How I’m Managing My Own Mental Health When Things are Hard

The past few years have been incredibly overwhelming and scary for me, and while I am certainly not an expert in mental health and coping skills, I have found three things that work for me. Read on...

By Robin Doeden, Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships | Mar 02, 2022
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This post is from Director of Development at Momentous Institute, Robin Doeden.

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The past few years have been incredibly overwhelming and scary for me – and that goes beyond all of the national and international issues. Just to name a few things:

- I left a job I absolutely loved in 2019 to make a cross-country move, to be closer to family and care for aging parents. We left a home we loved and people we adored and moved to a city where we knew less than five people.

- After more than 30 years of establishing myself in a career I loved and recognition for my expertise, I started a new job where no one knew me or any of my accomplishments – literally started over.

- The pandemic hit, and the world shut down. So much for meeting new friends and building new relationships.

- We lost my mother-in-law and are caring for my father-in-law as he deals with the loss and needs support of his own.

- We had to cancel a 2-years in the planning, once in a lifetime family trip with my family to Europe.

- And I have lost far too many family members and friends to COVID than I even want to think about.

I’m overwhelmed just thinking about it, and that doesn’t even include the stress and fears around the pandemic itself, the race relations issues, the election chaos and the international chaos around war. 

So, bottom line… how have I coped? 

While I am certainly not an expert in mental health and coping skills, I have found three things that work for me: 

#1 – I came across the author Tara Shannon while my mother-in-law was in the hospital. She wrote the book Rabbit and Bear Make a Wish, and it is beautiful. Just reading it has been calming, and this image is one of my favorite reminders:

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I literally unplug for a period of time every day – some days more than others.

#2 – I exercise. A lot. Not out of vanity, but out of sanity. Some days I go out for a run and literally forget everything around. The fresh air, the rhythmic sound of my feet on the pavement, and the literal fact that the only thing I have to do is put one foot in front of the other and take deep breaths is cleansing and releasing.

Recently I have learned to unplug during my running time as well. I don’t wear headphones or listen to music or podcasts. I truly focus on my breathing, my footfalls and the sounds of nature. I work on staying in the moment. That alone has created such an amazing time of peace and quiet in my world and has truly been one of the best changes I’ve made to my running.

#3 – I have realized that in some ways the pandemic has been a blessing. It has taught me to slow down and remember what is truly important. It has forced me to reevaluate my priorities and focus on precious time with family, friends and yes, myself. Time is short and I am learning to be grateful for every moment.

I started a gratefulness box and I end every day by writing down at least one thing I am grateful for that day.

While the last years have been hard, I am grateful that I’ve learned new coping mechanisms to take care of my own mental health. I hope this list helps others know there are small things we can all do to stay in the moment and deal with whatever the world throws at us. 

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