Helping Ourselves and Each Other Through Hard Times
Life right now is not a slow, enjoyable walk in the park for the majority of us. Add holiday time and a pandemic on top of the “typical” life struggles we all experience and now we’ve got the recipe for the perfect storm of overwhelming feelings with very few outlets accessible to resolve them. I cannot speak for everyone, but I feel pretty confident that the overwhelming majority of people are feeling similarly and would agree. At the very least, each person I have spoken to in the last few months (6 months, 10 months? Honestly, I don’t even know how long it’s been anymore) have all agreed, 2020 has not been easy.
I have checked in with many people about how they are doing or feeling during these times and there seems to be three particularly common trends that I’ve noticed. Those trends include 1) venting that turns into guilt because they know others have it harder, 2) blame and anger directed towards specific groups of people (usually those who have different, shared beliefs) or 3) some response that is along the lines of “I am hanging in there,” with little to no detail. I have even caught myself falling into the pattern of answering the “how are you?” question in one or the other of the above ways, and frankly, that concerns me. I am concerned many of us do not feel we are allowed to talk authentically about how we are doing, feeling, or how we are being affected, because by doing so, that takes away from those in more difficult circumstances. I am not saying that we shouldn’t acknowledge and be considerate of those who are going through far worse, but that shouldn’t stop us from feeling able to talk about our own feelings and struggles.
That being said, I want to send this message to anyone who is reading this blog post. The reason it is vital to talk about our feelings is because it is the only way to take charge of and be accountable for our wellbeing. Simply talking and owning our story helps us cope by allowing these struggles to live somewhere that is out of our heads. Talking about these feelings also allows us to be listened to, validated, and supported, which significantly diminishes the feelings we may have of being in this struggle alone. Sure, we may need to be selective about finding the right listener (we all know some people who could use a lesson or two in active listening), but there are plenty of people who are great listeners and/or have the potential to be. If you have not yet found that person, whether they are a trained mental health professional, a family member, or a friend, than I encourage you to journal and even to get out of your comfort zone and reach out to a virtual support group where others experiencing similar struggles can hear you, relate with you, and go on a journey of mutual healing and self-help with you.
Another thing that I feel is an important reminder for all of us right now is that when we share our feelings we are not being weak in doing so and we need to recognize that we are instead being strong. Being vulnerable and honest is so much more difficult than putting on a mask and providing a generic response to the dreaded, never ending “how are you's?;” doing what you can to put into words how you are feeling (in an honest but appropriate way that is considerate of your audience) as well as demonstrating to others that being open and vulnerable is acceptable inspires other people to do the same. Right now we are all in a very strange and difficult place that no one expected or was prepared for. One of the few things we all can do for each other and ourselves is to be open and talk more genuinely about how and what we are feeling. This is how we become connected and stay connected with others, especially during some of the most isolating times many of us have experienced throughout our entire lives. I’m ask YOU to be vulnerable, share how YOU are feeling and allow some of the weight you’re carrying to be lifted and when you are checking in with others make sure that you are challenging them to do the same.
PS. Here is a link to some low cost mental health resources for you to check out as you continue along your wellness journey: https://lifehacker.com/top-10-free-and-affordable-mental-health-and-counseling-1788814933
Thank you for reading & be well,
Coach of Youth MOVE New Hampshire’s Youth Peer Support Specialists