The Mental Health Hero in You

mental health guy

(Jose Pablo Garcia, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Maria Viegas, a medical student who is the NPO of ANEM-Portugal. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

As we start to realise that our quarantines won’t be short and sweet 1-week holidays, we begin to think about what is happening.

One day we were having coffee with our friends, laughing at each other’s jokes and thinking about all the plans we had for this year. So many activities, lunches and parties… or just our basic Clinical internships, that we always took for granted. Our routine.

And in the next day our schools and colleges started to shut down. One by one, everything that wasn’t essential for survival closed down until we were all locked inside.

We had hopes and dreams of a tomorrow that became a “next year”. The COVID-19 pandemic threw us off balance. No more lunches with friends, no more silly walks on the park, no more eating grandma’s food or hugging our loved ones.

Suddenly the life we knew changed.

But we reinvented ourselves. As the social beings we are, we improvised. We taught grandma how to use facetime, we did zoom meetings with friends and soon the odd became the new normal.

But the new normal is still odd.

Being in lockdown isn’t natural to us. We aren’t used to being confined within 4 walls, isolated from those we love. We are used to be free and now we can’t. And that takes a toll on our mental well-being.

A Pandemic situation is new to us, it’s full of uncertainty and it scares us. We are told if we stay home, we will be fine. But we worry about those we love. Being isolated and confined makes us more anxious, sadder, anguished and fatigued.

So… what can we do?

First, being home doesn’t have to mean being isolated. Call your parents or your elders. Cultivate your long-lasting friendships. Facetime friends, call them on zoom, party with them in the safety of your home. Being home doesn’t have to be boring.

Secondly, be on the lookout for your friend’s well-being. Talk to them about how they feel, but don’t forget to give that same kindness to yourself.

Thirdly, take time to better yourself by meditating on the things you miss and those you don’t. Take time to do what you like.

Be more patient with yourself. It’s a pandemic not a productivity contest. The fact you get out of bed and shower and are able to work on something is really great. It’s an accomplishment.

Lastly but not least, try to make a routine for yourself and reward yourself when you can.

Remember, we are all in this together. Our mental health is our most precious possession and it’s time we take care of it. We spend days in a row with little to no time to think. Now that we have more time, lets pay more attention to our feelings and emotions.

Let’s be Mental Health Heroes. For us and for those we love.

Take care. And if you feel unwell reach out for help, there’s no shame in it!

About the author

Maria Viegas is the NPO of ANEM-Portugal. Mental Health has always been her passion. Albeit she doesn’t plan on being a psychiatrist she has a tremendous fascination with the way our brain work, how it interprets the world around it and how it processes everything in our environment. The mind is truly incredible. Sadly, mental health is still undervalued and misunderstood by many, and for such she has invested her time in med school in breaking down the stigma, through advocacy both as a regular student an as the current NPO of my NMO.

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