As the adage goes, it’s important to stop and smell the roses. Meaning, in our daily hustle and bustle, we all must find ways of taking a reset moment and appreciate all life has to offer. It’s easier said than done, as I’m writing this column in the car on our way to Bar Harbor to take some relaxation time for a few days. Even recharging on vacation isn’t always the solution, as the pile of work and life’s responsibilities will just be waiting for you upon your return.
So many people go through life full steam ahead; barreling through life’s precious moments to prioritize work commitments and the umpteenth household need as the world around us seems to bounce from one crisis to the next. We are all just trying to cope and manage the best we can, but there are times when life can feel overwhelming. With Mental Health Awareness Month in the rearview mirror, it’s important we look inward to our own mental health to check in with ourselves to see how we are really doing and handling things coming at us.
In our social media age, we are constantly bombarded by images and messages that are sanitized through a prism of controlled perceptions of life’s moments and milestones of others. When you swipe through an Instagram or Facebook feed and see everyone’s glossy smiles and updates of the latest vacation, house purchase, job change, or any happy moment, it’s easy to start comparing yourself to others.
You have to remember that what is posted is just a glimpse, a small sliver into the realities of that individual’s life. What they want you to see is a couple happily in love, but what you don’t see is all the fights right before or after. What they want you to see is the new house, but what you don’t see is all the financial sacrifices to afford it. You are only getting a piece of the puzzle.
I have found personally that making comparisons to others is a sure-fire way to amplify your own insecurities, anxieties, and even depression. Everyone’s journey is their own. Your journey may look different than someone else’s and that’s OK. It’ doesn’t mean it’s any better or less than someone else’s. You are meant to be on this earth for a reason and even though that reason may not fully present itself right away, your purpose and path are unfolding exactly as it should, even if the timetable isn’t to your liking.
Appreciating your life as it is right now in this moment and appreciating your full self, flaws and all, plays a big role in having a mental health that is centered on a more content and positive outlook. The feeling of being grateful for what you have rather than what you don’t have, helps counter any feelings of comparison that my creep into your thoughts. It forces you to recognize the beauty in the small things.
It’s been great to see the stigma attached to acknowledging mental illness and seeking treatment is starting to break. After all, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year with numbers for youth even higher, especially in Maine. It’s OK to seek professional guidance and support. It’s OK to be emotionally vulnerable with your friends or family. We don’t always have to act like everything is fine if it’s not. This isn’t your chance at a Hollywood gig. We don’t need to put on a show.
If you have a teen (13-24 years old) in your life who needs someone to talk to, NAMI Maine has a Teen Text Support Line available at 207-515-8398. It’s staffed by individuals aged 18-24 and is available between 2 and 10 p.m. To access mental health services, you can call Sweetser’s PromiseLine at 1-800-434-3000 or email them at email@example.com. If you just need someone to talk to who has lived experience with mental illness, call Maine’s 24/7 Intentional Warm Line at 1-866-771-9276.
Remember, your mental health matters and you are not alone.
Justin Chenette is county commissioner for Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, and Buxton and serves as vice chair of the commission. He also serves on the executive committee of the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, Maine Right to Know Advisory Committee, Age Friendly Saco board, and provides college scholarships through his foundation. Get county updates at CommissionerChenette.com.