Jordan Tweedie –
Throughout my entire life, I’ve struggled with severe anxiety and depression. Most of the people around me are well-aware of this because of how often I’ve spoken out about mental illnesses and advocated for others to seek help. I’ve also been vocal about my (fortunately positive) experiences with counseling and medication, along with tools I’ve gained to sustain a positive mental attitude. Whether it be through therapy, medication, or any other method, I believe that everyone should find healthy coping mechanisms for handling stress. With everything going on in the world, now is the best time for people of all ages to find what works for them. Because of this, I want to discuss what has helped me to improve my mental health during the last few months in hopes that some of these methods may inspire others.
Let alone focusing on self-care and finding new hobbies, it’s still important to have some sort of (safe) social interaction during quarantine. We shouldn’t place the expectation of cutting off all in-person social contact upon ourselves when we so direly need it for our mental health. This is especially true knowing that others are struggling with the same feelings of isolation and cabin fever. Fortunately, meeting up with individuals outside in an open area with masks and social distancing offers a safe way to still see others. I found that this helps me to get fresh air and sunlight while not confining everyone’s breathing room to an enclosed space. My neighbors and I even decided to set up weekly hangout sessions in front of each other’s homes after we discovered how much doing this helped us all to cope. In addition, I’ve participated in drive-by birthday parades, driveway dates with my fiancé, and socially-distanced picnics with friends to help fill in the social gaps of my life. It’s provided such a sense of normalcy and happiness to just be around other people, even at a distance, and sharing each other’s experiences face-to-face (or rather, mask-to-mask) has become invaluable.
While everyone experiences mental illnesses and their various symptoms differently, I think that we can all relate to feelings of either sadness, numbness, panic, shock, or even grief. It can be especially hard to gain control of these thoughts and emotions when one is constantly surrounded by reminders of Coronavirus and all the other negativity in the world. Although it’s generally a good practice to stay informed, sometimes it’s best to turn off the tv, log out of social media, and try to focus on habits that can bring happiness or at least offer a temporary distraction. For me, this consisted of fostering three cats, cleaning and reorganizing most of my mom’s house (where I’ve been quarantining), playing video games, focusing on skincare, listening to music, cooking, baking, and more. It may be hard at first to find something that’s entertaining, but the reward of discovering a hobby can help one to feel more in-control of their situation and help them settle into a routine that provides stability. It may not seem like much and it may be simple, but solely dedicating time to oneself and one’s wellbeing can work wonders on the mental state. It can also help lessen feelings of burnt-out when dealing with school, work, or any other stressors, making this essential for the future.
Out of all the lessons that the past few months have taught me, I think that the most powerful one has been to allow myself to truly accept my emotions. I want others to know that it’s okay to be upset, even if the reason seems trivial or insignificant. We are all witnessing major historical events and changes, and no individual should feel like they need to bottle up their emotions during a time like this. Despite being physically confined, we can make the choice to not be mentally and emotionally confined too. Reflecting on experiences through writing, making videos, talking to others, or anything else can help us take these troubling times day by day and become our most genuine selves. No matter what you’re going through, whether it be difficulties with Coronavirus, fighting against racism, or battling mental health issues, know that you are never alone, and there will always be at least one person fighting alongside you.
For a list of other resources, check out http://strong.fsu.edu.