It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
By: Rochelle Perper, Ph.D. | January 29, 2021
More than ten months have passed since the first stay-at-home orders in March 2020. I still have days when my anxiety feels overwhelming, when fear makes me irritable and easily upset, when fatigue overcomes me, and when I struggle to find beauty in the world. I sometimes wonder “What’s wrong with me that I can’t just get it together?” and say to myself “I should be okay by now!”
As a Psychologist, I am confronted with a common misconception that I should somehow be immune from the impact of life’s stressors. Many of us think this way, whether we are a helping professional or not. This type of thinking is not only inaccurate, but it also worsens the experience, prolongs our suffering, and keeps us feeling isolated and alone.
We all have days when we’re not okay. When you feel like this, it does not mean that you are weak or that something is wrong. It simply means that you are human.
It is important to know that an emotional response to an abnormal set of circumstances IS normal. Not only is it understandable that we are not okay right now, it’s unavoidable. We are living through a global pandemic that leaves us feeling siloed and exhausted, suffering multiple losses and racial trauma, enduring a volatile presidential election, and witnessing violence at our nation’s capital, all without any preparation, warning, or roadmap to follow. These are reasons Why You Should Get Help Now.
Self-compassion is the action you take to comfort yourself and ease your suffering. Having compassion for oneself is no different than having compassion for someone close to you who is also in pain. How to Practice Self-Compassion teaches us that wellness is not just living in a state of perpetual safety and calm but rather moving fluidly from uncertainty, stress, risk, and adversity, back to safety and calm and out again.
In other words, resist the urge to be okay all the time but rather embrace the freedom to move fluidly through the natural cycles of human emotion.
You can help yourself to be okay with not being okay by using the following three strategies:
1. Let yourself feel your feelings
Do not run from difficult or uncomfortable emotions. Instead, learn to sit with them and give yourself the space to feel and experience them. When we try to suppress, ignore, or deny these emotions we often end up doing more harm than good. Why? Because these feelings will continue to manifest differently in our lives and grow in intensity. Allow yourself the space to move through strong emotions and give yourself extra grace on difficult days.
2. Be kind to yourself
Learn to Be Patient with Yourself in a Changing World. Now more than ever is it important to show kindness to ourselves. This means permitting ourselves to feel difficult emotions without judgment and self-criticism. Cry if you need to. Get additional rest. Develop strategies to Get Comfortable with Being a Beginner.
3. Be honest with others
We put tremendous effort into making our vulnerabilities invisible to others, which causes us to feel more isolated and alone. Maybe you’re afraid of being seen as weak if you share your vulnerabilities with others. Maybe you’re afraid that others will not accept you or see you differently if you admit that you are not okay. Start slowly with those you feel most comfortable with, and when you find the courage to share, you will realize that those around you feel the same way! It may surprise you to find that people appreciate your authenticity and admire that you have the courage to be yourself. It may also help others to open up and share their own struggles. This will help you develop deeper, more meaningful connections with others.
Finally, when you find yourself with critical self-talk and judgments, remember the following three points to help balance your thinking:
- No emotion is permanent. Anger and sadness — just like happiness and joy — come and go. Let yourself experience the painful emotions and allow them to pass through.
- Strong feelings are part of the universal human experience. This is true particularly during times of great stress and uncertainty. What you are going through is most likely the same thing that others are going through around you and nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about.
- Do not pretend that everything is okay when it isn’t. Letting family and friends help you through these times can not only speed up the healing process, but it can also strengthen your relationships.
If you find it difficult to acknowledge and feel your feelings or would like to develop coping tools and strategies utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, consider meeting with a San Diego Psychologist. The skilled and caring team at Therapy Changes can help you process through your feelings and provide focused guidance when you need it most.