Friday, May 8, 2020

Tools For Surviving 2020 With Your Sanity Intact

So.  We're only 5 months into 2020 & already it feels like an eternity.  So far we've lost beloved (by most) sports veteran Kobe Bryant, narrowly escaped war with Iran, watched as Australia was ravaged by bushfires, endured the worst pandemic in a century & are now being descended upon by "murder hornets".  Now June is off to an explosive start with worldwide protests (and riots) against police brutality due to the George Floyd murder.  It's an election year to boot, which means endless political attack ads and general ugliness are sure to compound the already sour mood facing the country.

With all this doom & gloom, it's absolutely vital to make time for your mental health & stress management.  As a result of the worldwide lockdowns, people are turning to alcohol, junk food & other unhealthy vices to cope with the stress of losing their jobs & dealing with a terrifying new disease.  As a long-time drug user I've been taking my usual dose of mind-altering substances every day with no change:  A stimulant, opiate & weed.  Ahh, predictability.  I balance that with lots of therapy (via telemedicine) & meditation as well as other things like journaling, taking brisk walks & reading self-help type books (currently reading:  The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson - I recommend it).  I'm not doing great but am hanging in there.

Unfortunately I've lost two friends/acquaintances during this pandemic, one of whom was a long-time drug addict & the other who struggled with eating disorders & mental health problems.  They didn't die of the disease but of its downstream effects...namely, stress.  Covid can kill in many ways even if you don't catch it yourself.  A man was shot & killed for enforcing face mask policy in a public place.  Domestic violence rates are up worldwideAn autistic teen committed suicide due to the sheer uncertainty caused by the pandemic.  These are all triggered by stress.  Stress thrives on things like following every news update or trending Covid topic on Twitter & arguing with your paranoid uncle Bruce about the origins of the disease.  Stop that.

Crazy times require increased sanity.

Quieting the Chaos

At some point you just have to turn off the speculation & white noise.  Yes, it's impossible to ignore the economic stress of losing your job or the frustration of being cooped up with annoying family as Spring Fever sets in, but you can choose to disengage with the constant flow of complaining & hand-wringing about these things by other people in real life & the media.  And you should.  Because it changes precisely nothing except your own mood & blood pressure.

Instead, focus on things you CAN change, even if it's just your own attitude & outlook.  Make a list of short- and long-term goals to knock out once things get back to normal.  Endeavor to make the most of your downtime because you may not get another opportunity to spend with your spouse, kids, pets or even by yourself again once work & life pick back up.  If you're an essential worker, this obviously doesn't apply to you but there are things you can & must do to protect your health (both mental & physical) right now.  Periodically take stock of your substance use & junk food intake as well as other potentially destructive habits during this time to avoid forming a lasting addiction when this is all over.

If the behavior of our divided nation is getting you down, remind yourself that extremists are a vocal minority and the news media seeks out sensational, ratings-worthy stories that will draw in viewers.  It's good to be informed but be careful where you get your information.  NO source is completely bias-free but Reuters, PBS, NPR & evidence-based resources like the CDC & NIH are generally reliable when seeking out Covid-related info.  Independent news sources like Democracy Now! are invaluable regardless of your political leanings & should be supported.  Personal blogs, Youtube & sites like Breitbart, NaturalNews & InfoWars?  Not so much unless you do so with the caveat that it's for entertainment purposes only.  In fact, here's a great list of "fake news" sites to avoid like the plague.  Set limits on your news consumption each day if you tend to watch or read a lot of Covid-related stories or news in general, as their goal is to create feelings of fear & polarization to keep ratings up & help advertisers sell things during commercial breaks.  This is not good for mental health at an already stressful time.

What are YOU doing to stay sane during this insane year?  What drugs are you taking (if any)--has your usage gone up or down?  I envy people brave enough to take psychedelics during this dark time.  Couldn't be me.  But no judgment here.  I respect your journey regardless of whether you smoke crack at lunch or stick to weed & beer once a year.  Sound off in the comments.  😇

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