Wellness: Protecting Yourself (And Your Mental Health) In Today's Climate
For the last two and a half years, I have felt like I’ve been holding my breath with no sign of relief in sight. Anyone else? Regardless of whether we are ready or not, the world will continue to move forward and that’s the hardest part for me personally. I recognize that I am in a position of privilege to still be able to work fully remotely and I do not take that for granted. Some people who identify as disabled/chronically ill (and even the ones who don’t) have had to return to work in person and in common spaces with others – like school.
Even though I am able to work from home, going to places like the supermarket, the doctor’s office, or even getting into an Uber are all exhausting due to my debilitating health anxiety, hyper-alertness, and the headlines of continued illnesses circulating the world. Without realizing how news headlines, social media, and things mentioned above were affecting my mental health, I sank into what I now recognize as being a depressive state. I worked hard to get myself to the end of the tunnel through gratitude, talking about my feelings with others, and limiting my time on social media. It worked.
Now that I am on the other side of it – I am sure this won’t be the last time. This last episode triggered my empathy on a new level. Empathy is something that I believe is truly lacking in today’s society. “It’s gotten harder to empathize; that’s why it’s so important we work at it. Luckily, we can.” says Jamil Zaki in this Berkley.edu 2019 article, In a Divided World, We Need to Choose Empathy. The article discusses the hard truths surrounding empathy, supported by real-life examples and proven facts about how it can help us all.
Believe it or not, the most realistic thing that has kept me alive and grateful in this day and age of new sickness, norms, and fear-laced dramatized headlines, has been my mask. This is not meant to be a judgment towards those who have chosen to ichs nay there’s; this is a testimony on why I never got rid of mine in hopes that we will choose empathy before we decide to judge those who choose protection for themselves (and others) amongst a sea of people who may disagree. Some may think a mask is unnecessary, restricting, overrated, and lots of other things but, I believe approaching the situation with an empathetic mindset will be the start of a shift for us all.
So how can we do that?
STEP ONE: Believe.
In my opinion, empathy, like many other things, begins with believing that it exists. We can’t fully support something we don’t believe in.
STEP TWO: Understand.
Seek other perspectives different from your own to gain a better understanding of why someone is making a different choice, or opting for a different route or lifestyle than you. Oftentimes, we wear invisible blinders (or biases) that we don’t realize we are wearing until we are exposed to a different perspective.
STEP THREE: Focus.
Once you have decided that maybe you’d like to shift your approach or view to one of empathy, it’s often coupled with feeling overwhelmed by shame or guilt. The truth: nobody really cares about your past as much as you think. That has kept me grounded when I feel ashamed, guilty, or helpless. Focus on the present and moving forward.
STEP FOUR: Practice silence.
If nothing else, silence speaks volumes. For example, if you have ditched your mask, chosen not to get vaccinated, or just have chosen a different life than someone, don't judge or shame them for their choice just because it’s different from yours. We don’t know any individual’s reasons for making the choices they do and vice versa. It’s important not to make assumptions.
STEP FIVE: Take action.
Whatever this may look like, you can do it. Remember that empathy by definition is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Adopting an empathetic mindset is not putting your feelings last. You absolutely can have your own beliefs and feelings while sharing those of others or making a choice, even if it’s something you may not agree with, you should still respect it.
Growing up with an invisible disability has taught me that there are some people who are ignorant, unaware they are exhibiting audist behaviors. It’s because the hearing person has never met a deaf person before and will try to walk away because they don’t know how to interact with them. People who don’t feel comfortable have a tendency to get away from something so they don’t have to deal with it. That can be frustrating for deaf people.
Empathy is something that I believe is truly lacking in today’s society. “It’s gotten harder to empathize; that’s why it’s so important we work at it. Luckily, we can.” says Jamil Zaki in this UC Berkley article, 'In a Divided World, We Need to Choose Empathy'. The article discusses the hard truths surrounding empathy, supported by real-life examples and proven facts about how it can help us all.
I will never forget November 19th, 2019. My new rheumatologist broke the news this way: “I bet you have been told your entire life that your weight was the cause of your back pain. I want you to know it wasn’t, although weight loss can certainly help. We see the damage, and you were right - you have Ankylosing Spondylitis.”
As the weather heats up and we feel the urge to travel, I want to share some tips that have helped me keep my anxiety at bay while away from home. Many mental health illnesses flare up when we are away from home because we are naturally out of our comfort zone.
I knew I was an actor before I knew I was Autistic. I started acting at 11 years old, but I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 22.
There are many misconceptions about the lives of those of us who live with CP. I hope to help someone who may be living, loving, or just learning about Cerebral Palsy.
While many of us know the benefits of closed captions, many Zoom users still have not enabled closed captions. While this used to only be offer to 'paid' Zoom accounts, the company announced earlier this year that closed captions would be available to all Zoom users, regardless of plan type.
The following events are offered free to our community. We built Chronically Capable to be accessible for everyone, but we know that accessibility is an ongoing process. All events will be virtual and include Live Closed Captions for all attendees.
At Chronically Capable, we’ve always been committed to creating equal opportunities for the chronic illness and disability community to find and retain meaningful work. That’s why we are proud to not only support NDEAM 2021, but to offer events and resources for both job seekers and employers to join us in our efforts to create a more inclusive workplace for all.