Personal Struggles Aren’t Any Less Important During A Pandemic

All the more reason to prioritise your mental health.

When the world essentially shuts down in the blink of an eye, where even the humdrum of daily life grinds to a halt, the world’s busiest cities in a state of complete emptiness we never would’ve imagined possible, it’s fair to say, it’s shocking.

I’m probably still in shock. The speed, gravity, and all-encompassing way this pandemic has permeated and disrupted every aspect of our individual and collective lives is — based on sheer scale — impressive.

Such a massive event triggers our fight or flight instinct, it takes us off balance, and for many of us who suddenly find ourselves with a lot more time on our hands to ruminate and a lot less human contact, it shifts perspectives and perhaps makes us come to realisations we otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Like every single one of you, I have personal struggles of all shapes and sizes. But since home confinement began, I’ve learned to see the bigger picture and really found a renewed sense of not sweating the small stuff. I am but a speck in this universe, and in the face of a ruthless, invisible enemy, feelings of surrender and acceptance are welcome emotions. That’s the upside.

The downside is, I may have also inadvertently used this global pandemic to sweep my personal issues under the rug, thereby delaying dealing with them, and to some extent, trivialising them.

The last few days have been really tough emotionally. No matter how hard I tried to shrug it off, I still had to navigate a tangled web of emotions that came in powerful waves. It left me sad, deflated, confused. But I kept telling myself, “Stop it. There are doctors, nurses, frontline staff dealing with real dangers and saving lives. What you complaining about?” I pretty much shamed myself for even thinking of worrying about my problems when the world is going through a giant one of its own!

Then one morning, I found myself bawling in a corner of my kitchen floor. Surprisingly, I had the presence of mind to take a selfie to remind myself of that low point. I was shocked at myself. I let myself cry, scream, howl in pain until I couldn’t anymore. I couldn’t breathe (really not a good thing when “shortness of breath” immediately triggers Covid fears). It was at that low point that I made a decision I should’ve made a long time ago. I stood up and thought, “Right, stop this right now. Deal with your problems. Pandemic or not, I’m going to work on myself.” The sight of a strong, independent, ambitious, driven, hopeful, positive woman on the kitchen floor shook me awake.

For the first time ever, I spoke to a life coach via zoom. Well, that’s not exactly accurate. I did test the waters twice before but ended up taking notes on their line of questioning and psychoanalysing them instead. So I never went back. I know, that’s not how it works. So I just thought it wasn’t for me. But that moment on my kitchen floor — a moment of complete loss of control — scared me enough to give it another shot.

When I made that booking for a call with the coach, that gesture alone made me feel like something had been lifted inside me. It was a step towards something positive. I was taking action. I felt empowered. It’s a tiny first step, but a step nonetheless. My problems needed to be dealt with regardless of what was going on in the world. These are the cards I was dealt, it’s not any more or less important than anybody else’s. It’s just a fact of my life.

I’m not an expert. These are based on my own personal experiences and are things I’ve told myself and realisedin the past couple of weeks:

Just because there’s a global pause doesn’t mean your struggles are trivial.

I briefly touched on this already. What’s happening in the world has no connection to the struggles you’ve been dealing with even before this pandemic came along. Whining about actual trivial concerns is one thing, but legitimate struggles are not trivial. Your struggles are real. Do not trivialise them. Doing so feels unhealthy.

Just because there’s a global pause doesn’t mean your personal boundaries are on hold too.

This was the source of a lot of anxiety for me. Perhaps because I felt nothing matters anymore in this weird apocalyptic world, I had let my personal boundaries slip a little and some people take advantage of such openings. Doing so eroded my self-confidence and self-worth. Catch yourself before it gets out of hand. Do not ever let anyone cross your personal boundaries. Not even in a pandemic.

There’s never been a better time to talk to someone. Maybe a friend, maybe a professional. Be open.

It feels like we’re set up especially for remote one-on-one talk time. Everyone’s on zoom these days, and being home all day gives us the perfect opportunity to really talk to someone or perhaps sneak in a session with a pro. I’ve never felt so nervous about a call before. I was nervous because my lowest point pushed me to confront myself. It felt like stripping my soul bare. That is damn scary. Saying my struggles out loud was therapeutic in itself. I thoroughly enjoyed my ‘discovery session’ today and wished we could’ve gone on and on and talked all day! Alright, that might be the self-isolation talking.

Acknowledge and observe yourself when you hit a low.

It’s okay not to be okay. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions are bubbling up inside you. And when you find yourself hitting rock bottom, take a selfie, write a journal entry, or find any other way of recording that moment. Seeing ourselves at our lowest is confronting and a stark reminder that we don’t want to be in that low place. Seeing myself writhing in visceral pain shocked me into action.

The world might have come screeching to a halt, but we keep on living. We keep on going. It’s easy to fall into complacency when we now have the ability to stay in our pyjamas all day long, occasionally putting on a blazer for work calls; get away with not washing our hair for days; bingeing on Netflix; zooming with as many people as we can; and engaging in all other activities of this isolation life that can be both a source of much-needed connection and entertainment, as well as a slippery slope to zombification.

Look, Covid-19 is many things. But it isn’t an excuse to hide from your pain or hit pause on yourself and your struggles.

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