Testing the Reserves of Our Mental Health

At this time last year, we were all anxious and ready for the quarantines to lift and for it to be safe to socialize again. The spring fueled a newfound optimism, as we anticipated relief from the oppression of the virus due to warmer weather and containment of the disease. But the clear-cut improvement didn’t really come. Here we are, over a year later, and things are still not back to the normal that we previously enjoyed. The world is simply not the same place it was last year, and all of this has taken a toll on our mental health. You’re not alone if you’ve felt mentally exhausted and anguished over the past year. After all the loss we’ve experienced, it’s challenging to live as our best selves.

May is National Mental Health Awareness month. Mental health is a state of being when our minds are in order and functioning in our best interest. This involves being in control of our thoughts, emotions and behavior. In the last year, the world has been rapidly changing for everyone. As a nurse, I have seen what the human body can go through when sickness is encased in poor mental wellbeing. Enduring long days and high-stress situations has given me a new love for “down time” and quiet. We may have weeks that seem slow and uneventful but it is still important to take a step back and breathe. We do not always need to be on the run to deserve self-care. I have learned coping mechanisms and routines that have helped me reconnect with joy even in the most difficult of times.

We can get to know ourselves better through journaling, listening to what makes us happy and paying attention to our strengths and weaknesses. I encourage you to maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising and avoiding harmful substances. Avoid activities that are stressful and unnecessary. Engage in productive work, such as volunteering for your community. Helping others in need influences your mood; and by doing something meaningful, you also enhance your own spirit and get the endorphins flowing.

The health, job, family and economic-related aspects of life are the parts of mental wellness that are always in jeopardy. Life is full of changes and challenges that can develop over time, resulting in mood shifts. Being a nurse comes with the stigma that we take those hard times and absorb it all without consequence. We are expected to persevere, even through a year like the last. When life throws obstacles at us, it is important to spend time with family and friends, look for positives and take breaks when busy. Breaks are a beneficial way to relax while recharging your mind and body. And when these things are difficult to do because of public restrictions, we need to get creative.

In addition, we need to bring more awareness to the concept of mental health. It’s not a fictitious problem or one that is less serious than physical ailments. As a society, there are multiple acts of kindness we can do to show compassion toward people who suffer from poor mental health and wellness. We can encourage self-care, recognize the signs of being burnt out, share resources and provide a place for that much needed break. Check in with those you love via call, text, email or a visit. These things are beneficial for anyone experiencing poor mental health and wellness – age, sex, and occupation do not discriminate.

As you finish the last sentences of this article, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Do not forget that you are alive. Revel in the moments you feel happy. Smile at the little things. When you make these small acts part of your daily routine, it will help sustain you in times of crisis and adversity, such as the year we just faced and the recovery that is to follow. Your mental health and wellness are a part of who you are. Treat them as if they are as important as your heart and mind. Your body will respond to the changes, no matter how small. And your mind will follow your lead. Enjoy your life – it is in your control.