I am with you…
While this pandemic has made us look deeper into our own mental-emotional health and of our near and dear ones, the knowledge of how to take care of ourselves and others is still largely a gray area to be understood and practiced. Not all of us are adept at handling emotions and sentiments of ourselves, let alone that of others. Mental emotional health and physical health go hand in hand. Hence, it is even more important that one stays fit mentally as much as physically.
The last ten months or more have seen relationship issues, mental health issues, and communication breakdowns between people, like never. Are we lacking in compassion, empathy, love, and care? Are we reluctant in expressing our emotions genuinely? Are we sometimes unknowingly becoming curt and rude in our communication? It is time we visited our behavioural patterns and everyday language to become more engaging and considerate in times like these and for times that is to come; that is what the new normal demands.
While the talk has moved more towards the importance of taking care of the self and individual needs, it is also quite inevitable that we be aware and open to the needs, and wants of people around us and who we love and care for, and beyond. The thin line between being selfish to ourselves and being selfless in care and concern is something we tend to misunderstand. Eventually, every little thing in life is shaped by language. Language of love, kindness, compassion, care, courage, and commonsense. How do we begin to understand this thin line and what does the language of kindness entail?
It is imperative that we learn to use language appropriately and inclusively, not divided in words, signs, body, or form. To develop a language of compassion; to be an active, patient, and non-judgmental person to others’ feelings and concerns, to be all embracing, we need to pick the recipe of care more diligently. We see how we hesitate to welcome or listen to another person’s concerns or fears; how we tend to dismiss them as silly or not important; how we tend to build a wall of impatience and prejudice while offering to listen or help. Having a sounding board can itself be healing for a person not knowing where to turn to when problems become overwhelming. We do not have proven verbiages to follow in mental health vocabulary. Most of what we know, and practice have evolved from just being considerate and being there. Most of what we feel, and experience are conveyed or communicated through different channels, primarily through a system that is largely written or spoken. This is how we develop our senses towards the need or respond to a stimulus, making language a pivot in the healing and caring process.
How we talk, how we text, how we pause between expressions, how we flex our muscles, how we tend to our body, how we use our energy vibes, how we greet, how we smile, how we hug are all initial messages and signs of language that we collectively send out to the world that tells it who we are. The social, political, personal, and professional energy of a person is compounded and read thus. Hence it is vital that we create a language of kindness, a language of hope, a language of understanding, and a language of empathy to respect the mental health of all.
When the world has shrunken to fingertip communication and virtual face meetings, our language needs to be carefully crafted and shared. As much as we tend to be there for others, we need to define our boundaries to not be intruded and violated too. This calls for being emotionally alert and socially responsive.
We have listened to stories where people fail to respond in time - text messages, calls, and meeting requests being ignored. These could be actions that push the person in need to slip further from their struggles of trying to hold up. Sometimes all its takes to be kind is to check on a person with a ‘how have you been?’ message or a voice message that says, ‘hey thinking of you; hope all is well with you’. These small acts may be reassurance of sort to many, especially during dark times like these when we are falling deep into our own uncertainties and unexplained fears.
While responding to wellbeing messages, let us also pull down our masks and be sincere. If we are not feeling good, let us learn to say so. Let us also learn to accept what we heard and not push everyone to be ‘good’,’ fine’ and ‘happy’ all the time. Let us tell ourselves it is perfectly alright to not be OK for a day or week. Let us appreciate the transparency of the person fighting mental distress and be compassionate to check on the person and extend support and strength by giving them our time and care. While we need to also learn to ask for help in a non-imposing, threatening, and honest manner.
The language we read and watch on social media can be utterly damaging to our psyches. The tolerance, kindness, and concern we exhibit during a heated argument on a social media platform brings us closer to what we would eventually want to be remembered for.
Let us be more open in our ways with others not restricting honest and fluid communication. The least we can do is to:
- make time,
- use reassuring words and actions to instill confidence about you in the other person,
- not pretend to be less caring,
- not let our egos stop us from being there,
- not say you are busy all the time,
- not belittle a person’s struggle however silly or big it may sound to you,
- never neglect or ignore calls for help or support,
- not end a day making a person feel vulnerable or small,
- not mock a person going through health issues,
- not compare your problems with theirs,
- not tell them how you fought and came back,
- never ask them why they are so weak and depressed when they have everything in life,
- never laugh at them for crying or asking for a shoulder to lean on,
- never bully a person for constantly being unwell,
- never call names or brand a person for meeting a psychiatrist or psychologist and getting help (they are doctors like a physician, oncologist, or cardiologist)
The list is endless, for we do not know the pains and struggles of each, they are different. We do not have any right to be rude, unwelcoming, or ignorant of people when they most need us. We need to learn to own up our words, our actions, and our responses. We have enough examples of self-hurt and suicides, for not having loved ones at the right time to support them.
It may not be easy, especially for people who are not used to being supportive or kind, also for independent people who find it difficult to call for help. But let us try.
Let us begin now. For beginnings that are worthy, for beginnings that bring relief, and for beginnings that make our lives worth living. It is high time we made discussions, care, concern, and kindness around mental health a priority and a normal. The rainbow of hope and life lies in the smallest actions of care, love, and patience.
Let us make hug days a norm…it should not take us much to say, ‘I am there for you and you should know it’
(The author is an educationist and founder of Zocio, an organisation working extensively in the social emotional learning space. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)