By Sunny Jordan, Strategic Partnerships Manager
Over the past two months, our world has been impacted by COVID-19, resulting in isolation due to adherence to quarantine conditions. Social distancing, working from home, and standing six feet from one another has become the “new norm.”
As a single mother of a 10-year-old eat-everything-I-can-cook-or-not-cook boy with ADHD, I understand the life-balancing challenges that many of you are facing. My son requires my full attention on most days as it relates to schoolwork and various in-home tasks. By the end of my workday, I have prepared at least two meals, taught math, reading and writing, and have somehow acquired new skills as a P.E./art/music teacher.
Let’s not forget the 8 to 5 workday that doesn't seem to have a stopping point (as I want to outperform myself from the day before). In all honesty, it’s quite overwhelming and frustrating.
Reflecting on my successes, growth, and work-life adjustments over the last few months, I realized that I’ve kept my sanity by maintaining a commitment to mental health practices that have helped me triumph through these uncertain times. I offer you these three mental health practices as a way for you to be the driver of your success.
1. Take a daily self-assessment
I encourage you to ask yourself the simple question, “How am I doing?” This question is important because without it, it’s nearly impossible to be the strength of your family. Reflecting on this question allows me to pause, reflect, or ask for help.
When I recently asked myself “How am I doing?” my answer was a resounding “I’m okay.” But what did that actually mean? What was I really saying to myself? I wasn’t doing okay ... in fact I was scared, uncertain, frustrated, and blah more times than not. I didn’t have the answers for my son as it relates to this pandemic or the sudden shifts in his routines and life.
These self-assessments are not intended to create self-criticism or resentment of your honest answers. Instead, they provide you with the opportunity to be kind, loving, grateful, and appreciative of you. By self-assessing, you are giving yourself permission to be in the moment and to take things one day at a time.
2. Establish a virtual support team
My daily self-assessment sometimes revealed that I felt overwhelmed, semi-depressed, and unsupported. It’s important to not judge yourself by the revelations of your self-assessment because they are your truths. Of course you want to show up as the superhero of your family and work. But even superheroes have weaknesses. I recall watching numerous movies where, for a moment, the bad guy seemed to have the upper hand. Then out of nowhere the superhero’s teammates used their powers to help win the fight. We can’t do it alone and your community of superfriends want to support you. The only reason most of them don’t help is because they don’t know you need it, or you aren’t vulnerable enough to ask.
I encourage all of you to be vulnerable during this period. Talk with trusted family members, friends, or co-workers who can help you see your strengths and provide you with encouragement.
I created a virtual support team. A group of my friends wrote short stories whose characters related to my son. He would read these stories to them virtually for 30 minutes a day. I also joined a fitness group for women, and we post daily motivational quotes, fitness goals/accomplishments, and meal plans. This made me accountable to others with a common goal and helped me maintain my health goals.
3. Take advantage of mental health benefits
One of the quickest routes to burning out and crashing is to be unaware of your mental health status. It can be quite intimidating to share matters of your heart and mind with complete strangers.
I encourage you to take advantage of your employer benefits. Many organizations offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that include mental health benefits and free counseling services. According to the World Health Organization, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Treatments are available, but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a professional.
I encourage you to let someone know if you are experiencing thoughts or feelings that are counterproductive to your life, work, or family goals. There are people and resources out there that can provide you with support!
There are many positive lessons to be learned from our new normal—one of the greatest being that you don’t have to do it alone. Thankfully, we live in an era where virtual resources are available at the click of a mouse.
Do you! And as you “do you,” stay cognizant of your strengths, your needs, and the reality that a bright tomorrow awaits!