I was talking with a friend the other day and she mentioned that she felt that her mental health was declining during Covid 19. This made her feel really nervous and unsettled. It felt really bad to her. Really wrong.
I was curious to know what she meant when she said “her mental health was declining.” We hear the terms mental health so often and used in many different contexts and I wanted to know what exactly it meant to her.
She said she felt this way because she wasn’t holding it together. She was crying a lot, feeling really frustrated and unhappy. She sometimes spent her evenings crying in bed because of how sad she was. She also felt that she wasn’t coping well with her work because she was constantly upset and angry and felt like she was falling behind because she couldn’t keep her emotional state in check. Overall she was really sad and this was why she believed her mental health was declining.
I was grateful to her for opening up and sharing what she was experiencing. I found it super interesting to hear what a “decline in mental health” meant to her.
As I listened to her I felt that it was quite likely that many people could relate to her at the moment. She missed her friends and family, felt very alone and really wanted her life to go back to the way it was before. She was sad. She was angry. She was upset. She was experiencing some negative emotions based on her thoughts. That, to me, doesn’t mean her mental health is declining.
After our chat, I began to think about what mental health means to me.
I decided it means being able to allow and process all the emotions that are a part of being a human being. It means feeling sad, disappointed and angry and allowing those emotions without making it mean that something is wrong with me or that I am not being strong enough or good enough. It means feeling happiness, joy and confidence one day and then fear, anxiety and sadness the next. It’s all about opening up to the ups and downs of life and accepting it for what it is. Feeling all the feels.
That’s what mental health means to me.
What mental health doesn’t mean is always being strong and holding in the tears. It doesn’t mean never fighting with those we love, always being positive and never unhappy. It isn’t about being super proactive and productive all the time and never missing a deadline at work because you were struggling with something. And it doesn’t mean your mental health is declining if you yell at your children when they don’t do as they are told and you then spend the night crying about it.
These things, these emotions, are all a part of being a human being. And they will always be a part of our lives. Our human lives are 50/50.
50% positive and 50% negative. And that’s actually a beautiful thing.
Because sometimes we want to feel sad, angry or upset about things that are happening in the world and sometimes we want to feel happy and joyful. That’s life. Some moments we are up and some we are down.
In my opinion, a decline in mental health is the fighting against and resisting of negative emotions over time. It’s the fighting against our emotions and not allowing ourselves to feel - it’s that resistance that over time will create a decline in mental health. Because when we resist our negative emotions and make them mean something bad, we compound the experience and make it worse. Much worse. We actually create pain on top of our pain.
But when we can get to a place where we accept our human lives for what they are and allow ourselves to feel all of it and never, never ever, make it mean something is wrong with us, then we have hit the jackpot.
Here’s to living the 50/50 human life my friends. Love you all.
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