Covid-19 has stolen so much from so many people and left people with a desire to start a new life. It’s not enough that life poses challenges, many unexpected, then additionally having to deal with the stresses, changes, and losses that Covid brought to many lives. It’s grief on top of grief on top of more grief. The weight of all of this change and loss can feel overwhelming, even for the rich, poor, famous, and person next door – grief doesn’t discriminate. If Covid-19 has brought any light to the world, it’s shown us where the systems in place for mental health are broken and where improvements need to be made. It’s changed how we live and work in the world, and the only way is up from here. It has to be the only way. Anything but is settling for how things are and that’s does nothing to help us collectively recover from the mess it’s left in its wake.
Mental health is a tricky subject to talk about for most people, and it’s hard to admit when you are struggling. A lot of people would rather give their left kidney than explain to someone that they feel as though they are sitting in a dark hole, all alone, and don’t know what to do. I especially felt this way when I was experiencing post-partum depression. Meanwhile, other people aren’t as severe as this, but still not in the best life possible. I’m going to be looking at some of the things that you can do to leave this feeling behind and create a new life (and the perception of it) for yourself. I’m going to share three steps that can help you begin the journey to a new life – alongside the grief. That is if you’re ready to do some inner-work and look at life (and grief) differently.
First, you need to understand that you have the ability to change. You need to be able to see that there is an issue that needs to be addressed rather than avoiding or burying it. Most importantly though, you have to want to change, to be better, and move towards the new life that you have been thinking and dreaming about. If you are more attached to the pain out of fear of change, that’s understandable. People would rather be comfortable than venture into the unknown and uncomfortable. I recall many years where I was adamant I was “fine.” We learn how to put on a show and wear a mask of illusion when we’re out with others. Inside, however, it’s a different story.
Becoming aware that you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, overwhelmed by fear and worry about the physical symptoms in your body that were manifesting is one way people become aware. This was my experience. I never fully dealt with the grief in my life and, after having children and in my 30’s, experiencing post-partum and other life challenges, I found myself experiencing another loss. By that time, I had done a lot of personal development work; even felt “fine” for several years. But, I was far from “fine.” We all have our own “rock bottom.” Even when I was abusing alcohol, nearly got fired from my job, and had my driver’s license suspended, I hadn’t met my “rock bottom.” When I say “rock bottom,” I mean in the sense of grief. Because grief, as I would later learn, is the catalyst for most of the problems in our lives – even the cyclical, repetitious situations we find ourselves in (the toxic relationship, addictions, financial gains, and losses, career change after career change). Grief, as you may have already learned through my work and the content I share, is both the thief of joy and the bearer of many gifts. However, we never see the difference between the two if we refuse to look at it.
Moving beyond the feelings of having no choice and recognizing the lessons grief holds, is what the step of awareness is all about.
Seeking the Right Help – for You
Society has been taught that it’s shameful to seek help – to need help. You may have grown up in a home where you didn’t talk to other people about your problems or issues in the family. Or, you may have never had a safe person in your immediate family growing up who you could go to. Any and all painful emotions were then likely stuffed down or were expressed in unhealthy ways. If you’re reading this, perhaps you have a child that’s struggling. Do you believe you are a safe person your child can go to where they won’t be criticized, analyzed, or judged? If you didn’t have that emulated for you growing up, there’s a good chance you may not know how to be a safe person for others because you never learned how to be. Are some people naturally better listeners and communicators? To a certain degree, yes. But when it comes to grief, we don’t know what we don’t know. We can easily say something that is hurtful or harmful without realizing it or without intending to do so.
So, in seeking help – follow your gut instincts. If you aren’t drawn to a certain mental health professional, friend, or family member, there’s a reason. Not everyone will be able to hold your grief with you, and this is especially so if they haven’t addressed their own. We can only help others to the capacity at which we’ve addressed our own grief.
How do you know if you’ve found the right person to help you? You’ll know when you have – it’s a feeling. Follow the cues of how you feel after you speak with that person initially. Does your body language close up and drawn inward? Do you find yourself not wanting to reveal much at all about yourself? On the flip side, do your shoulders relax, your speech slow, and a sense of calm and hope come over you? The body is always giving us cues and, it’s no different when we’re in the presence of or connecting one-on-one with another person.
Hold on to hope that there is always help available. There are many more resources today than there ever has been; likely some services you’ve never even heard of, too. I am aware there are waiting lists and cost is also a factor for many, too. I personally struggle with this because, although I know the value of Grief Recovery and believe every single person should have access to it, However, I am not in the position at this point in my life where I can give it (and my time) away either. Not only that, I do know that if a griever doesn’t have any “skin in the game,” meaning, they don’t have anything to lose (monetarily), that they are more likely to drop out of the program completely or not put 100% effort into it. I have personally witnessed this – both during my training and otherwise. This avoidance to do the work (with little to no financial attachment) is especially true when the inner-work gets hard – and it does get hard. As hard as it is for me to not give it away or for next to nothing, I know, without a doubt in my mind, I would be doing a griever a great disservice. That being said, I’m not opposed to bartering. If you are interested in Grief Recovery and have a skill or service I would find beneficial to me, please reach out. This may also be true for other mental health service providers, too. Get a little creative with how you can receive what you need while also giving your gifts and talents, too.
Bartering aside, there may also be grant or scholarship programs for which you can apply at certain agencies/businesses. I’m looking into how to implement this for my own business.
Once you find the right help for you, it might be the case that your needs entail medication, it may be heading to rehab for a little while, or include therapy sessions. Help could include all three, but that doesn’t matter as long as you are trying and working toward the new life you envision for yourself. No matter what, listen to your gut instincts when it comes to your mental health.
A Plan To Stay Healthy
The final thing that you are going to need is a plan to stay healthy in the long term. A lot of people find that having a routine helps them manage their life, keep out of overly stressful situations as much as possible, surround themselves with kind and loving people, as well as so much more. Be honest about what you have been through, and tell yourself you won’t be going back there as this will encourage you to stay on track as much as possible.
I personally have learned the importance of doubling down on self-care when life around you is in chaos as of recently. I denied myself self-care, completely stopped meditating after 93 days straight, and completely disregarded my mental, emotional, and physical health. As a result, I ended up getting Covid-19 within two weeks of stopping all of the things that grounded, centered and brought me a sense of peace and security. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. When the chaos ensued with all of the unknowns and uncertainty, the one area of my life where I could have created certainty and security, I didn’t devise a plan to maintain it.
We don’t rise to our goals, we fall to the level of our systems. – James Clear, Atomic Habits
As an entrepreneur or as a mom that wears many hats while raising a family, I have systems in place that help my home and business run smoothly. However, we fail to recognize the importance of systems, as James Clear suggests, for personal well-being. Think about how you can create systems for success in staying healthy. Maybe, if you are wanting to exercise, you place your workout clothes right beside your bed, have your water bottle already ready to go for the next morning, and your workout planned out so you know what you’re doing before you head to sleep the night before. These are the very steps I take to set myself up for success, by having a system that helps me make better choices. I also don’t start, first thing, with exercise. Instead, I start with 20+ minutes of meditation. This is what I was doing before my self-care went out the window and, what I’ve since learned is that, no matter what, I can’t let go of and especially when life gets challenging. Because, when your cup is empty, it’s empty. You won’t have the motivation or the energy, even if you wanted to, to tackle physical demands, much less emotional ones. Create a plan, have a system in place, and stick to it as if your life depends on it because, in truth, it just might.
I hope that you have found this article helpful, and now see some of the things that you are going to need to do to move forward, towards a new life for yourself. It’s important that you understand the cost of not doing anything to move forward into a life you desire. Mental health is hard, but you don’t have to stay in the dark hole forever, there is a path into the light. Follow where your curiosity and intuition lead you, and when you’re ready to take your life by the horns and create lasting change, reach out to me or someone, but don’t suffer in silence.
As I’ve previously shared on my podcast, Grieving Voices, you’re already suffering; you may as well suffer while moving your feet. You have so much more to lose settling for a life not lived unleashed of suffering.