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Wave after wave

Mental health

2020. What a year. Previous to this year I was working hard at keeping myself mentally healthy – I’d struggled in the past with feeling anxious.

Through counselling, exercise and, of course my God, I began to get myself mentally fit and felt less anxious. At the beginning of the year I was loving life at uni – I was on my placement year so was working 9-5 and spending time with great people. Then lockdown hit and it felt like the world stopped. I spent the first lockdown at home with my parents. Being away from uni friends and my normal routine completely threw me off – it felt like all the work I’d put in with my mental health was chucked out the window.

I’m so thankful for my wonderful home and family but I think we all know that this has been tough and our mental health has been stretched. I know many people will have felt overwhelmed, anxious, maybe depressed – either as a new challenge or it’s something you were dealing with before the pandemic. These feelings suck – please know how loved you are by people and by God. But I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you should exercise more, eat well and sleep well, although these are very good and helpful. One thing I learnt from this season was from being by the sea. Here are some of my thoughts.

The sea is calm, peaceful, and constant. The ocean is also powerful, unpredictable, and rough. It’s the same body of water but circumstances – currents, tides and weather – they somehow are able to move it. Emotions and feelings are powerful too. They can overwhelm and take charge of our lives, but they can also help us make wonderful, life-giving decisions and enjoy relationships and help us to fully enjoy our days on this incredible earth.

A daily decision needs to be made. Either we allow the powerful waves of emotions to take over us and leave us feeling helpless – being tossed and turned by the whirlwind of feelings within us. Or, we can learn to go with it. To be still, and to stop wrestling. We can learn to ride the waves of emotions that come over us. This may look like letting yourself cry or accepting that you want to sit in silence in a blanket burrito. But these moments will be and have to be temporary. Waves do not stay in one place – that would be weird. The pandemic has been a choppy season and there will be another one in all of our lives. But every season will have waves – big or small. It’s what we choose to do with them. We can fight it, put on a happy face, update our Insta story – this can work but it’s exhausting. We can also choose to be swept under and allow our feelings to pull us down to where we feel we can’t get to the surface again. Or we can acknowledge the wave and let it move across us – we’re stronger than we think. It might be a huge wave that crashes into us, but we will not be swept under.

We can be grateful for how complex and beautiful we’ve been created to be. We can choose which voices to say ‘yes’ to, and which we can say ‘I hear you but I’m saying no to your authority over my life’. The waves will never stop coming and yes, there are seasons. The hope is that we can let the waves come and go and watch them move into the distance, being thankful for the lessons learnt and for the certainty that the greatest peace is coming.

I’m aware that for some people this is easier said than done and you may feel like this isn’t enough to get you through whatever you’re dealing with. I encourage you to reach out and allow experts like doctors, counsellors or mental health charities to help you. They can be your rubber ring to help you in the choppy season.


Photo by Michael Olsen

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