Updated: Oct 28, 2020
Is anyone really doing okay during the pandemic?
I think about this almost every day. We’re all trying to adjust to our new normal lives, but for many (including myself), It seems like it is a constant struggle to stay positive and not let the anxiety get us down when there are so many unknowns in our day-to-day lives right now. One of the ways I have been trying to manage my own mental wellness, and a way that I would encourage others to try as well, is measuring out my “health bar” each week. I know this may sound ridiculous, but please, hear me out! I owe this metaphor to my little brother and my husband, because I found that trying to put what I was feeling into words is simply impossible sometimes. So, since I am constantly surrounded by gaming discussions, I decided to try and express my feelings through the language of video games. Video games have always been a staple of entertainment in every house I have ever lived in, and while I don’t play very many myself, I thought it would be an interesting thought experiment to evaluate my own mental health in the language of a video game and see how that changed my perspective. So, when something bad happens, I think of that as taking damage and my health bar being depleted. something good happens, I think of that as my health bar being increased. There is only so much damage that any of us can take until we are officially knocked out, so it is important to not take on more than you can handle and to give yourself the occasional break to recharge.
My health bar resets each Sunday. Sunday is my day! I don’t look at work information, I don’t check the news (unless something major is going on), and I make a point to spend quality time with my family and others who make me feel happy and refreshed. If I don’t make a conscious effort to do these things, I’m not able to reset my health bar for the week. The purpose here is to ensure that I have enough energy stored up for the week to tackle whatever stuff I need to tackle. This can be personal stuff, work stuff, or toddler stuff (which can drain the health bar completely by itself). Everyone has their stuff – the necessary hits to the health bar that they need to take to keep going, but how we approach it is the key.
I make sure to protect my health bar as the week goes on, so I am careful to plan out my week each Monday and ensure I am allowing myself enough break time throughout my week. This also means learning how to say NO to people and how to not feel horribly guilty for it! As a person with anxiety, this has always been a problem for me, but if you aren’t well equipped for a big fight in a game, you’re going to lose that fight. And if my health bar is running low, it would be irresponsible to charge in when it will only hurt me further. It is essentially impossible for me to function effectively with a completely depleted health bar, so sitting down to budget my time for the week is one of the most important things that I do.
Stress and anxiety can make you feel like your health is at zero, and we all have different ways of coping with it. Some of us shut down and build a wall around us so that no damage can reach us, but neither can any healing. Some of us yell and cuss and then feel guilty about it later and dwell on it, depleting not just our own health but that of the people we care about. However you handle it, please know that there are healthy options that are possible and plausible. While I know my video game analogy may not work for everyone, and is admittedly a bit outlandish, living with stress and anxiety is not easy. Not everyone I know deals with these issues, but this pandemic has exacerbated many problems and shown that anxiety can creep up and dig its claws into any of us whether we like it or not.
I am very open about my own struggles with anxiety and how this monster has lived with me throughout my life, and the most important thing to do is address and manage your problems. If you are feeling constantly stressed and anxious and generally down, the worst possible thing you can do is ignore it.
Planning a health bar each week may sound utterly tiring, but anything worth having takes work. If you are someone who struggles with anxiety, please take note that while we may have to work a little harder to feel “normal” (whatever that is), the effort and work you put into your mental wellness pays off in so many ways. If the health bar strategy doesn’t quite work for you, there are plenty of great activities and interventions you can do on your own, but if you or someone you love is truly struggling, don't be scared to reach out for assistance! There is no shame in contacting someone for counseling to help whether it be Franklin County Counseling Center or other counselors. If you would like to contact us for services, call us today at 540-855-7186 or visit our website at www.franklincountycounseling.com