Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? In light of everything going on with social distancing, I thought it was a great time to highlight this topic. As someone who has struggled with anxiety to varying degrees for as long as I can remember, I know firsthand how hard it can be to remain present and move past mental health issues. When I first heard about the impending quarantine, I literally broke down in tears in my office. The thought of being home for who knows how long instantly felt lonely, isolating, and scary. Now add living alone to the mix and I was sure that I was going to be suffering from severe anxiety attacks for the duration of the quarantine.
Early on, I knew that I would need to keep some sort of a routine if I stood any chance of coping with the quarantine and keeping my sanity. I also knew that I had someone depending on me—my grandmother—which meant I had to keep it together, if not for myself than for her.
I’ve talked a lot about the importance of routine, but for people with anxiety, it’s even more crucial. I’m still following the same schedule I set for myself almost eight weeks ago, which usually involves waking up at the same time I did when I went to the office, sitting down at my desk to work from home at 9:00 am, getting in some sort of walk or workout either on my lunch break or after 5:00 pm, keeping in touch with friends in the evening, and meditating nightly.
During the first couple of weeks of quarantine, the only other person I saw was my grandmother—and that was to bring her groceries while wearing a mask, gloves, and sitting six feet apart as we caught up for an hour. As the weeks went one, the feeling of physical isolation became palpable. My 45-minute walks around the block and 23-hours a day in my apartment had begun to feel like a prison sentence. I started to lose interest in anything aside from sleeping or just relaxing on the couch. The social isolation was truly starting to affect me. Luckily, I have a friend who takes the same stringent precautions that I do and now that the weather has gotten nicer, we’ve been able to take walks while social distancing with our masks on. I honestly live for our once a week walks and it gives me something to look forward to.
Coming from someone who considered herself to be an introvert before the pandemic, I was surprised by how much I missed the interactions I once took for granted. Now, the mere act of making plans for a walk feels exciting, and spending more than an hour outside my home is like a vacation. This experience has taught me that every interaction is special—the smile from a stranger in line to get coffee, the head nod from someone passing by at the beach, the long conversation with a friend over the same old thing. The little things that often go unnoticed are such a big part of our daily routines.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’m going to continue my self-care routine, which includes meditating every night with my Calm app. I’m currently on a 36-day meditation streak and I’m hoping to continue that trend. I encourage you to do something for yourself this month that prioritizes your own mental and physical well-being.
What’s something you’re doing for your metal health this month?