Mental Well-Being in a Time of Utter Chaos
Diana Campos, 18
Mental health is not a one-sided subject, though it tends to be. Much like the work we receive on #DearAdultWorld, the focus of mental health has disproportionately highlighted illnesses over wellbeing. For many upcoming adolescences, mental health has become a growing issue, and luckily, there are many who are fighting towards helping this problem, but it has not made it easier to talk about.
Platforms are difficult when it comes to mental health. Do we publish the angst, the sadness, and the crushing illnesses that plague us at the risk of mistakenly commending or romanticizing suicide and self-harm? Do we avoid those emotions and become part of those who ignore the severity of mental illness. So what is the answer?
For many of us, mental well-being is not always an omnipresent issue. Coming from an immigrant family, mental health is something rarely spoken of. I am not alone when I say I have been told that I should suck it up, that I should smile, that I should be grateful. However, it is inevitable that once in a while, we will feel overwhelming sadness, anxiety, loneliness. Particularly in our youth. For me, it wasn’t until I was suffocating in homework, alone in a new city, and spending innumerable nights restlessly awake that I realized I was not healthy. It took taking a class on how to be happy for me to finally realize what I was doing every single day of my existence up to that point that made me unhappy.
In our current environment, it has become crucial to address the effects on our mental health. Many of us can’t even leave our homes, apartments, forced to stay with people who are not good for us, away from the people who love us. I don’t wish to make it seem as though these outlined steps towards happiness can cure depression. The first, most important aspect of mental health is reaching out to professionals and those around you. The steps I will talk about are starting points, exercises, not solutions. There will always be rough days but it is practicing these steps towards happiness that we can make the most of what we are going through in the present, to safeguard and preserve well-being.
The first basic underlying practice towards happiness is being aware of positive emotions. This isn’t an attempt to tell our audiences that they should just smile, be grateful, or see the positive in everything. There is no exception: quarantine has absolutely sucked for mostly everyone. But it is in how we frame our lives that have loads to do with our day to day happiness.
Exercising positive emotions is measuring the good against the bad. The good could be that you finished an assignment, you got to take a walk, you had a great lunch. There will be days that the bad will outweigh the good, but taking note of each moment of positivity makes one aware of what makes them happy from a day to day basis. For me, it is important that I have time to myself and time outside. I can walk my dog, or sit in my backyard to finish assignments and it will improve my daily happiness.
This was the first step for me to rid the excessive negativity back when I was living on campus. It seemed that at the end of the day, I talked about everything that went wrong, instead of what went right. For the majority of us, these bad moments can ruin our day if we focus on them too much and make us feel as though each day passing has been negative.
In high school, I remember showing up to my 7:45 class one morning, only to be lectured on fixed and growth mindset. The two opposing mindsets often explained via intelligence in which one believes that intelligence is fixed at a certain level, while the other believes intelligence can always grow. However, it is incredibly difficult to change something once it has been put into place for years. The first step is realizing how you react to challenges in your life and what thinking traps you fall into. Once you’ve identified your thinking traps, recognize when you use them, and avoid falling into them again. A large part of changing a mindset is recognizing the inner voice that labels, mind-reads, the part that jumps to conclusions. It is especially hard in these moments where we feel that everything is falling apart around us and we can’t help but think about the worst possibilities. Focusing on the now and changing what we are in control can help those of us who have never felt more claustrophobic.
There is a preconceived idea that stress is singularly negative, though stress is not always overwhelming to the point where nothing is accomplished. You can’t strive towards zero stress, because there will be moments where you forgot an assignment or wake up late, and in actuality, stress helps you be at your very best when it is in a healthy amount. There is an optimal level of stress where performance is at its peak, where organization, sleep, and alertness come together to make sure you get your work done. Instead of framing events with “I am anxious,” and thinking of it instead as “I am excited” could significantly help move towards healthy stress. The anxiety many of us feel at the moment is justifiable. What is to come in the next several months is unknown and it is scary. But for those of us that are privileged to have stabilities in our lives, this time gives us room to do something that makes us happy.
I look back to myself last year, and I hardly recognize who I was. Back then, I was overtly negative, drowning in self-pity and stress, wishing that I could change but not believing it was possible. Transitioning from high school to college, I thought things would be different. Like many of my peers, I believed moving away, piercing my nose, and getting into my dream school was enough. That it was worth the misery I put myself through in high school. But I quickly realized I was still unhappy. I went to orientation events, finding myself alone and sad because I wished things were easier. The second I found out there was a class on happiness, I had to squeeze myself in.
I went in anxious. What if it didn’t work? What if I felt the exact same coming into the class as I did coming out? Even a couple of months ago, I can’t recognize myself. Despite moving back to my rinky-dink small hometown and having classes online, I can say that if I had not taken that class, I couldn’t have made it the rest of the semester.
There is still an array of problems that accompany mental well-being and mental illness that cannot be addressed in a singular article, though I hope this can serve as a jumpstart to our readers and hopefully it can aid you during this time of utter chaos.
Artwork by: Lilly Catarozoli, 18, she/her
The Pieces to Follow
“Finding yourself” is a common fascination among youth who feel lost and misled. But how does one find themselves when they are being dragged in so many directions? People are multi-faceted, and that’s perfectly just. Some people try to force others into categories, into little boxes in order to organize them in their heads. I believe no one can be filed into one category. We are puzzles with complex pieces that fit together to make us who we are. So in the end, you may wonder which piece should you follow. The answer to this complex question is quite simple: put all your pieces together to make the perfect map.