It has been my intention for some time now to begin blogging about mental health issues. As with all things, now is as good a time as any. If we do not do something in the “now,” when do we think we are going to do it? We tend to have this false sense of “later” or “someday,” but the imprecision of this concept is what traps us. There is no such day of the week as “Someday.” Unfortunately, however, it is entirely possible for us to fill whole weeks with “Not Todays,” which is why we see nothing changing about any given situation.
One of the things we often say we’ll do, but don’t, is take good care of our emotional selves. Attending to our mental health isn’t all that different from attending to our physical health, in that as important as it is to our livelihood, it’s easy to neglect! We say that things are “good enough,” that we have enough to worry about, and continue to plow forward. But that’s just it! You do have enough to worry about - and yet you’re not doing anything to lighten the load! In fact, everything you’re doing is increasing it.
I had a car once that was running fine, but after a while it started having the sort of problems that, while noticeable, I could put up with. There was just never time to take it in to the mechanic. I was too busy for that - until it started blowing thick smoke out of the exhaust, and up through the hood, completely breaking down on my way to work. I’d neglected to take it in for regular service, and it had blown a valve. Well, it was working fine - until it didn’t.
We’re like that. We can pretty much keep going, just fine - until we can’t.
If your knee-jerk answer when greeted with “how are you?” glosses over your internal answer to the question, it’s like skipping your annual physical exam. Yes, you’ll probably be relatively okay tomorrow anyway in spite of your self-neglect… but what warning signs are you missing in the meantime? Caring for minor concerns in the present may prevent more serious concerns in the future. For instance, imagine you’re feeling the pressure at work. By acknowledging your stressors now, rather than slogging on toward “Someday” when you’ll take better care of yourself, you can prevent more severe symptoms…. your growing anxiety eventually resulting in unexpected panic attacks, or that nagging sadness becoming a deepening depression. Your well-being deserves just as much attention as the things that have been taking your attention away from it.