Personal development

I may look okay but I am not okay

I may look okay but I am not really okay

“I am may look okay but I am not okay” – do you feel that way sometimes?

I look around me and consider myself truly fortunate that I am much better off than most others around me. I have nothing really to complain about — nothing significant, at least. 

So yes, my work has dwindled since the start of the pandemic. This lockdown has not made things better. I try my best to stay okay, writing my gratitude lists and jotting down all the silver linings I can think of even in tough situations. 

Friends console me with the this-too-shall-pass thing, but that’s easier said than done, is it not? I try to follow my Mother’s advice during times like these — when apparently everything is okay — meaning I have a roof over my head, food to eat, loving family, reasonable health in spite of a chronic condition . . . but what to do about the unrest inside me and feel I am not okay?

While I am not at all the type to compare myself to others, I do find myself sneakily doing that these days. Rare occasions, but nevertheless there. I am slightly ashamed of this and try to remind myself that I am enough but I have that tiny voice from deep within asking me, “are you, really?”

I think it is because I see people I know doing rather well and announcing their successes to the world. It is so easy to allow ourselves to get dragged down when we feel low or when things are not going as we hope they will. And it is easy to think ‘why me” and feel a little belligerent about one’s situation. 

So when someone says this too shall pass, it seems to have a mocking ring to it. As if the person is saying oh get over it — I have better things to do than listen to you whine. But I am not whining. Really. I am just trying to make sense of how I feel. 

I am not okay.

And I do wish my Mother were around because she would know exactly how to gently ease me out of this “status” I think I am in. I say “think” because it is temporary. That much I know. That said, my next step is to pretend my Mom is right here with me. What would she say right now? I think this is what she’d tell me to do.

I may look okay but I am not okay

How I get over the “I am not okay” feeling

1. Take a deep breath.

Several in fact. Calm down. Or try to.

2. Use the T-chart strategy.

Take a sheet of paper and pencil. Yes, we’re not going digital with this. Make your T chart. And by that I mean draw a line down the center of the page. The left column is Debit (what could be better) and the right column is Credit (the good stuff). Note that we will not use the word wrong because thanks to my Mom, I grew up learning that every problem has a solution. (More in detail about the T-chart strategy here).

3. Now start filling out those columns.

Make an itemized list. You can be descriptive if you want, but better to make it brief.

4. Is the right column heavier?

Sometimes, it can be surprising how the right column becomes heavier than the left side — and that itself is encouraging.

5. What if you can’t bring yourself to fill the left side?

I face that issue when I am miserable and think I am not okay. There are times I am too embarrassed to write down my feelings. But it does help to put feelings down on paper. As my Mom often said — when we write things down and get them out of our heads, they shrink to their actual size. We prevent them from blowing out of proportions inside our heads and giving ourselves a headache. 

“Diary writing is far more than a way of exorcising one’s unhappiness. The effect is extraordinary. Distanced on paper, troubles shrink to their true size. You can regard them objectively and see how temporary they are” 

My Mom

6. Once that T-chart is ready, take a good look at it.

It is wonderful to see the things on the left. How about the right side? The one that worries you? If you take a moment to think about what you can do about each item on the right, you’ll be surprised how you can actually find a solution to it yourself. 

For example, I am going through overwhelm because of clutter right now. Somehow this lockdown seems to have brought many ongoing activities to a grinding halt. I tried to prioritize but even that was overwhelming. So here is what I did. I pledged to do a small thing every day. I tackled a small spot at a time. And very very slowly, saw progress. Oh, I didn’t keep my promise to myself every day, but built up enough guilt to do a little more, a little more often. Because even tiny steps matter. Inaction does not benefit anyone, least of all ourselves.

7. Go to bed thinking of three things to accomplish tomorrow.

Start the day by setting intentions. Just three. Don’t make a long list and feel terrible about it and worse, carry it over and over, increasing the burden. I try to schedule my day accordingly so that I feel happy at the end of it.

8. Exercise.

Nothing like a brisk walk or stretching or yoga — or whatever your favorite activity is to get the adrenaline flowing and the serotonin kicking in. Best way to clear your head. Added bonus? Exercise is so important for your health.

9. Make sure you get enough sleep.

I know, right? But when I am not okay, losing sleep and inadequate sleep can lead to health issues and you really don’t need that right now on top of everything else, do you? 

10.Tune out of social media updates .

Turn off those notifications. You will not miss them. If there’s something important, that person will reach out to you.

Yes, that’s pretty much it. Goes without saying that you should eat healthy. Here is the thing. Self-care, at least the basics of eat, sleep, exercise can help you move forward to a much better mental space. Also, believe in the magic of routines. It keeps you focused.

How are you coping with life?

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Sunita Saldhana
    July 28, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    That was a lovely post .I can so relate to it. Posted something similar in my post “Coping”.

  • Reply
    Lynne Huysamen
    July 28, 2020 at 10:54 pm

    Vidya this is a lovely post and it rings so true for the way I have felt so often during this lockdown. Have you ever taken a step back and come to the understanding that things are insane right now, there is a pandemic affecting every single person in the world. Perhaps you can allow yourself to be ok with not feeling ok. You dont always have to be grateful that you are doing better than others, or to look at some people that appear to be thriving and think that you should be doing better. Sometimes I believe we are allowed to feel sad, worried or scared… it in the case if right now all of those!
    Since I’ve allowed myself to just feel what I’m feeling and not be hard on myself it’s been easier to cope. Yes it’s great to pull ourselves out of the slump but sometimes we also need to process the feelings.

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    July 31, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    This post is really such a nice refletion of the times we are in. These are taxing times and circumstances we find ourselves in are unpredented. The idea of a T-Chart is really good, as the very act of putting your thoughts doen on paper is by in itself therapeutic to some extent.

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