We’re at the end of May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month. That doesn’t mean we can ditch the care we require for our mental well-being. Perhaps now more than ever we must hone in on our emotional welfare. As we face many more options than what had been available just a month ago, I find that I am oversaturated with hopes, desires and hesitation. Listening to my intuition is key, but the noise of opening up, facing all we can do, what we “should do,” along with what we’d like to keep from our time in the pandemic, can feel dizzying. I face many choices, while I proceed at a low speed.
The challenge is to stay to my intuition, rather than fall face forward into the noise of the world around me. I have been easily seduced by good food, good drinks, good talent, good times. The pandemic helped to curb some impulses. It helped me to learn to rest more even as work picked up due to the unexpected global stressors and losses. So, here we are at the crossroads of some semblance of our old lives with what became essential during lockdown.
I’m selfishly relieved that it’s a wet holiday weekend. I felt compelled to imagine what I could do during the long weekend. What I really needed was to rest and get some work done. The weather gave me the opportunity to choose what was best for me, rather than delaying the work for fun in the sun. While the time in the pandemic gave me more time to meditate and walk, both of which have been essential self-care, I have to purposely keep those activities in place as the world expands around me.
I love seeing the choices others are making. One of the best mental health benefits of maturing is understanding that I am not obligated to live a life based on others’ opinions. I’m not necessarily comfortable when I am in disagreement with plans or interests, but I’d rather endure the discomfort of difference than the discomfort of denying what is right for me. The pandemic allowed my intuition to raise its voice. My mental health is inextricably tied to me listening to my intuition and trusting what it tells me. Now it may be more of an ordeal to listen carefully, but the reward will be a gentle smile from within. My inner-self will thank me. What better way to attend to our mental health?
Go for a mental health check-up. See your past psychotherapist to check in. Or, find a way to do a self-reflection of what’s needed to bring deep satisfaction into your life.
Access the courage it takes to speak up for yourself while listening to your intuition, rather than ignoring what your gut tells you so that you don’t make waves.
If you’re able, take a look at Apple TV’s “The Me You Can’t See,” A show that raises awareness on Mental Illness and Mental Health.
I was the only adult not accompanying children. The bug carousel was my last stop before exiting the Bronx Zoo. After walking the zoo and enjoying the animals and the respective information on wildlife conservation, I thought, ‘why not?’ Giving my inner child a treat seemed imperative. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not.
I’ve been thinking of new places to go on fun walks. After traversing the same streets, the same worn paths in the parks, I wanted to shake things up now that it feels Covid-19 safer to me to travel by subway. I’m grateful to the vaccine for that. I chose a weekday while school was still in session to enjoy the zoo with less people. It was a morning with no clients. When I entered at 10 AM, the opening hour, I walked alone for thirty minutes, seeing zebra, giraffes, and gazelles. Then, for another hour, I saw a few young families while viewing tigers, lemurs, and tropical birds. After that it got busier, so I did my best to go to less traveled areas. As I love elephants, I was able to view Rosie, the Asian elephant out for the day, while I took the monorail, the only way to see her.
It felt delightful to enjoy this space while appreciating these powerful beasts. By the time I made it to the bug carousel, I was ready to sit, even if it meant straddling a sturdy grasshopper going up and down. I went around and around passing parents and their kids looking at me quizzically. The joy of getting older is that it’s easier to choose what’s good for me even if I feel some discomfort in possibly being the object of disapproval. While I risked judgement, I felt the pleasure of caring for myself. All in all, my walk in the zoo was a big gift in this time of transition.
Test your courage by doing something for yourself that may risk being judged by others. Make your need greater than what others may think.
Enjoy animals, whether you play with your pet, go to the park and enjoy looking at a dog run, go to a zoo, or watch silly animal videos on YouTube, animals can often lift our moods.
Go for a walk in an unfamiliar place. We see things differently, sparking other vicinities of our brain.
I woke up early and ran to the East River promenade to get a glimpse of the sunrise. I almost forgot my mask, but quickly put it in my pocket testing the waters of walking down the block without one. No one was wearing masks but the few of us out were all at least 20 feet apart. That felt comfortable enough for me.
As we all know, the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated their mask mandate. For a couple of days now more and more people are on the streets and in the parks maskless. I love being able to see the many faces of the city. Yet, I also feel mask shy. I would have preferred a step-by-step shift during this transitional period. Instead I’m hearing people mention mask burning parties. I hear plans to make up for lost time. There is warmth and excitement in the air, as well as a good measure of apprehension.
I may be progressive in my political thinking, but I’m conservative in my Covid-19 opinions. I want more people to get vaccinated, making it safer for all of us. I liked the illusion of security I felt when everyone was wearing a mask. Well, mostly everyone.
My ambivalence is present when I remove my mask to enjoy the aromatic lilacs in the park. I then test the boundaries by walking with my mask on my wrist should I need to quickly don the face covering when others pass by. After exiting a store, I forget to take it off since a more recent habit has me wearing it inside and out.
To quell the mixed feelings I focus on the flowers in front of apartment buildings, in window boxes, and the beautiful plantings in the gardens and parks. Whatever I may be experiencing, ambivalence and all, Spring colors, longer days, and warmer air all seem to make it easier to get through this time in transition.
Stop and smell the flowers.
Take a walk. Whether you go around the block or enjoy an afternoon stroll, there’s nothing like a walk on a Spring day to feel refreshed.
Enjoy in-season fruit and vegetables from a farmer’s market or farm stand.
We are the lucky ones. We have available vaccines that put us in a unique position. We have entered a transitional time from living a life in a pandemic to moving to a new, not fully known, post-pandemic period. So, here we are.
Much of my days look similar to those in the past year. I go to my office, I work, I go for long walks, and I come home to have dinner and rest. The weekends are spent walking and writing, and hopefully allowing for some time for fun and still more rest. Though, now, I’m seeing a very small number of clients who are fully vaccinated in the garden of my office, or safely distanced inside. Surprisingly I had found working remotely a nice change from my years of in-person sessions. I hadn’t expected that, imagining that it would dilute the therapeutic relationship. Instead, it brought new textures to my and my client’s time together. Now I’m finding having in-person sessions a lovely change from Zoom and phone sessions. I enjoy the hybrid of work days that include both in office along with screen and phone meetings.
All this is to say these middle days, these days of transition, are an odd mix of pre-pandemic routines, pandemic protocols, and new moods and behaviors we’ve adapted. There is so much we don’t know. As a species, we don’t do well with the unknown. For me, I stick to what I do know for now. A poorly woven safety net giving me a perceived comfort I so desperately need. It’s a bit like wearing a mask that’s not completely snug. Or, carrying an umbrella in the hope that it doesn’t rain.
Let’s do our best in moving forward. As we do, let us not forget those we’ve lost, that which we let go, and the precious lessons we’ve learned. We will step gingerly while transitioning. The bridge may be long. And, no, we are not there yet.
Name the changes you’ve made during the pandemic that you would like to bring into the future.
Notice when you’re impatient. Rather than get annoyed that you feel impatient, see if you’re able to be patient with yourself in your impatience.
Buy a book from an independent bookstore. If you can’t think of what to buy, choose a childhood favorite. It can bring quick comfort when you need it. Of course, if money is an obstacle, see if there’s a book exchange, or reserve the book at your local library.