5 Essential Lessons For Nurturing Mental And Emotional Well-Being Even When The Pandemic Is Over
Remember, everyone - be kind to your mind, and your heart, too
Real talk—how are you feeling these days? (And, when was the last time you asked yourself that and gave an honest answer?).
Great? Not so great? Can't really tell?
The right answer is, all answers are right.
All the feelings and thoughts we have about ourselves and our current states are valid and deserve a space in our hearts and minds. If they're positive feelings and thoughts, all the more that they should be listened to and even shared with others. If they're less than ideal, worry not. The bad doesn't last forever, even though though it might not feel that way right now. It would do well to remember that the whole range of emotions and experiences are what us human; there's a balance in joy existing alongside sadness, of celebration being connected with mourning in an endless cycle.
These lessons on living—living healthily, that is—are what's been on our minds as of late, what with the sudden and possibly permanent changes the experiences of the last year and a half have given us. So many things have changed, from how we do our jobs and the role of technology in our lives, to how we've learned to appreciate the mundane and the importance of being kind to each other, and to ourselves.
This last point about caring for ourselves better is of particular interest to us and a friend of Metro.Style's, "The Happiness Doctor," Dr. Lia Bernardo.
In this time, she's advised so many people about the importance of loving ourselves better, both mentally and emotionally, and even spiritually. This point in history, though focused on physical health, is more than that to Dr. Lia.
"This is a well-being pandemic, not a physical pandemic Everyone is being called to look inwards. Everyone is being forced, not even called. If you're still hanging on to who you are before this pandemic started, it's not even possible," she says.
As the world changes forever, so should we, but only in ways that serve us. The time is ripe to transform, and it should be a transformation that should last us a lifetime.
Below, Dr. Lia lets us in on some of the valuable lessons and points of reflection she shares with her clients. She talks about how to care four minds, hearts, and spirits not just today, but for always.
Maybe, the answer is in not doing
Dr. Lia sits back in her chair and mimics herself as she might be when talking to a client complaining of dissatisfaction after trying everything in the book.
Her response to people who talk about still being unhappy despite keeping themselves as busy as possible?
"Have you rested? Have you just slept? Have you just done nothing all day without guilt, without shame? Maybe that's what you need," she says, with an expression inviting an A-ha! moment to occur in her hypothetical client.
These days, especially with most people still staying at home, there may be an silent competition being waged among all of us. We might be trying to be the most creative and productive, the best homeschooling parent, the model kitchen maven, the one that works out the most often, the one with the most aesthetically pleasing room seen in Zoom meetings. Being real, though—how exhausting is all of that?
Dr. Lia advises that there's truly no harm in wanting to slow down and in fact, it might be what's necessary when we're at our lowest. It's perfectly fine, if, in some moment, our minds are telling us that cocooning in a blanket burrito is what it wants. Doing "nothing" is not the same as being lazy or being a pandemic bum whose life under quarantine can't compare with that of others.
Don't punish yourself for wanting to take it easy. The pressure you put on yourself to keep doing is guaranteed to be counterproductive if it comes from a place like this. Be okay with stillness and quiet time. They're forms of leisure that didn't come very often before the pandemic, so now that they're here in abundance, treat them as gifts to yourself when you feel you need them.
"Stop thinking there's something wrong with you. That's the kindest thing you can do to yourself. The nudgings of your body are what's telling what's needed here but you're not listening and you keep insisting on your way," Dr. Lia adds.
The only way out is through
Here's a thought from Dr. Lia that's sure to be an interesting talking point.
"Pain is the catalyst for growth. Let us stop avoiding pain, because when you vehemently avoid pain, you are creating shame," she points out.
In other words, quit denying yourself the experience of pain. It seems counterintuitive, we know. It's human nature to want to avoid discomfort and run as far away from physical pain, more so the emotional or psychological kind. We deny, we divert, and we bury thoughts and emotions that we believe are unnecessary and weigh us down.
But let's reframe that perspective for a second and take Dr. Lia's advice.
"Pain will take you to the next level of growth. When you say yes to the lesson, the pain disappears and you're there (where you need to be)," she states.
Pain, especially emotional pain, festers when it's continuously swept to the side where we hope it will magically go away on its own. But it won't. It will just grow, and grow, and grow, until it regains speed and pounces at you when you least expect it and it will be worse than it was before. When it comes to situations like facing pain, the only way out is through.
Cry if you must, yell at the wind, experience anger alongside sadness, feel the feeling of not wanting to feel anything at all. The most important thing is that you allow pain to take its course, and of course, ask for help and support when you need it as you go along the journey. That's key to remember—pain is a journey, and every journey has a destination, and an end, even the ones that aren't a lot of fun.
Move, learn, grow, create
Dr. Lia's advice always stems from the belief that to be happy, to find fulfillment, and to be your best self, you must be able to raise your frequency. What does that mean?
To her, it's all about developing a more positive and more engaged relationship with yourself. Really feel like you're experiencing life from your own eyes, living in your own body and using it, and nurturing all the good stuff and staying away from the bad. There are four concrete activities to do to materialize the need to raise one's frequency: move, learn, grow, and create. As much as possible, we do all four every day. It need not be a grand ritual; you simply learn to do things more deliberately, more purposefully, and you'll find that the way you exist will change for the better.
Move refers to doing anything physical—exercise, whether rigorous or gentle, going about your house, taking the dog for a stroll, doing a little dance when no one is watching. This is important to awaken our physical senses. After all, our minds and spirits exist within a physical vessel, and all three need to be well-connected to each other.
Learning on a surface level is literal; it's learning a life skill, a job skill, even a silly skill. On a deeper level, it builds self-esteem, which is our own perception of our worth and value as people. The more we're capable of doing and the more we enjoy what we do, the healthier the way see ourselves.
Growing relates to the spiritual—communing with a higher power, a greater purpose, the plan in the grander scheme of things. It's important that we remind ourselves that we're deeply connected with other lives, be they human or otherwise.
And then there's creating, which in Dr. Lia's terms, can be summed by creating heaven on earth. "Do something a day that tells you your heaven is right here on earth, and that can be anything... That's your gift to yourself today," she says. Watch a movie, indulge in a nap, have a snack, take a longer bath than usual. Or better yet, create heaven on earth that's good for you and others, too. Be pleasant around others, be helpful, be kind, be inspiring.
Acceptance, first and foremost
Newsflash: if you don't like you, no one really will.
It's the truth, and though it might be hard to read if you're in a place where you're not ready to hear it, it doesn't make it any less true.
The core of a healthy mind, and really, a happy soul, is when you've surpassed the need to criticize and judge yourself needlessly. While it's true that reflection and self-correction are necessary steps in changing to become a better person, that's different from what Dr. Lia means.
Self-acceptance to her means authenticity. Being true to yourself. And then not being afraid to show that off to the world.
"It's only when you have a radical self-acceptance that you're able to truly love yourself. It gives you permission to be authentic, and you'll find that authenticity is the greatest form of love. You're telling people this is who I am... and I like who I am, and you're going to like me, too," she smiles.
And guess what? If you find that you and another person don't jive, it shouldn't be reason for you to change who you are fundamentally just to be able to keep them close. She emphasizes that neither party is a bad person when this happens and it's never a good idea to do an overhaul just to please them. That's inauthenticity at its worst. It's just that you're not a match, and you're a better fit for another person, be it a romantic partner, best friend, group of friends, confidante, and so on.
Be you, and do you. Be okay with that. Be more than okay with that, because you're awesome.
Excitement in instability
Instability almost always evokes feelings of fear and panic. Why wouldn't it? The pandemic is a great example of that; in the beginning of worldwide lockdowns last year, no one knew how life was going to pick up again. The uncertainty was terrifying, and the actions that ensued in some places in the world were pure havoc and mayhem.
And while personal instability is on a much less major scale than global instability, it doesn't make it any less bothersome for the person experiencing it. Being unsure and feeling out of control feels awful.
But why not think of it this way, Dr. Lia suggests.
Because instability is avoidable in life, why not exert the only control you can have over it—the way you deal with it. You can't control when life decides to make the stable unstable and vice-versa, but you can control your reactions to this process.
"When there's instability, change it to excitement. Ano kayang mangyayari? Bakit ako nginangarag ng universe? Why is the universe shaking me up? Why is the universe causing me to [feel this way]? When that happens, I say, 'Yay!' Because it means a wish is about to come true, or I'm going to be catapulted into another growth spurt."
It's just like the way we need to train ourselves to understand the place of pain in our lives; instability too has its purpose. Visualize your life as a series of moving parts, maybe even like a Kaleidoscope. The picture you see at the other end doesn't stay that way forever; when you shake things up, the picture changes—instability. But once the instability gives way to stillness, the new picture is just as pretty and a sight to behold.
Images from Pexels and Unsplash