If this pandemic has taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected. So much new information is emerging, but thankfully we have armchair scientists to put us right with their conclusive findings – published and propagated for free on social media. We can queue for new scatter cushions at Dunelm but can’t hug our own family. Beach parties don’t spread Covid-19, but BLM protests absolutely do. Oh and don’t forget unnecessary travel is a big no-no, apart from if you are testing your eyes in which case go right ahead!
Basically the entire world has been turned upside down and with no one really knowing what’s going on it’s more than acceptable to be struggling. Mental health is such a personal journey, so whilst your friend with social anxiety might be having a great time hiding from the world, your OCD might be escalating with the fear of germs and viruses taken to a new level. And that’s okay. If I have learnt anything from my years of struggling with mental health, it’s to respect your own boundaries.
Throughout this pandemic I have seen an increase in people becoming more conscious of their own and other’s mental health. Not just the elderly or those living alone, but those stuck in difficult family situations, relationships on the rocks or single parents that might not have seen another adult in weeks. From this we have started to have a new respect for looking after our mental health, and are understanding more about the importance of human connection whilst still respecting boundaries. It’s also really important to acknowledge that you don’t have to be in a tricky household situation in order to make your mental health struggles justified. You can live with a partner you love, be surrounded by your family or happily enjoying the single life. You don’t have to have some special reason in order to be struggling, and a lack of traditional challenging circumstances in your life in no way invalidates how hard things are for you right now.
My hope for the ‘new normal’ therefore is that we continue this respect and understanding of the complex and confusing world of mental health. That next time our friend says they aren’t up to going for that meal we don’t peer pressure or get angry at them, we just say ‘That’s okay, is there anything I can do to help?’. That when our single parent friend looks like they’re having a really bad day and can’t control the kids, we don’t parent-shame them or think they’re doing a bad job, we just offer to take the kids for a bit and let them have some time to go out and be themselves (or just to sleep!). But most importantly, when we ourselves feel like we are having a bad day, week or month we make sure that we really listen to ourselves. If you need to stay home and binge watch Netflix then not only is that ‘allowed’, it’s really great. Taking control and responsibility for your own mental health is so powerful and valuable, and no matter how daunting it may seem you should be so bloody proud of yourself for taking that first step. Taking care of ourselves isn’t just physical, it’s mental too and we should be prioritising keeping ourselves fully healthy and happy.
So in the interests of making this ‘new normal’ bearable, write a list of all the things you do that make you happy. That might be three things or it might be thirty, but either way you can make sure you make time to do those activities, and your brain will thank you for it!