Welcome to our Youth Talk Blog, a section dedicated to youth lived-experiences with mental health and wellbeing, with blog posts from diverse young people’s perspectives. This is a positive, fun and resourceful space, showcasing young people thriving and connecting with healthful activities, resources and support. This article was written by Anna, our Community Education intern, who is a 21-year-old psychology student.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, the focus is on reconnecting with the people and places that lift you up – hei pikinga waiora. This theme reminded me that the main person I need to reconnect with is myself. I have avoided doing it for a long time because it seems complicated and time-consuming. I worry checking in with my emotions will be disruptive. Being busy is the main reason for the disconnectedness in the first place. Significant life events happen, and it seems like I don’t have time to process them, so I don’t. University is demanding, or I have work early the next day, and I don’t want to be unable to sleep; the list of reasons goes on and on. I keep waiting for a break where I can let myself think about everything that’s going on. But it never appears unless I intentionally make time for it.
On the surface, it is very easy not to connect with myself as I find I can still keep up with my commitments without doing so. However, on days off after not checking in with myself, I notice feeling heavy or hollow without understanding why. This indicates to me that it may not be healthy for me to put off my feelings. Bottled emotions can take up room in your emotional cup, which may make it more difficult to deal with daily stressors. Therefore, I need to connect with myself by taking some time to focus on my inner world.
The first change I have made to reconnect with myself is asking what I am feeling and if that is the only thing I am feeling right now instead of trying to stop feelings from coming through. For instance, sometimes I’m overwhelmed but only recognise the flash of frustration or anger that comes with it. In many cases, anger is a secondary emotion brought about by stress. But I cannot identify that if I bottle my feelings. Often, I need to lay my emotions out to realise stress was the cause and my anger was just a reaction. Then I can see that I must address my stress to stop feeling angry or stop myself from bottling my reactions. Thus, separating my feelings out helps me reconnect with what I need. I also try to ask myself why I might feel this way and how long I have felt this way. These questions help me address other causes in my environment or relationships. However, there isn’t always a fix for your feelings. Sometimes all you can do is acknowledge them and let them pass. I have started trying not to attach judgements to my emotions, such as thinking I am a terrible person for being angry, and it’s making it much easier to let feelings come and go.
Another way I have been reconnecting with myself is by taking care of myself the way I would take care of a friend. As I see it, if your friend tried to tell you something and you put your headphones in, you would be too distracted to hear them. Or if the only time you let your friend talk to you were when you were trying to go to sleep, then, of course, they wouldn’t get through to you. But if you chose a time to check in with a friend, then they would get a chance to tell you what’s going on. Similarly, I always put in music when I feel my emotions try to overflow on the walk to university. Or when I go to bed, my emotions rise up, but I’m too scared to let them out in case out in case I get too upset to sleep. To deal with this, I have been taking time to sit with my thoughts before they overflow on their own.
I like to check in on myself regularly, and in the same settings I would talk with a friend. For example, I go for a walk on my own or sit in a nice place without headphones to distract me. My favourite places are parks and monuments where office staff are all out on their lunch break or upstairs at busy eateries. It’s nice because you can feel everyone around you going about their lives. I let all the thoughts I have about the passers-by flow in and out of my head. I wonder what they do for work, when their days off are and what they do with them, if they thought they would have the job they have now at my age, who they are going home to, what they might do in the future. Eventually, my mind drifts to how I feel about my life, if I feel rested on my days off, who I miss, and what my future could be. It doesn’t work every day but just taking a break feels good too. But on the days it does work, I get to put a name to my fears and hopes, assess what I need, and feel a little lighter at the end of it all.
Connecting with yourself can be a process of learning that sitting with my thoughts and feelings does not mean that there will be disruptions in my work, university or personal life. Of course, having support from friends, family, and health professionals like your general practitioner, counsellor, or psychologist makes a difference. Just knowing that backup is there and I can talk out more complicated feelings with them makes it easier to feel confident reconnecting with myself.