For this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re thinking about what it means to cope.
Back in March, just as life in the United States was starting to go completely sideways, I found myself struggling mightily with sleep. I had had a baby in November, so sleep was already an issue. But this was something else. Taking forever to fall asleep in the first place. Waking up in the middle of the night to feed the baby, and then lying awake for hours after. Horrible, stressful nightmares.
I have my own history of dealing with mental health conditions, some of which I’ve written about before. Because of that, I also have years of therapy (occasionally assisted by medication) under my belt. But this new abnormal reality was really testing me, and I found that many of the coping mechanisms and tools that I’d developed and learned over my adult life weren’t always working. I was having a rough time, and that’s in spite of the fact that I’m among the most fortunate—lucky to still have my health, lucky to still have a job, lucky to be able to do that job from the safety of my house, lucky to live with my family, whom I love and can hug every day, rather than alone or among strangers.
Meanwhile, millions of other people are going through all this, and worse, every day. The health care workers on the front lines, without sufficient PPE, risking their life to save others. Entire parking lots full of people waiting in line for hours at food banks. Communities of color bearing a disproportionate burden of the deaths from the virus, compounding already existing social inequalities. Essential workers stocking groceries, working in warehouses, and delivering packages, in spite of insufficient wages, sick leave, or health insurance. Any of the 30 million people who’ve filed for unemployment since mid-March. Any of the families of the 65,000 and counting Americans who have died of the disease in that time. We’re all in this together, yes, but we’re not all going through the same exact things.
That said, whether you’re experiencing heightened stress from the comfort of your home, or facing the threat of illness and death every day as part of your job, it’s likely that you’re having a hard time right now. Sustained hardship, whatever form it takes, can have an impact on your mental health. And you’re certainly not alone if you could use a little help coping with everything at the moment. So with that in mind—and because May is Mental Health Awareness Month—today SELF magazine is launching an editorial package called How to Cope. Our goal in this month’s coverage is to give you tools and resources to help you take care of yourself and take care of your mental health, whatever you’re going through.
Our first story for this project is “What the Pandemic Is Doing to Our Mental Health—And How We Can Cope,” a feature by reporter Nina Bahadur about the physiological and psychological impacts of this moment in time, and what we can expect from a mental health perspective. We’re also publishing “9 Ways to Reframe Your Anxious Existential Thoughts, According to Therapists,” by SELF senior health editor Anna Borges—a story that a lot of us can probably relate to right now. And over the course of the month, we’ll cover many related topics, including small things you can do to cultivate resilience; the healing powers of gratitude; the importance of imagining a better future; some views on what “healthy” grief looks like; and others. And because the coronavirus pandemic has underscored ugly truths about societal failures, we’ll also publish information about mental health resources specifically for people of color, whose communities are currently being hit hardest by this virus.
If you are having a hard time right now, know that you are absolutely not alone. This Mental Health Awareness Month, we aim to help you take care of your mental health and prioritize your emotional well-being, day by day, so that you may tap into your inner strength, cultivate your resilience, and prepare for a thoughtful and tender recovery in order to one day rebuild a better world on the other side.