We’re all being 2020’d, so it’s high time we talked about the d— word.
This year sucks. And it sucks so bad, it’s become its own slang term. Being 2020’d now, and probably forever more, means being blindsided, taking suckerpunch after suckerpunch, layering one hard thing on top of another.
An endless stream of Zoom calls. Cancelled plans. Being unable to gather with large crowds of other people. Mask ordinances and closed businesses. Racial tensions. People hurting relationally, spiritually, financially, and physically. Put all that on top of the normal stress of our lives. That’s being 2020’d. And it’s taking a toll.
I’ve had a short fuse over the past few months. I’m irritable and constantly frustrated. I just thought I was mad. Turns out, that’s a major sign of depression in men. (There’s that d— word everyone wants to avoid.)
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, “Men with depression often hide their emotions and may seem to be angry, irritable, or negatively aggressive, while many women seem sad or express sadness.”
That was eye-opening for me.
When I think about depression, I usually picture someone curled up in bed, crying uncontrollably, or unable to function in normal roles at work and home. I’m not experiencing that, but I did go down the checklist on the National Institute of Health website and saw a lot of symptoms in my life. Irritability… check. Anger… check. Trouble sleeping… check. Lack of interest in my normal hobbies… check.
I have a family member who visited Hong Kong in late 2019 and was previously a missionary to China. What she witnessed then is our current U.S. reality: masks, constant hand-washing, fear, and lockdown. Upon returning home, she went back to life as normal. I’m not sure what she should have done differently, but she now kicks herself because she saw what was coming yet didn’t take action on it. She didn’t prepare. She didn’t warn others. She didn’t change her lifestyle ahead of time.
Had I gone to the doctor a couple weeks ago, I don’t know if I would have been considered clinically depressed or not. But I could see a picture of myself in the future, and I knew that if I didn’t take action on these feelings, I wouldn’t like the person I’d become.
Many of you feel the same way. You may recognize the tell-tale signs of being unable to function like you used to or feeling buried under your emotions. Or, like me, maybe you feel extra-frustrated and impatient. Either way, it’s time to take a long look into the future. Imagine what’s coming if you don’t take action… and then do something about it today.
I’m not fully out of the woods yet, but there are things we can do. Improved mental health comes with:
- Realizing your current mental state is not your identity. Own that you aren’t emotionally strong right now and give yourself some grace.
- Spending time with other people and telling them how you are feeling. Even if you have to wear a mask to do it, do it.
- Increasing your physical activity. Regular exercise can help people with mild to moderate depression, and is often one part of a treatment plan for those with severe depression.
- Breaking up large tasks into smaller, bite-sized chunks. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, this will give you an opportunity to get some wins.
- Getting outside your four walls. Take time to get outside. Take a walk. Wrench on a car. Start a project. Plant a garden. Get some sunlight and vitamin D.
- Establishing daily routines you can follow—like getting up at a certain time, working out at a set time, and going to bed early enough to get adequate rest. Routines are key to making it through trying days.
Healing starts with honesty.
Be real with yourself about your mental health. If you’re feeling weak, don’t hide it. Nearly everyone is hurting right now. But you can only get better if you admit to being less than 100%.
A better tomorrow starts with improving today. Put something from the list above into action. If you can’t do it alone, be brave enough to ask someone to do it with you.
Finally, we didn’t explicitly discuss suicide, but it is often associated with depression. If you have suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. You can call the free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. The world needs you and you matter.
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