The first pandemic in nearly a century. It’s a disaster on steroids. It has changed our daily lives. In some ways there has been some positive things that have happened. But sometimes I think those of us who try really hard to find hope in every situation look deeply to turn something extraordinarily troubling into a search for meaning and purpose.
No doubt this is a stressful situation for almost everyone. There’s always an outlier.
Stressful situations can trigger underlying mental health conditions. It can also cause an episode of depression or increase anxiety. In my case, having bipolar disorder has been a benefit and a detriment to my overall mental health.
The benefits are many. One, I know how to manage my mental health. I’ve studied it, struggled finding a balance and utilize my prescribed medications to help me stay even keel. Secondly, I have deep understanding of my illness and how it effects me. This situation has made me even more aware of how symptoms manifest in my everyday life. I’ve gained a great deal of insights in understanding my thinking, emotions and behaviors.
All valuable stuff.
On the other hand, I’ve come to realize one of the symptoms I experience is paranoia. It happens when I get stressed. The more stress – the more ruminating paranoia. It’s actually emotionally painful. Of all the symptoms of bipolar disorder that is the one symptom I never really realized or understood.
And now I do.
Reflecting back in the course of my life I can see how a little kernel of paranoia can turn into making life changing decisions in an instant. Without realizing what I was experiencing it was an extreme vulnerability. It still is. But less powerful because I am aware of it and can do something about it.
My message today is to take a moment and analyze your thinking, emotions and behavior. Stress does interesting things to our brains. The only way we can get ahead of it is to find coping mechanisms to help us deal with the situation in as healthy a way as we can. And if you are struggling reach out to a friend or family member for support. If you feel like you need a little extra help don’t be afraid to reach out to mental health care professionals.
A few things that help me are being outdoors, exercising or doing active physical work, turning off the news, praying, talking to friends and family, doing something mindless, like watching Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Most of all being aware of how this Pandemic is affecting me and what I can do to minimize the negative affects is my key to survival.
I’m reminded of a book I read years ago, “Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do!” In my view, the greatest power in toughness is acknowledging vulnerabilities. It’s like knowing your weakness and playing to your strength. If I can’t dribble well with my left hand, I’m not going to go left when my team needs me to drive hard to the basket. I’m gonna fake left and go hard right every time. And I’m going to work on my left hand, so I get better.
Mental healthiness requires an effort, practice and hard work. In the future we will all hopefully look back on this situation and realize we were a lot tougher than we may have thought. But it will take work to make it through and maintain mental health.
Best wishes to all of you.