Like probably most people you’ve ever met (whether you know it or not), I too struggle with mental health issues.
Although I am incredibly happy for the people who have said that 2020 and the slow beginnings of 2021 have been “the best year of their lives,” I do not feel this way. Maybe I am fooling myself, but I feel like most people do not feel this way? And the people who are saying this are people who extremely needed a break from something in their lives and used this time where the world slowed down to take it.
For me, it was full of suffering.
But actually. It sucked. My mental health has sucked. I had JUST started seeing a new therapist before the pandemic hit and before we could even get to the mashed potato brains of it all, I felt like I needed to talk about my fears with the pandemic 99% of the time before the real stuff even got addressed.
This year and a half I have felt fragile and weak and unsafe and at sea with myself.
I’ve rarely been alone.
I can’t imagine how this must have been for people who feel like I have been feeling and have been alone.
And yes, there are millions of people who have had it much, much worse.
During a recent conversation with my therapist, we discussed finding vitality in everyday life and what it means— or could mean, to me.
For all the time that I have spent feeling like I was actively breaking apart, I want to find resilience again in the dawn of….something. I want my post-pandemic world independence to be focused on activities that do not drain me but rather fill me with strength.
I just googled the definition of “vitality.”
It means: the state of being strong and active; energy.
Similarly: the power giving continuance of life, present in all living things.
My therapist gave me an example from her own life. She said that having a cup of coffee with milk every morning gives her a sense of vitality.
My two coffees-a-day habit has had me feeling extra jittery as of late and after a recent doctor’s visit, I was advised to no longer consume dairy! So there goes that example.
But I digress.
At the risk of sounding like that “every day I put on my silly little outfit and do my silly little tasks” meme, here are the things that give me a sense of vitality:
(Editor’s note: most of these things sound simple but I don’t think things that give you a sense of strength and energy necessarily need to always be hard. Also, everyone’s can be different. These thoughts are my own.)
- Being prepared. Nothing fills me with a greater sense of self care than having a jacket in the car for when it’s cold, sunscreen on my body whenever I step outside of my house, tampons at the ready in my bathroom at LEAST a week before. Showing myself love like this makes me feel strong.
- Walking in the sun. I feel healthy and good when I am outside taking steps in the daylight.
- Having clean sheets and pillow cases on the bed every week.
- Going to yoga on the beach every Saturday. It hit me the third week of going how much I love this weekly activity and how much it replenishes my spirit. I was in a pose where my heart was cracked open towards the water and I couldn’t help but think of the Kurt Vonnegut quote, “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
- Doing my makeup. I am not a woman who feels better bare-faced. Surviving a global pandemic did not change this. I don’t hate my face. I love my face! Painting it with makeup feels like appreciating it. It’s like putting the “Happy Birthday” icing on a cake to me. The ritual application of products with brushes is also soooo soothing.
- Reading in the morning instead of looking at my phone.
- Cooking my boyfriend and I a nice dinner. This makes me feel cozy and good. However, sometimes I am too tired to cook. So, I am learning to appreciate the days where I feel up to this.
- Traveling by myself. I have been writing little iPhone notes to myself with trip ideas. Last night I decided that this fall I want to go leaf-peeping on the east coast and stay in a cozy little hotel. In my future visions I am wearing a down vest and a flannel. I know this might seem silly. I told my boyfriend about it and he laughed. I used to travel all the time and it made me feel independent and whole. Once upon a time, in another life, someone very close to me made the keen observation that I don’t like staying put for very long. I have a curiosity for the world around me. I think part of the reason I have felt so stir-crazy is because I have been physically confined to Los Angeles and not allowed myself to travel (and for good reason! it’s not like I was denying myself cross country trips just for fun). But in the coming months/years/decades/whatever, traveling more is something I know will give me hope/energy.
I am sure there are more tiny little things like this that make me feel strong. Things that throughout my days hopefully I will notice and realize that they contribute to my soul’s growing resilience.
I want to close this by saying, it is okay to feel weak sometimes. It is okay to feel unmoored. You are still strong. Find little things that anchor you. Find small joys in every day life that contribute to your sense of well-being and vitality.
You can do it.
I trust you.