My mental health is something I’ve had a difficult time with over the past few years.I often felt lethargic, overwhelmed, unmotivated, and distant; a shell of myself. These feelings left me wondering if I would ever feel consistently happy again–wondering if I would eventually find my way through the dark cloud looming over me to accomplish all of the things I wanted to in life.
Then COVID-19 happened.
I frequently longed to work in a strictly remote capacity, but my company preferred to have their employees in a face to face environment, so I had long buried the hope of that ever becoming a possibility. Due to the pandemic, however, we had to adapt and transition to remote work overnight. Instead of feeling stressed or anxious about the change, I was ecstatic. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders
I felt like the only one. Within the first week, so many people seemed desperate to get out of their homes, to return to the office, and for human contact. Yet here, working the days away in my home, I felt happier than I had in years.
As an empath and an introvert, it became clear that I do not thrive in office environments. I become easily overwhelmed around large groups of people, not because I don’t like them, but because I naturally soak up the energies of those around me–good and bad. I know which of my co-workers walk into a room and can often gauge what sort of mood they’re in,despite my back being turned. The constant energy of 10+ people in a small room can make me feel stressed, anxious, and on edge for much of the day. The longer the amount of time I spend around more than a few people, the more draining it is for me.
I tend to hold onto my stress internally, but it will manifest in ways that can make me seem aloof or unfriendly. I struggle to join in on the group conversations and the fun when I’m feeling this way, which often makes me feel like an outcast, therefore retreating inward even more. Don’t even get me started on the break room small talk…
When I feel more tired and out of place, I grow more irritable along with it. I complain and let little things get to me more easily, all the while bringing this irritability home with me. It feels like a train derailing that I struggle to get back on the track, and I often beat myself up over it–worrying that it’s becoming my permanent state.
Since making the switch to remote, I’ve felt undeniably calm. It’s been incredibly therapeutic for me to sit in only my own thoughts and feelings without all the extra noise. The experience has been eye-opening to how I operate as an individual and why I’ve felt so unhappy over the years. I was unaware to the extent at which constant stimuli from others affected me until it was removed from my environment. I don’t require that interaction to fill my cup each day. In fact, I’m more sociable when the opportunity presents itself, because I’m in a situation where I’m not draining my social battery around multiple people on a daily basis.
Along with the gift of solitude, I’ve also received the gift of time. My commute to work easily took up two hours of my day, which to me is a lot of valuable time that could be spent elsewhere (not to mention, I hate driving, so that alone was taking its toll). I’ve stopped putting 77+ miles per day on my car and it eases my mind to know it may last me a bit longer now .I haven’t been working my side job, nor do I have the need, because I’ve been able to put money into my savings for the first time in years with no fear of the paycheck to paycheck life I was used to. I even paid some things off, making financial stability more maintainable in the future.
With this time, I’ve been able to get plenty of sleep while maintaining a morning routine of working out and writing–both things I struggled to rise and shine for for even 30 minutes in the past. Now, I’m working out for an hour and writing for 20-30 minutes all before I start work for the day.
I read more books in the past couple of months than I have in the past year–including an amazing fanfiction (I really haven’t read one of those in a long time), started a daily drawing challenge, got outside more, and cooked more meals. The stress that had been weighing heavily on my soul had all but evaporated. Even though my work has been slammed and I am putting significantly more hours in, my threshold for burnout is much lower when I’m at home. The extra work hasn’t bothered me one bit, because I really do enjoy working–it’s just all about environment for me.
Being able to work on the hobbies I love has made me feel like the old me again. I’m feeling inspired and content for the first time in a long time; the creative spark that used to always be with me, relit. Previously, the few moments of spare time I would get, I’d be so shut down mentally that sitting down to work on these things I love resulted in no drive or creative spark to focus on them. All I’d want to do is be on the couch, zoning out at the tv or on my phone.
Despite all of these awesome things, the best part of all of this has been more time with my little family. Before, I was often drawn and moody, constantly filled with guilt over not having the energy or motivation to play with little dude like he deserves–or to appreciate Chris wholeheartedly. It can still be stressful at times for us, balancing home school and work, but overall we’ve had more quality time and have been far more present with one another.
I’m grateful for this time that I’ve been given to reflect and the healing isolation has given my mental well-being.
I don’t know what the future holds or when I’ll go back to work–I try not to think of it too much. I don’t want my remaining time spent dreading things to come. I don’t feel ready for it, even though I do miss my solo weekend breakfasts out and boxing with one of my best friends.
I know many of you out there are not like me and may be struggling–excited to return to your normal routine and your social lives. Others may be at home filled with anxiety and worry over what the future holds with their jobs, kiddos, finances, the virus itself, or loved ones affected.Some of you are essential and didn’t have the luxury of being safe at home and may have experienced your own unique sets of challenges.
Understand that others may feel differently during this time and have their own individual struggles.I hope you all find the best ways to personally care for your own mental health during these unprecedented times and look out for one another.
How are you coping right now? I’d love to hear your own experiences during these times. Are you isolating? Essential? Content? Scared?