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How I protect my mental health when it feels like the world is on fire

I'm currently in the place where I relate deeply with all the memes that are requesting, we simply skip ahead to 2021, because this year feels like a dumpster fire. A few minutes spent on the internet or watching the news can quickly leave us feeling hopeless and craving a sense of control. If I start to feel a little better, I simply remember that people are refusing to wear masks to protect fellow humans, and our government continues to deploy an insane amount of tear gas on its citizens. Everything going on has left me struggling with my mental health. I'm trying my hardest to not get sick, stand up and be a better ally to BIPOC communities, and keep my job and relationships afloat. Dear God, can we all agree that it's exhausting and overwhelming?

However, the truth is that our reality isn't changing, and now more than ever, we can't check-out of life- we need to show up. We must find a way to continue to function while ensuring that we aren't sacrificing our mental wellbeing. I know it may sound like a pipedream, but here are a few ways I'm supporting my mental health, even when it feels like the world is on fire.

I'm recognizing my emotions.

With everything going on in our world, I feel like my emotional state could be described as UGHHHHHH. While this may seem like an apt description for the current environment, it doesn't help me address the emotions and take steps forward. Instead, when I feel myself heading into that state of total overwhelm, I pause and challenge to describe the emotions I'm feeling more accurately.

I soon may realize that I'm actually feeling scared regarding COVID-19, or angry about how people are treating each other. Frustration (in myself and others) has also come up when I'm trying to be a better ally to BIPOC communities. By naming the emotion, I feel like I take some of its power away- I'm no longer in an unknown state, and I can take steps to address what's really going on. Struggling to name the actual emotions you are feeling? I've been there, and I've found this emotions chart helpful!

I'm focusing on what I can control.

I should start a support group for all of us who crave control in our lives because this is not our year. You've probably heard the advice that if you are struggling with control issues in an uncontrollable environment, focus on the things you have power over. So, before you gloss over this, hear me out. Part of the reason this whole world on fire really impacts our mental health is that we feel like we can't do much about it. It leaves us feeling helpless, depressed, and overwhelmed/anxious. I've challenged myself to take this new perspective and perform one small action that creates small change. For me, it's looked like cleaning all my touchpoints in my apartment when I'm feeling anxious about COVID, or sending an email to my Diversity and Inclusion team when I notice a racial injustice at our workplace. I can say that these small acts help me feel a little sense of peace or even control is this crazy world.

I'm finding healthy outlets.

Anyone else know that feeling where you get to the end of the day (or maybe you're only a few hours into the day), and you are utterly exhausted from merely trying to exist? I'm hoping I'm not alone in this one. With everything happening around us, I've found it essential to find healthy outlets to process my emotions and give myself a breather. Short walks, because it's freaking hot, around my neighborhood help me take space away from all the noise. Journaling, even if it's sporadically, gives me a judgment-free outlet to express how I'm struggling. Regular venting sessions with my friends and family via phone give me a chance to recognize that I'm not alone and allows me to verbally process everything swimming around in my head. To support your mental health during these times, I believe that it's vital to develop your own healthy outlets for emotions. I want to emphasize the healthy part, though! Make sure your chosen outlets aren't disguising negative coping skills.

While I often wish we could press the fast-forward button and skip over the rest of 2020, I'm pretty sure Apple has yet to come out with that technology. Therefore, we need to find ways to cope with all the craziness and protect our mental health. I hope the ones I've shared will inspire you to discover what works best for your own mental wellbeing. When the world feels like it's on fire, the best thing we can do is take a deep breath and go forward. We've got this!


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