I don’t know if it’s COVID-19, hormones, or maybe the stars, but I feel like I’m going through a “mid-life” crisis—if there is such a thing at 32. Currently, I’m back in my hometown, living at my friends’ home, unemployed, and contemplating a career change during a pandemic. Most days, I’m fine but then there are many days where I feel like WTF. I’m generally a confident, well-put-together person, but this pandemic has enlivened me in some ways and caused me to feel deeply insecure in others. I’m unemployed, uninsured, and unsure about which direction my life is going. Some days my anxiety overwhelms me, and I spiral into an emotional, irrational frenzy. Typically, this frenzy leaves me feeling unproductive and unmotivated.
It’s so easy to see all that is wrong instead everything that is going right. This time off work has allowed me to strengthen relationships, return to my creativity, open a business, destress, and honestly examine if my current career is something I really want to do. I’m learning to trust the process and recognizing these moments of uncertainty will become clear as I continue on my journey. In the two months I’ve been out of work, I’ve learned how to better handle my stress by doing a few things to bring me back to center and get my head out of the clouds.
1. I allow myself to feel my feelings.
I don’t focus on trying to make myself feel better. I sit with my feelings, whether positive or negative, and examine where those feelings come from. Are these feelings rooted in reality, or have I allowed my imagination to get the best of me? What are realistic, healthy ways to move myself from a negative to a positive space, in a healthy way, while still affirming the validity of sadder emotions? I do a lot of this emotional processing through journaling. I love to write my feelings out. Journaling allows me to fully express myself while simultaneously documenting the moment. I usually journal when I’m feeling especially frustrated, angry, or sad. Journaling helps me identify my emotions and process them. I just sit there with my journal and write. Sometimes I write for five minutes. Sometimes I write for a couple of hours. However long, I don’t stop until I’m “done.” Journaling helps me chart my progress. I can always look back to see how far I’ve come or where I’m stagnant.
2. I surround myself with people who support me.
My family and friends are the best. Since being in this weird space, none of them have ever made me feel low because I’m not working. They fully support me in my creative endeavors and are glad to see me operate with some passion. They uplift and affirm me when I’m feeling down, and hey help me pull myself out of overwhelmed places by reminding me I am accomplished and capable. I live with my family now, so it makes it easier to access them. Some of my friends are available through text and calls. I make sure to connect in any way possible. I also make sure to be honest with them about my feelings, fears, or issues. In order to be supported in the way I need, I feel I have to be honest with them about my highs, as well as my lows. They’ve seen me through everything.
3. I rest.
For many, rest is a radical concept. I don’t know about you, but I always feel such an internal pressure to be productive. Honestly, I feel guilty for resting because there is always more to be done. With so many things unchecked on my to-do list, I feel like I don’t deserve rest, but I’m learning rest is necessary and well-deserved. When I need rest, I force myself to take it. I create and enforce a boundary with myself by declaring the day as a non-work day. I’ve worked since I was 16. I’ve been a Masters level Social Worker in a few of the busiest emergency departments for the last four years. I’ve done a lot of hard work, loved on a lot of people, and I deserve this time just for me. For all the mental, emotional, and physical labor I have done, I deserve to rejuvenate. Rest feels foreign, but that in and of itself is problematic.
I take off the pressure of productivity by finally allowing myself the space and time I need to relax knowing it’s for my good. I’ve forced myself to be productive when I was burned out and exhausted, and my work suffered because of it. Resting allows me to take a break, then come back happier, clearer, and generally more excited. Some days rest looks like being a couch potato while other days it looks like a fun day out with friends. Rest looks different for each of us, but as long as you’re rejuvenated afterward that’s all that matters.
4. I have fun.
Yes, we’re in a pandemic, and “outside” is sort of closed, but that doesn’t mean life has to be boring. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, that means I’m off balance. I try to find things that will bring me some sense of joy. It could be something as simple as potting new plants, doing some sort of arts and crafts, or dancing to a bomb playlist. This will be different for each person, but the point is to do something that brings you joy. Do something that, even if for the moment, shifts the atmosphere and likely your attitude right along with it. Do something that is not a chore.
5. I sought professional help.
Yes! That’s right … I’m in therapy. Therapy not only helps me to sort out what’s happening currently, but it’s also helping me process my past and how that affects me now. Therapy has been a godsend, especially since I’m uninsured right now. I found my therapist through a site called Open Path that my friend, Zee, told me about last year. Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is a nonprofit organization that “serves clients who lack health insurance or whose health insurance doesn’t provide adequate mental health benefits. These clients also cannot afford current market rates for therapy (between $80-200 a session).” Open Path helps “members access their choice of affordable in-person care from a vetted mental health professional.” You have to pay a one-time membership fee, but after that your therapy is between $30-$60 per session, depending on the provider. I picked my therapist from a list of available therapists in my area. I’d never met her before, but I felt comfortable from the first day. We’re doing telehealth appointments due to COVID, but I still find it effective.
My therapist is helping me reframe some of my ideologies and shift my paradigm into a much healthier space. This has been particularly helpful when it comes to feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. Therapy is helping me realize I’ve been in uncertain times before, and I prevailed then just as I will now.
Feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s good to fully feel your feelings, but it’s not OK to stay in an unhealthy space for long. The world is weird right now and that is having a trickle-down effect on a lot of us. Take care of yourself. Find some ways to still enjoy life. Sometimes our circumstances can get the best of us, but it’s still very important to find some ways to move from an unhealthy space into a healthier one. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something to ensure you are healthy and hopeful. Be gracious with yourself and remember you are doing the best you can.