It’s a new year. 2021. Wow… All I can say is, THANK GOD. 2020 was a challenging year for pretty much everyone. 2020 beat us down, chewed us up, spit us out and continuously kept the punches coming. Not only did it affect people’s physical health, but the emotional and mental well-being of countless people also took significant hits throughout the year. From the global pandemic to civil unrest, 2020 was full of moments that were draining for so many people.
Now, just because it’s a new year doesn’t necessarily mean much has changed. Many of the same issues and obstacles are still lingering. However, I am hopeful that we can all at least do one thing different this year.
That (hopefully) being – de-stigmatizing mental illness and choosing to prioritize your mental health. In times like these, I know it can be so hard to take care of and put your mental health first.
Before 2020 and the pandemic that ensued, one in five adults in the U.S. experienced mental health challenges at any given time. However, updated surveys from the American Psychological Association shows a significant increase in the number of American adults who have reported symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression during the pandemic.
The pandemic, along with the many other challenges of 2020, brought feelings of uncertainty for everyone. From the burden of financial stress, to parents having to balance work and home-schooling their children, to mandatory self-quarantining measures, it has all been extremely overwhelming, to say the least.
But, despite being broken down, you still remain. Over and over again you have picked yourself back up, dusted off your pants, and kept going.
That in itself is pretty freaking amazing.
You’ve made it this far. You got through the craziness of 2020. You’re here now. In a new year. 2021.
So this year, join me in normalizing conversations about our dark moments and our dark thoughts. Conversations about our sadness, anxiety, depression, fear. These uncomfortable parts of our human experience NEED to be talked about, especially right now when so many people are still suffering in silence and in shame. It’s time to prioritize your mental health.
Here are some truth bombs for you to take with you throughout this year and every year after that:
Depression/anxiety are perfectly normal.
Mental illnesses are COMMON.
Struggling with your mental health is not a sign of weakness and is nothing to be ashamed of.
Feelings, emotions, mental breakdowns – these are all part of being human.
Every single emotion, every single thought, every single fear that you experience – every single one of them is completely VALID. Yeah, they may seem totally irrational at times. But they are still valid and still deserve to be expressed. They still deserve to try and be understood.
No one in the history of ever will be able to fully understand the exact fears and anxieties you face or why you face them. Because everybody’s mind is completely different, and everybody’s anxieties and worries and fears are all different. But that’s the beauty of being human, isn’t it? To be uniquely different.
What we can understand is this – our minds and our thoughts can be an extremely scary place to live in. A single thought at any given moment can seemingly take your very breath away in just a flip of a switch. Without warning and without reason, our minds can become so filled with darkness that it can be so hard to determine what’s actually real and what’s not.
Our minds can literally convince us that our worst case scenarios are actually happening and can make us believe that there is not a single thing we can do about it.
I wish more than anything I could tell you “it’s all going to be okay” and “this won’t last long” and “the right medicine and therapy will fix you”. But I can’t promise you any of that. No one can. Because, again, every single person is different. Some people find what works for them relatively quickly. And that’s great. But it’s not like that for everyone.
I’ve been struggling with my eating disorder for years and have been in therapy and recovery for almost 2 years, but I’m still actively trying to find what works for me.
The best advice I can ever and will ever give anyone, is this – don’t keep pushing away those dark feelings, those emotions that eat away at you and keep you awake at night. Don’t keep dismissing them and acting like they aren’t affecting you and your well-being. Work to understand them. Make it a priority to create space for them and deal with them in a healthy way that is right for you.
And know this – whatever you face, whatever thoughts, fears or anxieties you experience, don’t ever think you have to face them alone. There are people who are more than willing to just sit with you and listen to your fears, your worries, whatever you struggle with. There are people (whether they are friends, family, therapists or strangers) who will allow you to feel heard and will re-affirm that your struggles are valid. People who will never make you feel crazy or stupid for thinking or feeling a certain way. Our thoughts can make us feel crazy enough without anybody making us feel worse.
All this to say… make this year about you. Prioritize your mental health and your overall well-being. Please know that everything you are facing and feeling, whatever it may be, is totally and completely valid, and you deserve to seek help and find what works and what is best for you and your mental health.