devastating stories of loss, I have never felt more strongly that there is a Higher being controlling the world. Our saviour does not come from a political figure, a lockdown strategy or the journalist that asks the right questions; yes all of these may play a part in the narrative that unfolds, but ultimately human beings do not run the world. What I have learnt the most, is to place my trust in the one above.