Take a step back and breathe deep - Denny Scott editorial
The above phrase (take a step back, breathe deep) is advice that was once given to me by a teacher when I was much younger. As a kid (and let’s be honest, as a 35-year-old now), I would often get worked up about something that, in the long run, wasn’t worth worrying about, and that’s where the advice came in.
It’s advice that I often fail to remember when things get tense in my life – I’ve always been quick to react and slow to forget – however when things aren’t overly exciting, it is something I try to do.
Take the weekends for example – sure, I may end up doing an interview or two on the weekend, but, for the most part, I’ve learned to put work aside for a couple days when Friday night rolls around and try to lose myself in spending time with Mary Jane, unwinding and tackling projects around the house. It’s taken time to start doing that, but I got a push a couple years ago when I realized that, if I ever want to teach Mary Jane to not make the mistakes I’ve made, I’m going to have to stop making those mistakes myself. I think I’ve come a long way since then.
So I do know how to take a step back from things and relax, I just have to remember those skills when I get stressed out.
I wonder if my teacher, some 28 years ago when I first got this advice, knew I’d be trying to will it out into the world to combat the stress of political situations on both sides of the border, a pandemic, anti-mask protests spilling into other southwestern Ontario communities and just life in general.
Unfortunately, this is the best I can do: write about it and hope someone else remembers that they too can temporarily walk away from all the stress. We all need to, if you don’t mind me sounding like a typical avocado-toast-eating millennial, practise some self-care. I’d love to communicate my message to people who really need my message, but, in some cases, it just won’t work.
There are some barricades preventing me, for example, from telling President Donald Trump to take a step back and take a deep breath and remember that the Presidency is, at best, an eight-year gig and not a permanent, full-time position. However, I can say, to all the local people who were hooked to their televisions/radios/newspapers/phones for the past seven days, watching to find out what happens with the election, do yourselves and your mental health and anxiety levels a favour and take a step back, breathe deeply and turn your attention elsewhere. Trust me, your circulatory system will appreciate the slightly-lower heart rate.
The technology in our world makes it easy to let something like the politics of your own nation, or even another nation, become the most important thing going 24 hours a day. Between all-day news channels and 24-hour news cycles, phones that alert you every time Trump Tweets about legal challenges or (possibly/likely/definitely) President-Elect Joe Biden preaches unity of the nation, it’s easy to get lost in the situation. All you have to do is remember to forget that, regardless of the legal proceedings, the vote counting or the (as-of-yet unsubstantiated) fraudulent votes, the sun will rise tomorrow and things won’t be much different from today. Though, granted, Jan. 20, when Biden (possibly/likely/definitely) takes office, things will hopefully change for the better (and that’s not a left vs. right thing, that’s just a mental health thing).
We have that same problem with COVID-19. Trust me, as a journalist, I want as much information as possible about the virus, how it spreads, who has it and what kind of precautions we should be taking because, as I said above, I have trouble remembering to step back and breathe. However, as the pandemic has gone on, I’ve gotten away from keeping browser windows open with the day-to-day count of COVID-19 pandemic cases.
I’ve learned, over the past eight months or so, that my mood and my well-being are a lot better off if, once I’m in a safe area, I take off my mask, wash my hands, change my clothes and then put the whole pandemic out of my mind. I’m sure, if I lived in a larger centre, it wouldn’t be as easy due to the sheer number of cases. However, for rural areas, like us in Huron and Perth Counties, COVID-19 case numbers don’t change enough to justify following the count like a full-time job.
We all need to remember that navigating these times physically and financially is only two-thirds of the battle, and if you lose the battle for your mental health, the other two won’t matter. So put the politics, the pandemic and the problems out of your head for a little while and pull out a deck of cards and play solitaire at the dining room table, play a video game, play a board game with your children or put on a movie the family can enjoy together. And if, for some reason, you can’t do that, don’t feel bad about getting help from a professional or a friend, neighbour or family member. In the words of the great Red Green, “Remember, we’re all in this together.”