An Open Letter To Anyone Who Struggles With Mental Health in the Wake of COVID-19

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It has been awhile since I have written here. Senior year, especially this past month or two, has been crazy and unexpected. All of our lives have been turned upside down by the rise of the coronavirus. Nothing is normal and for people who have mental health struggles ranging from anxiety to depression and beyond, this abrupt change is particularly difficult.

Every day I remind myself that there are many things I am grateful for. I have a safe place to live. I have great family and friends. I have the ability to support myself; I am lucky. However, my anxiety and depression have been weighing on my mind significantly since quarantine and social distancing first began.

One of the main ways that I cope with anxious thoughts is to try to dismantle them and recognize that often the thoughts are irrational, racing and “all inside my head.” However, in this case what is making me anxious is very real, is killing people, and has no definitive end date. How can you tell yourself it will be ok if you don’t know that it will? How can you convince yourself you’re overthinking when the threat is very serious and grounded in reality? It is a difficult balancing act. I don’t have all the answers currently.

I have always been someone who likes to have a plan. The unknown is terrifying to me and leaves me riddled with indecision. Right now, I can’t predict the future. No one can. Our lives are all on pause for now and that is difficult for me to reconcile with.

I often don’t feel like I am doing enough. I am envious of people who seem like they are handling the transition well. The people who are learning new skills, working and staying active. I can barely do the little things like get out of bed and eat and take care of myself effectively. I often am too hard on myself for my own good. I haven’t been writing anything for my own joy and that’s not normal for me. I wanted to write this as a way to let people who are struggling know that they aren’t alone in their feelings.

I have been telling myself little reminders every day, sometimes verbally and sometimes in writing. I hope they can help other people feel validated as well.

  1. Be kind to yourself and gentle with your own feelings. Treat yourself how you would a close friend or anyone else that you love. You deserve love. Love yourself and love those around you.
  2. You are not failing at life. You are not behind. You are doing your best. You do not need to compare your progress to other people’s.
  3. Prioritizing your mental and physical wellbeing is your number one priority right now. Nothing is worth losing sight of or letting go of that.
  4. It is ok that you are struggling to adjust. This is not the “new normal.” This is not normal.
  5. Celebrate small victories. Little things you do to stay productive and happy throughout the day. Find the small joys in daily life.
  6. Set yourself up for success with smart and specific goals. Don’t try to tackle too much at once. One step at a time.
  7. Live life day by day. Planning is futile in this uncertain time, so instead focus on the things you can control.
  8. Productivity is not the most important thing in life or right now.
  9. Allow yourself to feel all of your feelings. They are valid. Let yourself mourn if you need to. Even if there are people in the world with bigger problems than you, it doesn’t mean your problems don’t count.
  10. Reach out. Even when it is hard and you feel hesitant to share your struggles. People who love you want to hear from you and want to help. Let them.
  11. Get outside if you can. Fresh air, sunshine, and nature does wonders for the soul.

Wishing everyone happiness and safety during this pandemic. Even though it is hard to be hopeful right now, we will come out of this. We are all strong people. We need to lean on one another and come together now more than ever.

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