Cultivating mental health is possible, even in a pandemic
Look, we get it. The last two years have been some of the weirdest, most difficult times most people can remember. Uncertainty has taken over just about every sector of our lives–uncertainty around our physical safety, job security, travel, the financial markets, our children’s educations, even our favorite Netflix shows were impacted by this pandemic. It’s no wonder people are reporting higher than ever levels of burnout, anxiety, depression, and just plain Over This. So when I say good mental health is possible, even in a time like this, most people want to know...how? How do we cultivate mental health now, even in times of great uncertainty?
Uncertainty is certain
Human brains don’t like uncertainty. It makes us uneasy, not knowing how to predict what will come next, and can stimulate stress hormones that leave us feeling irritable, unable to sleep, and worrying about anything we can. But the one thing that is always certain in life IS uncertainty. There are literally no guarantees, ever…we just usually have enough of a pattern in our lives that we feel like some things are “settled” enough for us to predict. The past two years have shaken up our patterns, and we’re feeling the strain. So how do we get comfortable with this new pattern, relax into what is, and stop stressing about the future that isn’t even here yet?
Pre-gaming our stress
When we feel anxiety, worry, and that uncomfortable feeling of dread at all the things ahead of us that we can’t control, we are literally pre-gaming our stress. We feel like we might experience stress in the future–and we might–but worrying about it now, before it has even happened, is literally like pre-gaming our stress. We’re creating situations where we actually stress twice: once when the event actually occurs, which is usually manageable because we’re focused on getting through whatever “it” is and finding solutions, but also before the thing has even shown up yet, which is really pretty pointless when we actually think about it!
How many times have you worried over something only to get to it and realize it wasn’t that bad? Or maybe it turned out totally different than you imagined it would? When we think about the future, we can only think about it from the perspective of what we know now, and we truly have no idea what we may know by the time our court date rolls around, the in-laws show up for the holidays, or the big project proposal is due. In the same way that you wouldn’t expect kindergartners to be prepared for high school math, you need to give yourself a break! What can you know about the situation? What can you do from here, where you are today? That’s all a person can do. To worry about it only cuts off your access to creative solutions and flexibility.
Let Go of Guilt
It’s a mantra in our mindfulness-based recovery center: “You did the best you could with what you knew at the time.” Write that down and look at it every day. We are all just making the best decisions we can with where we are mentally, physically, and emotionally, and when you know and feel better, you do better. But release the guilt and pain of mistakes in your past, and see where you can increase your knowledge or understanding of the things you’ve struggled with in the past. That way, if it shows up again, you’ll be able to handle it better, with more grace and wisdom.
If you can allow yourself to acknowledge what you know is true, that you don’t have have control over most of what you think you do, you can begin to move beyond pointless worrying and let go of guilt that holds you back. These are the first steps towards cultivating good mental health now, when you need it most. Are you ready to get Centered?
If you would like more information about how to move towards a healthier you, whether you’re struggling with addiction, anxiety, stress, depression, or burnout–Centered Recovery can help! Call us at 800.556.2966 for information on how to begin.