"COVID-19 ushered in a global INTERVENTION. It’s requiring us to retreat to our own homes and to focus on the basics of our existence both individually and collectively. With that being said, the rush to return to “normal” is troubling. Here’s the question, “How fragile is your core existence if you are this uncomfortable in the place you call home, with the people you call family?” Are we willing to risk lasting connections for momentary ones? There are many lessons to be learned in this moment and with this rush we are at risk of missing them all. Even TikTok has bombarded us with #dontrush! The new challenge is to not lose the quality acquired in quarantine (#qualityquarantine). As you prepare to emerge from home, learn the lessons that will help you become mentally healthy while in quarantine and beyond! The theme of the lessons is R.E.S.T. Pre - COVID, life was moving too fast for you to truly live it, for you to genuinely live you. To live life to the fullest, we must take time to R.E.S.T. Visit here each Monday in May, Mental Health Awareness Month, for valuable information on the true benefits of R.E.S.T." #dontrushrest
- Dr. LaShaunda P. Massey
MAY THEME: R.E.S.T.
LESSON 1: Relax and Relate
MAY 4, 2020
The road to success has been mistakenly defined as being SUPER. We are poised to strap on a cape every morning and hero our way into every aspect of our lives. Positive personality traits have taken on a life of their own and exist as the proverbial rabbit that we chase daily. Hardworking means to accomplish the impossible in the least amount of time. You’re required to be a “go getter,” to give 110%, to work with little sleep in order to be a high performing, promotion worthy employee. Loyal means to be everything to everybody. You can’t say no because others depend on you. Independent means that you do everything by yourself all the time. You're willing to re-invent the wheel to show your creativity, tenacity, and perseverance. Strong means nothing bothers you and you can handle anything life throws at you without flinching. This is all false. The truth... anything in excess is a problem.
Relax these excessive, obsessive standards so that you can live in a healthier mental place. Hard work cannot become overworked. Be intentional about setting time to relax and honor that this is necessary for you to perform at your best. Set deadlines and timelines that incorporate rest so that you don’t feelstressed and overwhelmed. Shorten your daily to do list. This creates more realistic expectations and promotes a sense of accomplishment. Abandon the belief that there are not enough hours in the day. Yes, your work is never done. That’s the purpose of having a job, to do the work. But, your work can be done for the day!
Happiness requires a connection to the things that bring you joy, so relate. Take time to be present in the activities of your day. Be aware of what you see, what you hear, and what you feel. Yes, what you feel. We’ve been tricked into believing that our emotions are problems and being emotional makes us weak. No, having emotions is being human. You must embrace what you feel, positive and negative, and learn how to deal with feelings. Strength is not about avoiding adversity or being unbothered. Strength is about relating to what you feel and handling that feeling accordingly. Remember, the feeling often is not the problem. The behavior you engage in in response to that problem is typically the problem. If I’m so ecstatic that I won the lottery that I get all my earnings in cash and toss them in the air on a crowded street, I’m certain the ecstasy is NOT the problem!
LESSON 2: Engage (Intimately)
MAY 11, 2020
Have you heard the phrase, “So much to do, so little time?” Our activities of daily living have become synonymous with being involved in as many enrichment activities as we can find for that day. Here’s how it goes (wrong). You understand the need to be organized, so you create a daily to do list. Take the kids to school. Drop a load at the cleaners. Attend 2 meetings before lunch. Presentation after lunch. Happy hour with potential client. Kid’s soccer game. Dinner to go. Finance committee meeting at church. Finish proposal. Sign-up for master class. Work on tomorrow’s to do list. In COVID-19
Quarantine it looks more like this. Wash and fold laundry. Two Zoom meetings before lunch. Prepare lunch. Teach the children. Hang the pictures you purchased two months ago. Family Game Night. Complete online Master Class. The problem with these types of To Do lists is that they are NOT doable! When trying to complete them, you are forced to rush from one activity to the next giving a piece of yourself to EVERYTHING that is important to you. No wonder there is no time to rest! You show up for everything, but are you really there? These over-committed daily schedules lead to stress, fatigue,
burnout, and less than stellar performances. Let’s consider an alternative to overdrive.
To achieve fulfillment (instead of constant fatigue) from the things that are important to you, you must engage in them intimately. You must become effective at managing not just your time, but also your level of engagement. Decrease the number of things you commit to in one day so that you can embrace the activities of the day. Remember just because you can doesn’t mean you should! Yes, maybe you can fit 12 million thousand things into one day, but should you? You are the author of your To Do list, so write what works for you! For example, if there is one morning meeting, there is time to prepare and clarify expectations. There is time after the meeting to document, reflect, and possibly delegate. If today is soccer day, give your regrets for being unavailable for happy hour and request a lunch with the client for the next day instead. Now you can help your child get ready for the game and secure your front row seat before the game starts! And since you are there, get involved! Don’t only put your phone down because social media is toxic or the work never stops. Put the phone away because the activity that you’ve committed your precious time to deserves your undivided attention. Nothing worse than being at the game and missing your child’s winning goal because you had to check your email!
Fulfillment also requires you to be present AND engaged with people as well. Strive to have time for an intimate level of engagement when you connect with others to obtain deeper meaning. This shared engagement promotes joint effort, support, and appreciation. However, be careful of engaging too readily in other’s expectations of you. Creating doable To Do lists requires you to set boundaries and to say no. For example, you can say “That’s important and I really want to help you. Can we do that tomorrow?” Lastly, remember to put SELF on your TO DO list daily. That connects you to the relax and relate lesson from week one. You need designated time to engage with yourself so that you are aware of what you do, what you feel, and what you need. When you are truly engaged with yourself, you will have an easier time identifying appropriate activities to engage in and the amount of time you want to commit to those things to make them meaningful. This also allows time for you to engage in refueling before your tank is totally empty. Remember, you can’t give from an empty cup!
LESSON 3: Synchronize
MAY 18, 2020
A problem described by many in this busy world is the one of work-life balance: the struggle to give equal attention to career demands and the many demands of life. The work-life balance tends to proceed like this. You plan to give 100% to our career. You also want to be a parent and not short change your children, so career gets 50% and parenting gets 50%. You want to give back to your community so you introduce volunteer activities: that’s 33% career, 33% parent, 33% philanthropist. Wait, you have to maintain your spiritual connection and no good Christian is a bench member: career gets 25%, parenting gets 25%, philanthropic activities get 25%, choir member gets 25%. Did I mention your spouse needs some time…. ? It is easy to see that work-life balance is a misnomer. It’s the living manifestation of “Jack of all trades. Master of none.” This is because the goal is not simply to give equally to all, but also to give effectively to all. Therefore, seeking BALANCE is the problem. It is impossible to give equally and effectively to all things important to you daily! The goal is to have all important things work together in harmony over time.
Synchronize defined is ‘cause to occur at the same time.’ You must put forth the effort to align things in your life so that they can happen at the same time. This requires you to look at life beyond the moment or even beyond the day because time is relative. Scheduling the work trip the week after your child’s big recital can be less stressful than trying to plan the return trip to touch down just two hours before the big event. You can give 110% to the fundraising event on Saturday because you planned date night for Sunday evening (including securing the babysitter). Making efforts to synchronize allows us to organize life in ways that promote the intimate engagement discussed last week. You cannot see the important things in your life as competing for your time. The use of your time is something you control so cause it to work for you. For example, during COVID-19’s safer at home you don’t have to be your child’s teacher and facilitate a work meeting at the same time. However, you can conduct the meeting at 9am and do lessons with your child after lunch. Synchronize. Who said home-school had to start at the same time traditional school did? Next, coordinate a check-in time with your older child so that you can monitor progress vs sit with them throughout task completion. That is synchronizing with others which is necessary as well. Be more flexible and creative with your use of time.
Ultimately, synchronizing is about time management. It was agreed at the start of these lessons that you are your own boss, right? Let’s manage! Take time to plan based on the big picture. To give equally and effectively requires an eagle-eyed view of your time, a space where you can see how things fit together in a broader sense. Let go of old beliefs that suggest finishing quickly or first are major indicators of higher ability or efficiency. Develop a strategic plan for your time complete with goals/objectives, actions steps, and deadlines. Set deadlines that include more time for completion than the task actually needs. This allows you to manage the expectations of others and your own. Schedule down time and end time that you respect so that you can adequately relax as discussed in week one. Yes, you can have it all. Just synchronize so that there’s work-life harmony instead of debilitating
LESSON 4: Think
MAY 25, 2020
And just like that, safer at home is coming to end. You are preparing to re-enter society but with certain discomforting restrictions and the burning question, “How do I stay safe away from home?” You will be tempted to rush into handling risks and proving you can adjust. As you return to ‘handling it,’ all of it, be careful not to abandon the mental health lessons you’ve learned during this pause. There is one final lesson, the most important lesson you must learn here, Mind Mastery. It is imperative that you think of self as the central component of your mental health journey. As the boss of you, you must realize that your mind is the CEO. Are you governing and guarding your thoughts to effectively use the power of your mind? Here’s the key: Think of self first, but not self only!
Think about yourself first? Surely this flies in the face of much of what you have believed about not being selfish. However, you cannot be genuinely selfless if you do not know how to understand and control self. Remember, self care isn’t selfish, it’s a necessity! Thinking of self is the foundational component of effective relaxing, relating, engaging, and synchronizing. You must take time to think about how you feel and when you need to relax. It is through thought that you are able to relate to the things around you and develop strategies for engaging intimately with them. You must think about your multiple roles and create a plan to synchronize them harmoniously. You run the risk of becoming overwhelmed, misguided, and misunderstood if you fail to consider yourself first. But what keeps this from becoming selfish you ask? Think of others also. You do not have to choose between yourself and others or constantly sacrifice self for the betterment of others. You must find ways to care for them both. Let it be said that you cannot give from an empty cup. Learn to prioritize R.E.S.T. so that you are able to appropriately rejuvenate and be great again, tomorrow!
Additioally, think about the barriers to R.E.S.T and your mental health journey of wellness as you re-enter the world. One such barrier is the quest to be “high performing.” Many are driven to achieve and accomplish because it is their definition of being well. “If I am achieving, I must be well.” Achievement as a marker of “well” works counter to valuing rest, literally, and in the mental health guiding parts of R.E.S.T. that we have been discussing. You must think of “well” in a manner more complex than achieving if you are going to live well and not overdo it, perpetually. Secondly, overachieving is often the manifestation of avoidance of things that are problematic or not well. Be careful of hiding from what is not well and viewing such as strength. Contrarily, do the work to resolve because strength is in the work through, not the push through.
The journey to mental wellness is not one to be taken alone. Knowing what to do (awareness) does not mean that you know how to do it (application)! Just as you benefit from a personal trainer to help guide you through a physical fitness regimen, you need a mental health professional to guide you in your mental fitness journey. Therefore, therapy is a bonus T in your quest to R.E.S.T. Let’s remove the taboo from mental health and make it as natural as physical health! You’re on your way so let’s not stop as May comes to an end. Take care of your mental health this month, next month, every month. It’s essential!