Chris Wilkinson

Chris Wilkinson column: Are we willing to do the work on mental health?

This has been a tough year for all of us.

Can we just get real for a moment? I’m not really feeling like a velvety glove approach today. So let’s get direct.

This has been a tough year for all of us. The pandemic. The isolation. The financial kick in the teeth. So many people being affected financially. The spike in chronic stress. It sucks! The year 2020 has been a crap year for so many people.

What are the top three things that people tend to worry about? Usually finances, health and relationships. Have your finances been impacted by COVID? A job. Income. Investments. Stocks. What about your health? Are you as active, or less active than you were prior to March? Eating better or worse? Drinking more? And your relationships? Are you spending as much time with friends that last six months? If you have been you’ve been disregarding the orders to isolate. How is your marriage? Stronger? I bet for some it is. I bet for many it isn’t.

So what’s my point? The point is, for many, an already stressful and over-scheduled and over-committed life up to March got a whole lot more stressful and people just don’t generally have healthy coping mechanisms for this. How could we? Who here has been through this kind of thing before?

OK, OK…I’ll pull back a little here. I don’t like to hang out in the negative and victim energy for long. Feels gross. So let me see if I can add some value here for you.

If you’re curious what I and others have found to be super helpful over the past few months to curb the darkness and try to manage stress, here it is:

1. Have an actual ‘practice’ of gratitude. Saying you’re a grateful person, yet having no intentional daily or weekly focused gratitude practice just doesn’t add up. If you’re not practicing it with intention, you’re pretending and kidding yourself. Do the WORK!

2. Learn about self-compassion. Kristin Neff has some great videos on YouTube and resources online that teach about self-kindness, and how to avoid self-isolation and being swept away by negative emotions. These are easy traps to fall into and are like quicksand! Swampy. Inescapable. We have to WORK our way out.

3. Awareness. That rare ability to step back in perspective. How to view our lives, emotions, thoughts and feelings from 30,000 feet. Be the observer. Being mindful and present. Digest what you’ve got going on and analyze it from a non-emotional place. See what you like, and what you don’t. Then start to action plan whatever tweaks you want to make. Usually a significant tweak or two is enough to make a huge difference in our outlook and contentment. But we have to be willing to do the WORK.

In case it’s not glaringly obvious, the key message here is that we’ve got to be open and willing to doing the work. Daily and weekly. Having the patience to stick with the plan, even though we want it done yesterday is difficult. Yet necessary. We must persist. More than we’ve persisted in the past. We’ve got to be willing to do the work. When it comes to our mental health — the foundation of our overall health — we must persist now, so that we can survive this mess today and thrive tomorrow.

If you’re serious about your own health, especially your mental health (and you’re still reading so hopefully I can assume you are), read those three steps above again. And apply them. Start with one. Start with daily or three times per week gratitude for even 60 seconds a day. Be thankful — even simply to yourself.

I know one thing for sure, that we all struggle. We all have tough days/weeks. We all battle mental health thoughts and feelings. We are all under a lot more stress this year than last. And we are all in this thing together. We all share these thoughts and emotions. We are all the same. I’m pulling for you! Be kind. Be gentle. Be well.

Chris Wilkinson is the owner/GM for Nurse Next Door Home Care Services for Cowichan and central Vancouver Island. For more info visit www.NurseNextDoor.com or for questions or a free in-home Caring Consult call 250-748-4357, or email Chris.Wilkinson@NurseNextDoor.com

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