By Jamie Kirk

I am convinced it is not just me struggling daily with losing my rhythm. I feel like at any moment I could lose it, all of it. Whatever “it” is. I feel like I could lose my relationship, job, closest friendships, car, and health. I know I over-use this word, but we are in some wonky times. I keep waiting for the alarm clock to go off; I wake up and realize this was all a dream, well nightmare.

Most everyone I know is putting on a brave face. Many people are beginning to get back to the gym, eat inside restaurants, going bowling, etc. Office buildings are rotating in teams, and many colleges are rocking and rolling with classes in session. Businesses outside of the line-of-sight of Major Keisha Lance Bottoms are allowing customers to shop without a mask on. And radio and news stations are starting to go back into the studio. Based on all these positive steps, one would think we would be getting back to steady-state.

Although many days our lives feel like a light switch, it feels like at any given moment, someone else is holding the remote and is in control of our mood and sanity. It is a very uncontrollable feeling to feel like you are not in control of your mood and that someone else can regulate our highs and lows. We could wake up, attend a spin class, or a rowing class, and be in great spirits, and within an hour of being up, we see a news crawler on CNN that tells us of yet another arrest of a black or brown person using extreme force was used or perhaps the poll numbers in key swing states. Such a crappy way to kick start your day.

The anxiety and stress that we have to digest and compartmentalize daily is, on some days, incomprehensible. We have to be able to seek out information, share information, and reject information regularly. This takes some mental headspace. There is so much going on right now that a feeling of being overwhelmed has become standard. When things are unstable, chaos is brewing, and we struggle with being grateful, that is not acceptable. We can’t get in the habit of feeling like we are in a rat face or on a hamster wheel. When we can’t get out of the pattern of feeling down or not being settled, it can spiral very quickly into an acceptable pattern, and before we know it, we have accepted this as a new “normal.”

Finding something to keep us grounded during these wonky times is a MUST. And I don’t mean anything revolving around social media, which is a huge contributor to some of our levels of stress. We have access and insight into our friends and family like never before. We can judge, critique, observe, comment, balk, and even unfollow people in our lives. Social media gives us a false sense of reality, causing our brains to get confused, coupled with our current unbelievable sense of reality. When our brains get confused, we become stressed out and make bad decisions. Our decisions that should be made with thought, data, proof, or history get thrown out of the window, and we become reactionary. Social media puts thoughts in our heads that are not healthy. We get into our own heads and begin to overthink situations. We begin to have thoughts in our heads about ourselves and our situations that aren’t true.

When I speak of being grounded, that can be a hobby, a vacation, or an online class—something to disconnect us from “reality.” Connecting with friends and family (REAL friends and REAL family) can be just what the doctor orders to reset our lives. Our mental health is important to maintain. When we do not put our mental health first and allow outside influencers to intercede, bad things will happen. A healthy mental state means bringing down the walls of stigma by sharing with friends and family or perhaps a professional, experiences, stories, and truths. I bring up sharing because that is so important as it relates to our ability to connect with people that deserve to know our story. Mental health is about not only educating ourselves but for others around us.

In addition to being grounded, we have to avoid the pitfalls/landmines that others plant in our way. We have to be able to not feed into negative text group messages, negative news stories, or reading information that is not aligned with how you want to start or end your day. We have the power to say no. We have the ability to listen to a podcast that is informative and insightful. We have the power to be on a higher plane and not be sucked into conversations that are destructive and not uplifting.

It takes bravery to walk away from negative people and unflattering conversations. Partly because it is difficult to say to a loved one or friend, “I saw your text, but it was so early in the morning, and I don’t find you to be the most positive person these days.” Of course, there are several ways to get this point better across, but most of us don’t have the skills to choose words that are supportive and kind; we just kinda spit out – “You’re draining.” A recommendation might be to take a step back and ask ourselves, will I walk away better by engaging in this conversation? Will the message help me help someone else? Is this conversation productive? We don’t need to try and live these perfect lives in these imperfect times, but we have to take the first step, and that first step is being brave.

Given our current political climate, police brutality, social injustice, and the pandemic, it is a wonder any of us are mentally where we want to be. But we don’t have a choice. We have to get back to a state of normalcy and healthy self-talk. We have to convince ourselves that “this too shall pass” even on our very bad days. We have to be mindful that better days are just around the corner. Open dialogue has happen. It is so very important that we do not feel alone. Everyone needs someone that they can lean on and simply say, “I’m struggling today” or “I need someone to listen, not fix, but listen.”

Day in and day out, we have to exercise our bravery muscles, alone, with others, etc. Every person is struggling in one way or another. Some are struggling a little, while others are struggling a lot. Our top priority is to ride these wonky times out. We have to be stronger than what is trying to divide us. A healthy mental state and a positive outlook will fill the gap; I’m convinced of that.