By Eric Redard, Volunteer Services Manager
“I just want to be okay today.” ~ Ingrid Michaelson
The other day, I was taking a Power Zone class on the Peloton to help get my mind off … well… everything. Exercising and focusing on the instructor’s words and music that is usually blasting in the background is a healthy way for me to escape the worries and chaos that seem to be ever-present during these challenging times. With increasing COVID-19 breakthrough cases and vaccine news, Afghanistan evacuation reports, hurricanes in the southern and eastern coasts, wildfires in the west and overseas and earthquakes in Haiti, it’s no wonder that mental health is a growing concern.
As I’m peddling along, Ingrid Michaelson’s song, “Be Okay,” starts playing in my headphones. I’ve heard this happy-go-lucky tune many times before, yet, this time it strikes a different chord. I begin to weep. I find myself repeating the lyrics, “I just want to be okay, be okay, be okay – I just want to be okay today.” Over and over, the words echo in my mind as I pedal perfect circles, and tears run down my cheek.
Sometimes it is the simple, unexpected things that knock you for a loop.
How do we take care of ourselves, and those we love, during this seemingly endless wave of never-ending-ness?
Searching my mind for anything that would stop the tears, I remembered Madonna “the Iron Nun” Buder saying, “If we ever lose hope as humans, we are lost.” Madonna Buder, an American Senior Olympian triathlete and Roman Catholic religious sister, holds the world record as the oldest woman to finish an Ironman Triathlon at age 82. If that isn’t inspiring enough, she still competes at age 90.
I share this quote because the word “hope” is an idea that people can identify with and grab onto. We need to “expect with confidence” that we will get through what is ahead, no matter what challenges come. It’s something in which I deeply believe.
As I ended my workout and wiped away the sweat and tears, I thought of how I could best help address my own mental health, build even more resiliency and persevere so the wave doesn’t come crashing down on me. It was obvious things were affecting me more than I wanted to admit.
I decided to purposely plan activities to nurture my whole being. You may have more on your list, but here are my five areas I’m focusing on:
- Physical – I’m riding my bike 4 to 5 times a week, eating healthy and trying to get restful sleep. I’ve thought about incorporating yoga, which would check the mental box, too. I also like going for walks.
- Mental – I love reading, yet I rarely have time to read for pleasure. Photography stimulates my creative side, and I love doing puzzles to keep my mind going in positive directions.
- Emotional – This is a tough one for me. Making a list of what I’m grateful for helps me feel and express happiness. I also know that I need healthy ways to identify and work through feelings of anger and sadness rather than suppressing them. I have learned to reach out for help when I am in need of it, which lately has been more often.
- Spiritual – Fostering my spiritual side entails me focusing on peace, love, joy and hope within others and myself. Having a strong spiritual background, it’s something that I find grounding. Yet, I sometimes forget to turn in that direction for support.
- Social – I am a social being, which is hard when isolation and social-distancing is the norm. When I am feeling out of touch, I don’t hesitate to reach out, even if it’s to just say hello. I know many others feel the same and welcome a phone call or FaceTime chat. I don’t believe we were meant to live in isolation, but in community because we truly are stronger together.
Additional activities I’ve considered that others may find helpful include meditation, learning a new skill or talent, seeking out people who are intellectually challenging, journaling, listening to audio books and sorting through old pictures and scrapbooks. The list is only limited by one’s imagination. The important thing is to choose to do something to help your wellbeing.
So, today, I am okay – or at least until the next small thing blindsides me and I start tearing up on the Peloton again. I know there is still an endless wave looming in the distance and there always will be challenges to overcome. In the meantime, I will nurture my own health and wellbeing, as well as do what I can for those whom I love and who are in my community. For I firmly believe that together, whether virtually or in-person, we will all come out the other side and be okay.
Sometimes it’s the simple things that can help us feel whole.