If you are a college student, or are a parent of a college student, then you are well aware that online classes have started and are kicking into high gear. While transitioning into a new format of online classes, my world feels more chaotic than ever.
I cherish the fun, exciting, and new moments that this new school year brings. And I am also learning to navigate through the moments when I feel doubt, dread, fear, stress, and sadness stemming from a multitude of sources. At the moment, it feels as though the events of the world, and life’s daily stressors, are compounding. Navigating a new class-load, work schedules, assignments, AND being in the midst of a fight for racial justice, a pandemic, and the country being on fire can really wear you out.
It is crucial for us to prioritize our mental health, name what we are feeling, and practice self-compassion.
Mental health can be a scary thing to talk about for a lot of people. I want whoever is reading this to feel safe here, and know that I strive to embrace the real, messy, and uncomfortable feelings. We are in this together! What we are feeling is normal. The world is shifting and changing in dramatic ways. We are learning to grapple with the uncertainty that lingers in the day-to-day and paints the future.
It is important to confront the scary feelings. It can be difficult to admit that you are feeling depressed, experiencing anxiety or wading through a chaotic sea of feelings daily.
You are not alone.
I am not an expert in mental health, but I do think it is important to create an open dialogue and reduce the stigma that comes with talking about mental health.
With that being said, here are a few ways that I am choosing to cope these days. I hope this perspective offers you some peace and allows you to lean into self-compassion.
Accept and Embrace Your Humanness
I have always had the tendency to be extremely hard on myself. Over the years, and especially now, I am realizing the power of acceptance. When we face challenging situations and circumstances, much of our energy is expended just focusing on how to survive. Many people are living in survival mode. We focus on how to get through the day, check tasks off of our to-do list, and provide for ourselves and our loved ones. We do not need to expend unnecessary energy on criticizing ourselves for the feelings that arise during stressful times.
Of course, growth and learning how we can be better is very important. However, growth starts with acceptance. You do not need to criticize the way in which you are processing these stressful times. Whatever you are feeling is okay.
If you feel tired, angry, sad, lonely, worn out, or anxious, congratulations, you are human and you experience a range of emotions! I encourage you to refrain from putting yourself down for how you’re feeling and welcome the ups and downs. Sit with the uncomfortable emotions and invite them to teach you what you are meant to learn. Or simply acknowledge them. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Don’t be so hard on yourself!
“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.”Rumi
We all experience days, weeks, and months when we feel “off.” Especially these days, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what may be influencing my mood. Whether it be inequality, the politics and strife surrounding COVID, the climate of our world.
It is especially important for me (and for all of us) to lean into self-compassion while trying to navigate our new way of being.
We are all learning and growing at our own pace, as we each have our own journeys. Allow yourself to be the wonderfully imperfect human being that you are. Know that you will probably make mistakes, forget to turn in an assignment, or accidentally snap at somebody you love. Forgive yourself and move on. Remember to treat yourself with kindness. You are doing your best!
I have made it a priority to educate myself on the three major elements to self-compassion: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. To learn more, look here.
Self-compassion can include talking to yourself with kindness, and not flooding your brain with self-criticism when you make a mistake. This process can also include acknowledging that the shared human experience includes painful situations. Lastly, self-compassion also includes a non-judgmental, mindful approach to our thoughts and emotions.
Be Honest with Yourself About Your Mental Health
I like to set aside time to reflect on how I have been feeling through journaling. Just carving out five minutes a day to journal provides a safe space where I can express my thoughts without judgment. This time allows me to be honest with myself about the feelings that arise.
Some of my favorite journal prompts start by asking myself questions such as:
- How are you really feeling?
- What do I feel distracted by right now?
- What can I focus on, cultivate, and feel that I want to see and experience more of in my life and in the world?
- How can I practice self-care today?
- What do I need to hear in this moment?
- What can I release in this moment?
Be Honest with Others About Your Mental Health
Full transparency: this is often difficult for me to put into practice. Being honest about how you are feeling can be vulnerable.
I have found that when I am honest with those around me about how I am feeling, I am met with compassion and empathy. Sharing your thoughts and concerns with people who care about you usually allows for open dialogue. We are all facing challenges and experiencing stressful situations. Sharing that you need to rest, that you are having a rough day, or that you are struggling with your mental health can be an opportunity to remind you that you are not alone.
I also encourage you to open up to a mental health professional if you wish to seek that support.
Here is a website compiled of mental health support resources.
Show Up for Yourself
Showing up for yourself looks different for everybody. Personally, showing up for myself simply means holding space for my needs and desires. I like to hold space for myself by taking the time to reflect on what I would like to let go of. What feels heavy right now? What can I release in this moment? I give myself permission to listen to my body and release the thoughts, worries, and habits that no longer serve me or bring me peace.
Showing up for myself also includes making time to engage in activities that bring me joy, no matter how small. If I have the desire to take a break from school work and go on a walk, then I honor that. If I really feel like turning up my music and dancing in my room, then I do it.
Of course, it is important to be on top of our responsibilities and commitments, even if they aren’t fun. However, I make it a priority to remind myself that life is so much bigger than the assignments that I have time to do later.
Here are some mantras that I like to use when holding space for myself and letting go of maladaptive thoughts:
- I love myself unconditionally
- I am whole just as I am
- Creating the life I desire is in my power
- My heart is open to give and receive love
- I allow myself to just be
- I am worthy of great things
- My struggles are opportunities to grow
- I welcome each experience
- I am calm and relaxed
Self-Care for People of Color
Experiencing tension and stress surrounding race is not new for BIPOC. If you are a Person of Color, then you have most likely experienced the effects of racial trauma (systematically and directly) in your daily life.
These days, People of Color may also be experiencing the added stress of being in a pandemic, in which People of Color are affected disproportionately. As well as fighting for racial equality, advocating for basic human rights, changing systems of oppression, and seeing other People of Color being murdered and experiencing violence. Experiencing this type of stress is exhausting and can absolutely influence your mental and emotional health. This is on top of keeping up with school, work, taking care of families, etc.
It is important to hold space for yourself and honor your needs and desires.
Practicing self-care is not selfish or wrong. It is okay to rest, to take a step away from social media, and to quiet the noise for as long as you need to. Honor yourself and your experience in whatever ways feel good to you.
I like to practice self-care by moving my body, journaling, meditating, drinking water, making art, writing, spending time with friends and family, watching a show, playing my ukulele, listening to a podcast, and/or letting myself just be.
To influence collective change, it is crucial to take care of yourself, individually.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and it is an act of political warfare.”Audre Lorde
I recommend listening to this WE Spot podcast interview with Janaye Mathews, to learn more about the importance of self-care when advocating for change.
For mental health support and anti-racism resources, look here.
Thank you for taking the time to read just a few ways that I am prioritizing my mental health these days.
I hope you found some value in these words and that you will lean into reflect, self compassion, and self-care moving forward. Take care of yourself!