The 1946 Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life, ironically, is a tale of a man contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve, until his “guardian angel” shows him how much he would be missed by people in his life, were he to end his life. If only every human being struggling right now could have such a guardian angel (or two or three, for that matter).
This year, COVID-19, economic crisis, social isolation, social injustice, political turmoil, and a general sense of unpredictability have taken their toll on us human beings. As a species, we are experiencing mental health issues at greater rates than at any time since World War II. Unfortunately, all will not be entirely resolved next year. Yes, we have mass vaccinations on the horizon. But how long fallout from 2020 will last is anyone’s guess.
So what to do? We don’t want to end up being the protagonist in Frank Capra’s film. Not even for a second. We need an action plan. It’s the way to deal with any chronic stressor. Take action. Survival experts tell us that we are more likely to make it back from the wilderness alive if we take action. Stress doesn’t necessarily kill us, but our response (or lack of response) to it can. For starters, focus on the 7 daily building blocks of good mental health:
Taking medications as prescribed
Staying away from drugs and alcohol
Doing something that makes you feel good
Doing something that makes you feel accomplished
Do these things to the best of your ability (no perfection needed) every day. For example
Go to bed a little earlier
Take medications at the same time every day
Do a brisk 10 minute walk
Call a friend
Say kind words to someone
Complete a house chore or work assignment
You can do it. It’s all good medicine and it’s free!
We can build on this action plan. How about we commit to daily (yup, we need all the help we can get right now) practices of gratitude (…for anything, large or small), generosity (give someone a compliment, make someone a cup of tea…It all counts), and self-compassion (aren’t most of us trying to do the best we can in this world?).
Remember, nothing lasts forever. World War II ended. I’m sure in 1943 that seemed hard to believe, but the war did end. We will get through this. 2020 may not have been a wonderful life. In fact, for many of us, it was our most challenging year to date. But we got through it. And one day at a time, with determination to stick to our daily practices, we are going to conquer 2021 as well….Maybe apart, but together on the frontlines of good mental health.
Written by: Dr. Anna McCarthy, PhD / Co-Founder + Clinical Director at The Mental Health Collective
If you or someone you love is in need of mental health treatment, The Mental Health Collective, located in Orange County, California, is here to help.