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Managing Mental Health During a Pandemic

When the pandemic hit, many of us didn’t acknowledge our own emotions. We were too busy writing content, checking accounts, working on the crisis communication team to even check-in with others, let alone ourselves. It took almost two months for the panic to calm down and the reality of working from home to hit us. It’s one thing for our every day “norm” to change, but it’s a different situation when you realize you’re living through a world-wide pandemic. Now that the dust has settled, we’ve been able to stop and process our thoughts that have accumulated over the past couple of months. The conclusion – we aren’t okay.

Gone are the days of mental health awareness being taboo. We now live in a world where talking about your mental health journey is openly accepted. Scrolling through TikTok and Instagram, I see many influencers talking about their emotional state. Because of this, other people have joined in and have started to share their personal experiences and struggles with mental health. There is something refreshing about knowing you aren’t alone in something. When the idea of conducting a mental health survey among social media managers in higher education was proposed, I was really excited, but also apprehensive. How I deal with my stress is very different than how others may deal with theirs. I am one of the first people to openly express myself when it comes to mental health. I’ve lived with depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder for most of my life and I’ve developed several coping mechanisms to handle the low times. I wasn’t sure if others would be as open with how they are feeling, especially towards their supervisors. It became evident after reading over the results that the people taking the survey were at their breaking point and looking for a place to shout their frustrations. I know that point all too well, so I understand the importance of finding an outlet to manage my mental health.

Part of me knew that the results would be sad, and the responses would include hard pills to swallow. Social media makes it easy for people to voice their opinions, whether that be negative and positive. When someone wants to write a bad review, they do so not realizing that there is someone behind that social media account. I would love to say that negative comments and reactions on the accounts I run don’t affect me, but they do sometimes. Lately, I have been struggling with how to respond to families and students who don’t understand our return to campus plans. They are upset and want immediate answers, which is understandable. However, when you’re the one having to answer their questions, it can be exhausting when morale is already low. It’s hard not to take someone’s malice remarks as personal. When we received the results of the survey, it was no surprise that other social media managers feel the same way. Mixing my personal emotions with my professional emotions during a time of uncertainty and isolation makes for an unhealthy mental health state. How do we fix this?

When I was younger and seeing a therapist, I remember she told me “you are not alone in your thoughts and how you are feeling.” At the time, I didn’t believe her. I genuinely thought I was the only one feeling the way I did.  Now that I am older and I have lived a little, I realize her comments are completely true. While the mental health survey results were sad, they were also refreshing. It showed me that I am not alone in how I am feeling and what I am going through. I felt a sense of relief knowing that I have a community of people to talk to who will understand every emotion that I am feeling. Now, more than ever, we all need to feel a sense of community – a nonjudgmental place where we can share our thoughts, goals, the negatives, and the positives. As 2020 continues to be a dumpster fire, it’s important to build each other up, have open and candid conversations and create a space where we can listen, learn and educate ourselves and others.

While I don’t believe I have all the answers, I have picked up some tricks over the years to manage my mental health. For me, it’s developing a routine and finding activities like spin class or yoga that help me breathe and focus on how I am feeling in that moment. I’ve learned the technique of visualization to control my obsessive habits or to fall asleep. Music is helpful too in combating negative thoughts and feelings. It’s important includes tools in your mental health kit that you can use in multiple situations. Finally, reach out to your peers and friends. Nine times out of ten they are probably feeling the exact same way. Don’t bottle up your frustrations or reach a point where you can’t do your job or be present in everyday activities. Take out the trash that lives in your mind and make room for better things. In dark times, it’s important to find the little glimpses of light – wherever they may be.