How do you start a blog about feelings and mental health? I wrestled with this, as right now my own brain is stuffed with information from several recent webinars on the topic that I attended for work. Rather than bombard you with statistics and terrifying trends, I will start with this:
How do you feel?
The last time I remember this question being so perilous was in the days after the September 11th attacks. We need to ask. We need to answer. Yet the whole process can be so complex.
Early in the lockdown, I was fortunate enough to stumble across some churches that were streaming services to fill my insomnia hours. No, this is not a blog about faith or getting you to practice a particular religion. Recently, one minister I’ve been following posted this a reflection on the feelings charts we often use with children to talk about difficult emotions.
There’s been steady improvement over the years about how we, as a society, talk about mental illness and emotions. The UK installed a Minister of Loneliness (though the results are mixed), celebrities are sharing their personal struggles, and higher education is increasing services, as we realize that mental health is inseparable from the total human experience. Now the whole world is going through a crisis, together…but alone.
It has never been more important to understand your own feelings, and to respect and validate the feelings of others. However, knowing this doesn’t seem to be giving us universal improvement. There are still mild meltdowns, like people who yell at grocery store workers, and experts are bracing for an increase in suicides. There’s no area of mental health awareness that doesn’t need our attention now, and that in itself is overwhelming. So, let’s simplify.
1. Identify how you are feeling a couple of times a day. Hey, use the chart if you need to. Emotional intelligence is built upon awareness of what’s happening in your own head and heart first.
2. Acknowledge others when they reveal their feelings to you. Remember you don’t need to fix them or advise them. Just be there to listen and validate.
3. Remember that we all have permission to feel. This is the worst pandemic in a century, so you feel the way you do, and that’s okay.
4. Validating feelings doesn’t mean acting on all of them. The news might be infuriating, but don’t shoot the television. Grocery shopping might be annoying, but don’t vent your emotions on the store employees or other shoppers. Life might be frightening now, but don’t allow fear to deprive you of critical thinking.
The old world, where we could ignore mental health issues, is gone. Beating the Covid-19 virus is only half of the battle for creating a new and better society. How do you feel about that?