Let me start by admitting a few things. I’ve been struggling lately – not every day, but a good amount of the time. I feel overwhelmed by inputs and decisions and stresses and underwhelmed at my options for turning any of it “off.” I feel a bit numb, almost like I’m watching myself do all of these things from a distance. Don’t get me wrong, I am not unhappy – I love my family, I love my work, and I have so much to be grateful for. But after two-under-two followed by a child diagnosed at age three with Type 1 diabetes followed by a global pandemic, I am more than a bit burnt out.
And here’s the thing, I think we all are. Yet it’s becoming harder to talk about mental health in the context of our current landscape because, well, what the hell do we say? The check-ins we all had early on in the pandemic were sprinkled with statements that perhaps we then believed, like “We can get through this!” or “The silver lining is…” or “When this is over…” No one wants to hear it anymore, myself included. Because eighteen months into this, platitudes are nothing but frustrating. But we’re still struggling, in fact many of us are struggling more. Chronic stress for a year and a half will do that.
Silence Isn’t the Answer
This is a major challenge when it comes to talking about mental health – we often don’t know what to say, so we don’t say anything. But silence is not the answer, and it is time for a mental health check. How are your work-from-home employees feeling? How are your frontline workers holding up? How are your peers faring? How are YOU? You don’t have to have a perfect response to ask a genuine question – in fact, you don’t have to have a response at all. Just listening helps. Alternatively, you don’t have to be asking any questions – you can simply share. Being honest about your own feelings encourages others to do the same.
I was talking with a connection last week and when we got onto Teams and exchanged “how are you’s?” we both sort of just shrugged. Once we got talking, we each opened up about how we’re feeling. How we are struggling at times, but then feel guilty verbalizing any of that struggle because we know many are struggling more. How we feel like we have to maintain an image of strength, for our families and our colleagues, even when we really need a break from being “tough.” It was an honest, vulnerable conversation – and it felt so good. It was the catalyst for writing this because I think that as the pandemic has gone on, we’ve become less communicative about this critically important topic.
So, I urge you, speak up and speak out. Talk to your people, check in on them with sincerity. Don’t worry about knowing how to respond, just focus on being present. If you aren’t comfortable asking the big questions and aren’t getting any more than a surface-level response with “how are you?” try to incorporate some small talk into your interactions to allow folks to feel more comfortable getting personal so that they can open up if they need to. And if it’s you that need to talk, don’t underestimate how much it might help both you and those around you to be the one to share. Please also know that I will always gladly make myself available for connection, camaraderie, and solidarity – reach out anytime.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month in the U.S. Please find resources and help here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/