How ARE You?
Some of us have spent a lot of time this year being inside. Some of us have spent a lot of time this year being alone. Some of us have spent a lot of time being inside and alone. At first, it might have been a welcome change. No social obligations to pretend to enjoy. No forced luncheons or work events that are detested by many, except those who love the free cookies. No decisions about what to talk about, what to wear, how to get there or where to park. But everything, even a lack of things, gets old after a while. And what we are left with is what we actually started with in the first place - ourselves.
Now seems like an opportune time to do a self-check. A mental health review to see how you are doing. This year has been challenging in many ways. Hopping on video calls and offering up a quick "I'm fine" when asked how things are going might move the meeting along, but probably doesn't capture how you are actually doing. "I'm fine" is what we say to others, to strangers, to colleagues and maybe even to friends when we greet them. "I'm fine" is not what we should be saying to ourselves if that sentiment is just not true.
A great way to start that conversation with yourself is to just stand in front of the mirror and say it out loud:
How ARE you?
How are you doing?
How are you feeling?
If your initial reply to yourself is "I don't know", try again. We already know why that is completely unacceptable.
Ask yourself again. And actually listen to your answer. Listen like you do when your dear friend calls you with drama to report. Or when your child is crying about something that has scared them into your bed at night. Listen without judgement and without knowing all of the answers. Listen simply because you are the only one who truly can.
Checking in with yourself is not going to be about detailing what has gone wrong, or what you have done wrong, or how badly you have been binge-eating truffles instead of drinking water (Oh, wait...that's me.) Checking in is creating a space where you can gently accept what has been difficult for you, and how you have been able to cope. I understand the urge to use this time for corrective action, but that actually should come later, after you have stopped to just listen and reflect. We all know that changes can be made. But deciding to change, and making that change lasting, is less difficult when you have accepted what is, what has been, and how you feel about it.
Figuring out how you really are doing right now is an acknowledgement that you are only human. You are only one person. And there is only one thing you can control - that's you. There is no control over the holiday craziness, the gifts that are sold out, the packages that don't arrive, the dinners that can't be shared, and so much more. You can control what you do. And how you feel about what you do. And that is something to remember and maybe even celebrate. Make sure that your check-in is truly about YOU, and not about the problems of the universe or others that live in your orbit. No one else has any obligation to ask the question. So ask it on behalf of the most important person you know. How are you? Really.
What happens if you stop and ask yourself how you are doing and you give yourself an honest answer? What happens if you discover that you are actually doing better than you thought? What happens if you find that you are actually doing worse? Use this information to craft your next steps and follow a path that allows you to once again say that you are indeed "fine" when asked.
What happens if you stop and ask yourself how you are doing? You are about to find out.