We put on a happy face for people all the time, especially this time of year. Sometimes we even do it for ourselves. Is this you? Is it real? Are you masking? Time to check yourself.
The suicide rate continues to be a growing concern among first responders. Though mental health education has improved somewhat, there’s still a lot of work to do.
“Expectations of heroism and selflessness also create a culture that discourages showing weakness or admitting to struggles, further fostering hurdles to resources and support for those who need it the most, Bar Nissim and Ruderman told USA TODAY.” (Stanton, June 2022)
Add this to a time of year when no one wants to dampen someone else’s mood and we have more masks than Halloween night. Now, it’s even easier to dismiss things in light of not wanting to be a grinch or spoil the fun. But there is something you can do that won’t interrupt the annual eggnog and tree lighting: a simple self-check.
First, check for the warning signs to see if you need immediate help. It’s best to do this with a coach, loved one, or friend who sees you from the outside and can recognize things you might too easily dismiss.
- Negative talk – Are you talking about death, guilt, shame, or about being a burden to others?
- Feelings – Do you feel empty, hopeless, increasingly sad or angry, or feel intense emotional or physical pain?
- Behavior Changes – Have you suddenly changed your behavior such as removing yourself from people more, eating/sleeping more or less than usual, taking extreme risks, abusing substances, or experiencing extreme mood swings?
Again, these things should be discussed with someone as it’s incredibly difficult to notice when you’re the person or close to the person. Someone more on the outside would better see these things happening, but the discussion may spark attention that could save a life.
Maybe you’re agreeing and you know you’re stressed and this time is hard for you. Maybe you’re wondering how you can make yourself feel better without disturbing your family or making them worry. Let’s start with a simple self check by answering these questions.
- How am I feeling?
- What’s not working?
- What’s working?
- What do I need?
- What am I proud of?
- What can I let go of?
Suffice to say, many of us might say “stressed” or “frustrated” at the first question. That’s okay! It’s a common answer, especially this month. Whatever your answer is, acknowledge it. You need to be seen and sometimes that means you need to see yourself better. This affirms your current state. Whether good, bad, or ugly, it needs to be acknowledged if you want it to get better. Then you need to realize you can get better.
Discovering or realizing what is and is not working could be key to a new perspective. That perspective could be key to knowing what you may need. These questions are important to determine your direction towards a better path. Maybe the path isn’t changing much and that’s okay too. That’s affirmation. Either way, it’s a guiding tool for healthy self direction. The goal is a less stressed, healthier mental state.
Knowing what you’re proud of and what to let go of is all about action. Did you make it a full week of work without calling out or lashing out? That’s a break though for some responders. Maybe your proud moment was showing up to a kid’s event and being the parent you want to be. It doesn’t matter if you got promoted or just showered. What’s your recent proud moment? If it’s not recent, that’s okay too. Hold on to what you can hold on to. How can you get there again?
We all have things we need to let go. What’s holding you back or weighing you down? Do you need help letting go? Do you need helping pivoting out of a rough situation? Reach out! You’re not in this alone! Peer support, coaching, therapy, whatever you need… just pay attention to the deeper you and check yourself!
Some of us need a long, hot shower and a cup of coffee. Some of us need chocolate and a movie to escape the world for a couple hours. Then there’s those who take a long walk in solitude to be with their thoughts and decompress. Some may find they need stronger intervention and/or professional help. If that’s the case for you, do it now! Whatever you may need, find it. Use that time to check in with yourself and step outside your situation. Ask the questions and think about the answers.
Keep yourself out of the downward spiral of self talk and scary, dark thoughts. It’s not a road you have to take. There’s always a way out, a lighter path, a path to better roads with healthier thoughts. You are needed, wanted, loved. You are worth taking time for and worthy of goodness. Start by checking in.
No matter if your life is amazing or awful, we all need to self check once in a while. If you feel you can’t get what you need to feel better, reach out to us. We’re here for you and will help you find a path towards a better you! Life is hard and messy. Let’s all take better care of ourselves and start enjoying life more.
[If you or someone you know is not okay and needs help now, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat at www.988.lifeline.org. You can also text HELLO to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.]