What do you want to achieve?
Each morning I wake up with all the intentions in the world of writing a number one bestseller. It has not happened yet. Personal writing for my blog and for Medium does take place, but they were happening before.
From what I can tell the biggest aspect of my life that has improved is sleep. March to August saw an increase from six hours a day to eight hours a day. Now that my fiancée has returned to work, that figure has gone back down to six again. This is the average without going back to bed, which happens often.
The desire to achieve ends up with me falling back to sleep, which in turn leaves me frustrated. This in turn affects my mental health.
Achievement is relative
My goals are separate to yours, the reader. We all have goals and desires that are unique to each of us. If we all had the same goals then life would be a little dull. The important consideration here is to have goals and do our best to achieve them.
LISTER: The Cat has lead a more worthwhile life than either of us?
INQUISITOR: He is a shallow and selfish creature, as is the hologram. By their own low standards they have acquitted themselves. Whereas you and the mechanoid could have been so much more.
The extract above is from the hit BBC show, Red Dwarf. During the episode, Inquisitor, the lead characters (of the same name) visits the lacklustre heroes to ask them to justify their lives. If they do not, then they get erased from history. Those from the group who are vein get to live whilst those who brave are deemed insufficient in terms of the gift of life.
The reason why those who appear more cowardly are saved is that by their own definition they have justified their lives. This is an important part and one that has stayed with me for years.
From the outside in it does not matter, it is the inside out that is important. The only ones that can justify our lives are us. We are the only ones who can say whether we reached our potential or wasted it. This is something that I have thought of more and more since the additional time we have all received via the outbreak.
We all know what COVID-19 is. It is a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than a million people. It has affected more than this number when we look at the secondary fallout.
With regards to this fallout, I am referring to those who have seen their mental health fall.
Those that have found themselves trapped at home in abusive relationships, those whose anxiety has increased and those that could not take it anymore. The cost, in terms of lives, may never be fully totalled. It is a global challenge and a battle that we are all fighting each day.
The mind is the undiscovered country. We know that we all have a mind and each mind on earth is unique.
This is a gift but also a curse. This means that the justification of our lives is subjective and makes each person’s mental health a unique challenge. Cures cannot be handed out as they can be with a disease. It is such as an underfunded industry. It is one that will take years to repair all the damage caused by this outbreak.
At a time when jobs are being lost, physical violence is occurring and people’s anxiety has been swelling like the ocean. It is not surprising to hear that with this in mind, mental health referrals are increasing.
In August, a group of NHS leaders said they were seeing a rise in people reporting severe mental health difficulties while charities including Mind, Samaritans and Calm have all said they have seen an increase in people coming to them for help.
The BBC ran an article a couple of weeks ago in the run-up to World Mental Health Day. It showcases the increase in referrals that have taken place across charities and the NHS. This is something that scratches the surface of the emerging problem that will increase over the Christmas period.
What are we doing with all this extra time?
That is something that I cannot answer. As I have established, that is subjective but what I do understand is empathy.
I can empathise with those that have lost their jobs or loved ones. The loss of the job and tough market leaves many with a raft of extra time that they need to fill.
It is something that seems amazing on the surface but soon enough, Netflix and chill becomes old. Not everyone is as motivated to learn new skills and not everyone is resilient enough to see the bigger picture.
We can all become overwhelmed with the day to day and forget that there is a larger image in mind.
I am lucky enough to still have my position, with no redundancies as of today. It is a situation that I am grateful for because I have days where I feel overwhelmed when all I want to do is lie in bed. Take this situation that occurs a couple of times a month and times this by every day and I can see how the mental health of millions can suffer.
How you can manage your feelings?
We all need to be aware of our feelings. This does not change from the day we establish long term memories, to the day in which we die. We need to constantly be on the lookout for anything that could affect our mental health. It is a lifetime battle that we can win for years, only to be relegated the next.
By being mindful and honest about how we are feeling, we can stay near the top of the league. By hiding inside of ourselves we will be doomed to lose. By being open and honest, we can realise the possibilities out there and motivate ourselves to keep going. There are a million things that you can do but having the positive mental motivation to do so is another consideration.
You can manage your feelings in many ways, but the best treatment is talking. By speaking about your concerns to someone who you trust, you can break problems down into smaller chunks. This is the goal for all of us, to shrink those invisible battles into small skirmishes.
To see the light in the darkness and not get overwhelmed. Engaging in life is what we should all be doing but the motivation to do so can be lost.
A final thought
Achievement is tied into all our lives. We need to fulfil our dreams, or we end up frustrated, which can lead to misdirected moods. There are naturally extremes of this which won’t be focused on here. What needs to be discussed is what to do with all the extra time we have. This will be relative for all but the misuse of it is important.
The importance for me is that I have spent years looking for more time. Now that it has arrived, these extra hours are not being consistently used. Most days my thoughts move to how tired I am and head back to bed. The consequence of this is that I sleep in until 9 am and begin work later than intended. No writing is completed and then the remainder of the day is spending chasing my tail.
All of this is not written to generate sympathy. It is to illustrate how important mental health is. By being fearful of the additional time and not getting enough done, I head back to bed and repeat the cycle once again. This lowers my mood and leaves me feeling unfulfilled. This is unproductive and achieving less than when I worked in the office every day.
With more time, less has been done.
When an effort is made on my behalf to engage in my day and pay attention, my mood increases. Whilst this will look different for all I imagine that principle is the same. We need to fill our time in ways that make us happy. Finding what makes us happy in challenging times is what we need to focus on. This enhances your mood and improves your day.
I listened to myself and so should you.