Written by: Dr. Elmore, LPC, NCC
With all life stressors, work, caring for family, school, financial obligations that accompany adulthood, and a whole host of other life circumstances, it can be a struggle sometimes to conjure up a smile, but you manage. As if those tasks are not enough, the world is under a pandemic. Life, as you knew it just a few short months ago, became a distant memory. You had to figure out how to work remotely while managing kids, husband/significant other, cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the disruptive calls because no one believed you were working. You worried because the pandemic's "facts" changed daily, hour by hour or minute. Your anxiety skyrocketed every time you watched the news or listened to the countless pseudo-reporters of self-proclaimed medical doctors and scientists. They knew more than doctors and nurses who had dedicated countless hours, days, years, and money to support their academic and professional expertise. However, through all of that, you still managed to smile. You seemed to adjust to being quarantined slowly, sheltered in place, or safer at home guidelines, and then this pandemic that was once read about, heard about via media networks, or even provided comfort to others is at your front door.
You received the call that a close family member or a parent has tested positive for COVID; it is no longer something you heard or read about but has infiltrated your family. Suddenly, it doesn't seem easy to find that final accessory in the mornings before leaving home or the one we put on once we arrive to work or log into that zoom. Yes, our greatest feature is a smile. Instead, you feel lost, defeated, angry, and confused. Why did this happen to my family? You begin to feel sad because the fear of the unknown takes over. Many believe COVID-19 brought on mental health issues, but the truth is that mental health issues have always been present. The shutdown due to COVID forced most of us to slow down and face things many have been avoiding by engulfing ourselves in other distractions such as work, academia, family, or community projects. For so long, many were accustomed to putting on masks to convince themselves and others that everything was okay. So how do you fight? Be authentic with yourself and others; identify a support system that will allow you to be transparent without judgment; and give yourself grace. You should also increase physical activity; engage in social activities that encourage and promote happiness; examine your mental, physical, and spiritual health; and seek professional services to help you navigate life.
Many of us wear many hats causing us to give so much of ourselves, but somehow, we place our well-being at the bottom of the to-do list. We often hear you can't pour from an empty cup, but many of us continue to try doing so. In the same manner that you would refill your cup when sharing the contents with others in a literal way, you must do the same thing figuratively. I bet most of my readers intentionally charged cellphones, laptops, or any other devices last night and every other night, but are we just as intentional about recharging, resetting, and renewing ourselves? These things seem small but are necessary and greatly impact our mental and emotional health. Life struggles and challenges won't go anywhere, but how you respond to them can. Fight for your SMILE. It is our greatest accessory.