Noah Beacom, a prevention specialist, at The Project of Primary Health Care wrote about his mental health strategies and journey since the start of the outbreak, and we wanted to share it with you in case that it will be helpful to you. Noah is not a licensed mental health professional or health care provider.
I have come a long way in my mental health journey, fighting through chronic depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you in the hopes that they might be helpful.
Writing is one way I process my thoughts and feelings. Creating this blog post is one way I am working on improving my mental health. I hope you’ll share your best practices on coping during this time. You can share your ideas with me via email and I’ll try to post some of my favorites later this week.
This is tough
I think the first thing to recognize, is that this situation is nobody’s version of easy. Most of us have never been through a pandemic. Those that lived through the HIV epidemic and lost scores of friends are still experiencing old wounds, and the current pandemic can trigger those old wounds and feelings to resurface.
Now more than ever, it’s really important to be easy on yourself. Think of your best friend or a beloved family member. If they came to you expressing the struggles you are feeling inside, how would you treat them? You would make them tasty soup, send them a cheerful note, or just listen. You can do those things for yourself too.
I do think it’s important to move our bodies right now. I take my dog for 30 minute walks outside every day. I’ve also been able to meet up with my family a few times a week to take socially-distanced walks. Since I work in a clinic, I take it upon myself to stay about six feet away, but having conversations across the sidewalk is better, sometimes, than being alone.
There is also a 20-pound weight in my home, and I have been thinking about picking it up. No success on that front yet, however.
Like many people, I’ve been trying to read more. The Des Moines Public Library offers members access to audiobooks through the Libby app, so I will throw on some headphones and listen while I’m doing chores around the house.
Right now, I’m listening to Theft by Finding: Diaries (1997 – 2002) by David Sedaris. He is a gay man who writes wry comedy, and his diaries detail his early 20’s and beyond, and all the interesting neighbors he encounters. It’s a fun and funny book.
Another book I recommend that is quite hilarious is Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. It follows the internal lives of anthropomorphized creatures: their sex lives, their working lives, and the cooky relationships they have. It’s a fun listen and is read by the author, who has a knack for bringing out the best in his writing.
Outside of reading books, I have been working hard to limit my news intake. Sometimes I that doesn’t work. When I realize my news habit is getting out of control, I try to remember I’m just trying to do my best to find a sense of control in a world that feels out of control right now. That’s okay too.
Well, this one’s the toughy, isn’t it?
Man, I have been feeling so much depression and anxiety.
Things like job security, financial security, health, wellness and the list goes on.
Will I get the virus?
Will I pass it on to someone else by accident?
There are so many questions racing through my head, it becomes almost intolerable. I just read this article today that my yoga teacher passed on to me. The author says “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief” and he points out the fact that we are grieving the way things used to be, and we’re grieving the future that we may inherit. I recommend you give it a read for some extra tips on managing grief.
One thing we can all do is stay present. I have a string of “mala beads,” which are rosary-like beads that come from the Buddhist tradition. As I move my way through the beads, I breathe in and out and say a short prayer. That has helped me too.
When I say spiritual, I don’t necessarily mean religious, although some people express their spirituality in religious ways. The church I belong to is offering twice-daily Facebook live meditations, and I think that’s pretty cool. Otherwise, I think of spiritual wellness as that sense of feeling connected to the wider world, and perhaps trusting that things work out for the best.
Sometimes I delve into astrology or tarot to try and make sense of things too. I think it’s okay to remember that the grass is still turning green, the birds are starting to chirp (I saw a couple of birds gettin’ busy on my walk yesterday), and most of the natural world doesn’t even know there is a pandemic. The trees will live through this epidemic and, I hope, so will most of us.
During stressful times, some of us can turn to sex as an outlet to distract or de-stress. I think that’s okay, but right now I also feel a responsibility to take care of my health and the health of people I come into contact with, so I am limiting my sexual activity.
Let’s get real here for a second – masturbation is a good way to go. But don’t settle for regular masturbation, I recommend trying to make it more sensual like you are truly making love to yourself.
One way I’ve found to do this – as silly as it might sound – is to give myself a bit of a massage with some essential-oil infused massage oils. In short, try and give yourself some love.
These are just my thoughts
I’m not a mental health professional or health care provider, but I think there’s some value to sharing our stories. Ultimately, that’s the best way to connect, by telling our stories.
So, tell your story to me, or your other friends or family, or just to yourself. Write it out in a journal, or make some fun doodles.
We’ll get through this, together.
Oh, and I guess baking is really good for you? Try that, too.