In case you didn’t know, Canadian Mental Health Awareness Week is May 1-7. This is an extremely important week for me, and it should be for you too, if you are a living, breathing, functioning human.
Short disclaimer: this blog is on a more serious note. BUT that shouldn’t deter you from reading it.
I am someone who is extremely positive and good natured (not a word?) 85% of the time. 15% of the time, however, I retreat into a place that is so unlike me that it truly feels like I am not myself. EVERYONE has these times, whether they want to admit it or not, but I believe that it’s important to talk about them because that 15% of the time, you feel so lost, alone, and isolated it seems like no one can possibly understand what you are going through. And that prevents you from talking about it, isolating yourself even more in your silence.
Here is what that 15% looks like for me:
A single thought crosses my mind, and related to what I am doing or not, it quickly becomes all-consuming because I am rendered unable to think about anything else. I quickly become sweaty, and shaky, and retreat inside myself. Usually these thoughts are so far-fetched they probably aren’t even possible. But that thought doesn’t occur to me until hours later. The crushing sadness of futility and the inability I have to do anything about my situation is defeating, especially given my personality that is usually so upbeat and positive. If I can’t help myself, how can I do anything, really? It is dark, it is scary, it is incapacitating and it is overwhelming.
But these feelings don’t last forever. Sometimes you are able to escape, and sometimes you just need to ride it out. But if you are looking for an escape, here are some things that have worked for me:
- Listen to music that you can sign along too- Sad or happy, upbeat or relaxing, whatever works for YOU-just be sure you know the words and can sing along. Somehow, singing releases some of the pressure that is built up inside of you. I’m sure there’s some real science backing this up, but I’m too lazy to look, so just take my word for it, ok?
- Hang out with kids-This is easier said than done. I live in a daycare, so it is something that I have been around all of my life. Kids don’t care about your grades, your relationships, or whatever is stressing you out. They just want you to be happy, and their moods are infectious! If you can’t physically be around children, just watch some videos of kids doing funny things on YouTube!
- Get outside-whether you live in the city or a small town, everyone could use a little more nature in their lives. A short walk can do a world of good. (Again, I’m sure science plays a role here but I can’t be sure)
- Write-This is something that I do often. I know that having conversations with real people can be beneficial as well, but sometimes it’s difficult to open up, especially if it is something you are embarrassed about (you shouldn’t be!!!). I find that writing is a happy medium because you are still expressing what you need too, without having to feel awkward. Writing is judgement-free, and allows you the ability to say EVERYTHING you want to say. More often than not, I rip up and throw away what I write during these times because looking back on how lost or alone I was feeling makes me really sad-but that is just a personal preference!
- Plan a trip-Can’t handle where you are at the moment? That’s FINE! Make a plan to go somewhere, anywhere else. And when I say plan a trip, I don’t mean a hypothetical “If I Had a Million Dollars” fantasy trip. Get into it! Look at Airbnb’s, check out flight prices, look at places you’ve always dreamed of going. The more consumed in your task you become, the further away your current state goes. Planning a trip doesn’t necessarily mean booking a flight and leaving tomorrow, but you never know! One of my trip planning escapes is taking me to Thailand this summer, so never say never!
On a final note, these are tips that work for ME, and ones that I have learned after years of trying other options. A sixth and final tip I have is to talk to someone about how you are feeling. I didn’t include this tip because it isn’t one that I use as much as I should. I find it very difficult to open up to people about how I am feeling because I have tried and experienced failure with it in the past. If I tried to talk to someone and they didn’t respond exactly how I hoped that they would, I immediately became angry and frustrated and even more distant than I was previously, and that’s not fair to anyone. It’s not fair to pre-plan what someone else SHOULD say in your head before you have a conversation, because you have no idea what is going on in their world. However, this is something that I hope to get better at in the future, and you should too-the benefits far outweigh risks. Maybe the first person you talk to isn’t going to become your #1 confidante for life. But that’s okay-you’re making progress by even opening up about it in the first place. Keep trying!
Keep trying, keep talking, and keep listening! Not just this week, but every week-I encourage you to try and make this week your stepping stone into being more engaged with your mental wellness, and the mental wellness of others.
Whether you want to admit it or not, everyone needs help sometimes.
When in doubt, always be kind.