Mental Health in Trying Times

Grumpy

I’m not even sure where to start with this post.  I want this post to be about mental health- because I think this is something we all need to pay close attention to right now.  I am no exception to this.  Our lives have all dramatically changed and been altered in the last week, and they are changing at a very dramatic pace. 

A month ago, I had just gotten back from Europe, after having the time of my life.  I got back to one of my dogs being a little bit sick…2 weeks after I got back, we had to put him down.  Grumpy was with me for ALL of my 20s, and in to my 30s, he was my little buddy.  Grumpy had been through lots of life changes, lots of different houses/apartments, as well as a few boyfriends (as one of my girlfriends not so subtly pointed out).  He never complained and he was just so adaptable to whatever came next.  I couldn’t have asked for a better four-legged kiddo, and he will always have such a giant piece of my heart.  So, I’m sure one day I’ll forgive my Europe trip, and remember how fun it was with some amazing friends (who had an amazing elopement btw) but right now it is the trip that kept me from spending the last few weeks with my best friend…and I hate that.  I know the whole speech, “you couldn’t have known” and “you just can’t do that to yourself”… well yes, I can.  While I appreciated the kind words from my friends, I don’t really want to hear the whole speech, just let me feel crappy about it for a little while.  I think it’s funny how we don’t really let people process things, and we never just let people feel bad.  It’s okay to not be okay sometimes, and we need to accept that.  I remember a few years back, after an already epically hard year, I wound up in a walking boot and crutches for a couple of months, following an accident (no, I was not doing Crossfit, I fell down my stairs).  I had been through the ringer that year and I was tied together with a smile.  My fall broke me- I wasn’t okay and I just needed it to be okay that I wasn’t okay, if you know what I mean. But it’s not… we never just allow people to not be okay, we insist that they make strides in the right direction, and wonder what’s wrong with them when they don’t.  Well, I wound up breaking down and crying at my physical therapists office (those of you who know me know how rare that is) and telling him, “I’m just done, I don’t want to do it anymore”.  As you can imagine, I quickly got a referral to a mental health specialist, because those words could mean way more than I intended.  But my point was, I’m done trying to be okay, I’m done keeping it together with a smile (which again, those of you who know me know, I’m not really a “smiler”).  At the time, I felt like I just needed to stop trying to be okay…and I felt like nobody would let me, or maybe I just wouldn’t let myself.

So, bringing it back to present day, I got back from Europe and 2 weeks later I lost Grumpy.  So, I tried to throw myself back in to my routine… gym in the morning, going to work, coming home and spending time with the fur family that is left.  But I couldn’t really get it back together.  Going to the gym in the morning just pissed me off- I’m never super pleasant at that time anyways, but I’m pretty sure I was just a jerk at that point.  So, back to the home gym to try to brush off my attitude and remain in isolation until I could.  And then, the world goes to hell in a hand basket. 

Within the last week, I’ve lost all of my work, and I don’t know when it will resume.  We have zero stability nor insight to our current situation.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, this is just all part of me painting a picture.  And that picture is that I’m not exactly in a mentally healthy place.  My body has been operating under high stress loads for the past 4 weeks now, and we are clearly not catching a break.  And, I know I am not alone.  So many people have lost so much this week, so many of us are wondering how we are going to pay our bills, if we can keep our businesses afloat, and what comes next.  I just want to say it’s not okay…everything is going to be okay, but right now it’s not okay, and that’s okay.  We will get through this, and we will come out on the other side.  We will have scars to bear, and I doubt we will ever forget this, but we WILL get through this. 

I just took a lot of time to tell you guys why my mental state is beyond fragile at this point, so let’s talk about things we can do to improve our mental health during these trying times. 

  • Don’t worry about tomorrow, just get through today.
    • You can worry about tomorrow all day today and ruin today, or you can just enjoy today and take tomorrow as it comes.  Don’t let your thoughts control you and don’t dwell on them.  Let them come and go, but don’t dwell on negative thoughts…it was just that, a passing thought. 
  • GET OFF YOUR PHONE!
    • Holy Coronavirus crap!  Put your damn phone down.  I avoided reading any articles or any COVID related information today.  I turned off the radio.  I didn’t watch the news this morning.  It was really nice!  We have to separate ourselves from social media and all of the information out there.  Pick a few credible sources that you trust, check in with them once a day, and then move on.  Don’t let it become your life!
  • Focus on the things you can control, not the things you cannot.
    • This plays into the above point- reading stats on COVID all day and keeping up with how many cases are in the state hourly and discussing the economic impact of the whole situation is great, but we cannot control any of those.  Talk to your friends, get it off your chest, but make sure you step away from it as well.  We cannot control our current situation, but we can choose to eat well, exercise regularly and help out our community right now… so let’s spend time doing that instead of worrying about everything else.
  • Eat well, exercise regularly
    • I know finding the food we want is challenging right now but give your body what it needs.  Trust me, stress eating is my jam, but there are ways to do it in a healthier manner.  So, keep making good food choices, and keep that immune system up! 
    • Keep exercising.  I know almost everybody has lost their community gym at this point, BUT almost every gym is doing some sort of virtual or at home classes.  Commit to it and keep doing it.  You will feel better and it will keep you healthier.  And, it will keep the community together.
  • Sleep
    • Get it… just get some sleep! Not that easy?  Try some melatonin, try a 20-minute meditation session right before bed.  Google guided meditation, see what you find. Read a book.  Don’t just scroll through your COVID flooded social media feed if you can’t sleep. 
  • Get outside
    • Of course, for us Montanans, the weather isn’t great right now, but it could also be a lot worse!  Take the pups for a walk, go for a bike ride, bundle up and just go read outside for a few minutes- it’s not that cold.  One thing I am truly grateful right now is the amount of space we have here.  We have so much open area to roam and right now it’s a lifesaver. 
  • Play a game
    • For those of us with kids, this one is maybe a little bit easier, but for the rest of us, we can forget about this.  Grab a deck of cards, a board game, download something on the TV, whatever really!  We went to our game room and played super Nintendo for an hour the other night… and it was great! Also, we have a hard ‘no phone in the game room’ rule. 
  • Talk about it
    • Have a close network of people that you are comfortable talking with about how you are feeling and what’s going on.  Just because were technically pretty isolated right now, don’t completely isolate yourselves.  Get it out, stay connected, but be careful that you still unplug from everything a bit too. 
  • Ask for help
    • Don’t be afraid to get some help.  These are troubling times and unchartered waters for us right now.  There are plenty of professionals that are probably sitting and home as well, and would be more than happy to help.
    • There is also the Bozeman Help Center (406-586-3333).  They are available 24/7 to provide assistance. 

There are plenty more easy ways to improve your mental health right now, these are just a few that have been helping me through these troubling times.  Feel free to share in the comments what is working for you!  Stay tuned to my Facebook and Instagram pages for live videos on some fun stuff we’ve been doing.  We are currently doing a “Chopped Challenge” at our house.  Last night was the first night, tonight is my turn.  Check out Facebook for the live feed!  Let me know if there are any cooking demos, tips, etc that you guys want to see right now, I’ll do my best!  Hang in there everyone, remember we WILL get through this!  Stay healthy and keep making those healthy choices through tough times!

Amy

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