WOW – What a year! Our minds, bodies, souls, spirits, will, drive, and, in some cases, our optimism and hope have all been tested like never before. We endured a stress-filled election, a subsequent insurrection, pandemic-driven quarantines, division amongst our citizenry, continued remote learning for our children, lack of contact with family and friends, racial injustices played out live on television, lost jobs, failed and/or struggling businesses, and on, and on, and on. We’ve learned new terms like “cancel-culture”, vaxers and anti-vaxers, sleep anxiety, and food insecurities. It seems like so much negativity was mounted around and/or against us that it was too much to overcome. But we fought to work through it all and return to some realm of normalcy, and just when it seemed things might take a turn for the better with the advent and distribution of various Covid vaccines, giving us a collective sigh of relief, we were once again emotionally pummeled with the discovery of the Delta Variant of Covid-19. It left many of us feeling like… What’s next?
Well, as a parent of three kids, who spent the better part of 2020 and 2021 learning remotely, I have had major concerns about their emotional well-being, and how they would adjust having to contend with so much over the past two years, especially the alienation from family and friends. I have witnessed their stress, increased anxieties, and even depression, while trying to closely monitor their moods and emotional well-being, but who is monitoring me?
As adults, many times our focus is on caring so much for everyone in our lives that we neglect to properly monitor our own well-being or take the steps to care for ourselves. One of the key things that I have found helps me is slowing my life down with intentionality, moving at a much slower pace with those things that have no deadline or real urgency. Another well-being check is allowing myself some “grace”. As I have aged, I’ve come to realize that what I don’t get done today, will be there tomorrow, and I am glad to have found a “self-effacing” spirit that allows me to find humor in my errors or mistakes that once were followed by feelings of guilt or self-condemnation. Enjoy your successes, including the small ones, and give yourself time to live in the moment and take it all in, before you are off to conquer your next task or endeavor.
October is Emotional Wellness Month, a celebration in which individuals are encouraged to take stock of one’s stress levels, set a plan to get healthier both emotionally and physically, and to make the necessary changes in our lives to be our best selves. Below are some tips for monitoring and developing good emotional wellness.
- Reduce stress: Set goals and a plan to reduce stress in our lives. Do some self-reflection and determine what your stress triggers are (finances, work, family, health, etc.) and put into play a plan to target those triggers and determine how to keep them maintained.
- Calculate your screen time: It’s a fact that social media and time spent online can absolutely impact one’s emotional health. It is simply too easy to constantly tap into millions of media impressions from the palm of your hand, and unfortunately, they are not all positive. Set limits on when and how long you engage in that online realm. Replace screentime with activities like exercise, reading, yoga, meditation, prayer, or doing some other activity that brings you joy.
- Access resources available to you for help: Many employers now offer access to professional counselors and/or therapists, through company insurance and benefits. Sometimes improving one’s emotional health requires delving deeper to get to the root of one’s emotional state. This can sometimes be achieved by talking through issues, especially when talking with a trained professional skilled at helping you make sense of things.
- Remember what’s really important: It is critical to look at our lives and determine what aspects of our lives add value, bring us joy, and are truly things that matter. We’ve all heard the cliché, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”. Well, age has shown me that so much of what I considered critical in my younger life was really a lot of small stuff and what a blessing it is for those who gain that self-awareness sooner. Most of us must work, but it is critical to maintain a good work-life balance, or you need to find the career or job that allows you to do so.
- Helping others: There are so many people in the world who are in need in one way or another. It is a fact that we feel a sense of belonging, caring, of goodness when we are helping others. Take the time to get involved in your community and volunteer goods, services, and/or time and talents to enrich the lives of others. It is truly an emotional boost.
As we celebrate Emotional Wellness Month, we all need to remember to: forgive yourself, practice gratitude, spend more time with your family and friends, explore your beliefs about the purpose and meaning of our lives, rest regularly and develop good sleep habits, exercise regularly, build a strong support network, set goals, set schedules, and seek help before it’s needed. At our core is humanity and love, and we all need to rediscover those and share them with the world.
Smile at someone today and see how joyful and contagious a simple smile can be, and revel in the moment knowing that your shared smile might be the only one that person receives that day!
Michael A. Humphrey, Sr., Vice President, Operations and Equity