Throughout a week in October, many mental health providers and mental health advocates take time to raise awareness of mental health. This includes trying to normalize taking care of our mental health by taking time to go to therapy or finding other ways of self care. We try to tell people that it is ok to feel the feelings that we need to feel and that it is ok to need help. This week this year ended two days ago, and I decided to take care of myself instead of trying to have an Instagram storm of materials for my followers. Well Bryna? Why would you want to take this time off in particular? It’s a great time to build awareness of mental health! How did you miss that opportunity? The simple answer is that I couldn’t, so I didn’t.
Over the past month, I have made a lot of life transitions on top of the world being in a global pandemic, a tumultuous election cycle, and just taking life’s challenges one day at a time. Last Tuesday, I got word that one of my favorite family members had died. I made myself push through the rest of my week until Thursday evening. By Friday, I physically, mentally, and emotionally could not do anything else that I considered to be work at that point. And for those of you that know me know that work is the one thing I can always do. I can compartmentalize enough that work always continues to stay what I’m good at. But I couldn’t anymore last week. So I missed the opportunity to write something for mental health awareness day on Saturday and here we are.
So what did I do instead? I first let myself be sad. I knew that members of my family were gathering for a funeral for our beloved cousin and I couldn’t be there. I listened to my feels playlist, I let myself watch mindless TV, and I just let myself be. It was while I was letting myself be that I realized just how exhausted I was. Everything feels harder right now and many of us have lost some of our normal coping skills. One of mine is to workout, but I have just felt too physical tired to take 30 minutes or an hour to myself to move my body. I have been mentally exhausted while trying to balance all the things, adjusting to a life more fully at home to work, and working on new projects to build my business. And then there is emotional exhaustion. We hit a point that there is only so much distracting coping skills we can use. Only so many episodes of New Girl that we can watch to distract our brains. Only so much of throwing ourselves into our jobs to avoid what we are feeling, because eventually, when it’s most inconvenient, everything will hit you all at once.
Another reason why I love mental health awareness week is that we need to be aware of our mental and emotional health every day. It is important for us to lean into our feelings when they come up. Yes, get through your day at work if you need to compartmentalize until then, but allow yourself time when you are done. Let yourself feel sad because you are grieving. Let yourself be angry, confused, or happy! I like to do this in a safe place and I do not recommend trying to cry while driving because that’s not safe. But if you feel like, especially during all of our time at home, that your safest place is your car, take yourself to the park and just let yourself cry or scream in the safety of your car. Take some time while you are leaning into your feelings to really try to determine what things really help you feel better. Make a playlist, find a good book, exercise your body, or find ways to see your support people safely.
One thing that this pandemic has taught me and many people is that our mental health is important. I have always thought our mental health is just as important as our physical health. We cannot pour from an empty pitcher, and sometimes filling ourselves back up includes letting ourselves feel instead of filling our lives with distractions. What things have you found helpful in this crazy year? Drop your thoughts in the comments!