Last Friday, Chi Thukral and Dr. Emily Anhalt organized a 30-minute Twitter Spaces discussion about the importance of mental health, and how factors like the Pandemic and Social Media impact our mental health. I attended the session and I made notes.
About the speakers.
Chi Thukral (Link to her Twitter profile) currently is head of Content and Sustainability at Yanko Design. Every Friday, she hosts ‘That’s what Chi said’ on Twitter Spaces, where she invites one or more speakers to talk about a topic related to Marketing and Social Media.
Dr. Emily Anhalt (Link to her Twitter profile) is a clinical psychologist. She is the co-founder of Coa – Mental Health & Emotional Fitness (joincoa.com), your gym for mental health. She’s done research on the mental well-being of people in the workplace. You can find more information on her personal website:
The original Twitter thread.
Every week, I take notes during Twitter Spaces sessions and share them on my Twitter profile. Click on the Tweet below to unfold the entire thread I wrote on Twitter.
This time, I’ve put all my Tweets into a more elaborate article for those who don’t have Twitter or don’t like threads. In this article, I elaborate on things I couldn’t add to the thread because of Twitter’s character limit.
Dr. Emily’s mission:
Dr. Emily’s mission is to spread awareness about mental fitness. She argues that mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness. It’s an activity that trains your mental health.
It always seems like there is a stigma on mental health. This is the general narrative about mental health: You’re either mentally healthy or you’re not. But this is not the case. The truth is: We all have mental problems. But when we have mental problems, it doesn’t mean that we’re wrong. It just means that we have mental work for ourselves to do. We have to start working.
During the conversation, Dr. Emily Anhalt mentioned the 7 traits of emotional fitness. Emotionally fit people exhibit and practice the following seven traits:
You can find more about these 7 traits on this insightful page:
Emily wants to shift the narrative of mental health from reactive to proactive. We shouldn’t start caring about our mental health once we are in a bad situation: We always need to pay attention to our mental health and we should proactively build wellness.
Mental health and the pandemic
Chi and Dr. Emily shortly talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our mental health. Dr. Emily argues that COVID-19 hasn’t necessarily caused new issues. The pandemic has just brought issues we were already dealing with to the surface. It just means that the issues we already had, have become bigger and/or more prominent.
And it’s completely normal to deal with issues. But we often tell ourselves that it’s not.
During tough situations like the pandemic, we often tell ourselves that we’re fine. That we shouldn’t be complaining about the things we experience. But we’ve all experienced small traumas.
Or as Dr. Emily puts it: “trauma with a little t.” Trauma with a little t means that we might not have dealt with extraordinary losses, but we all have lost small things during this period. Those things do add up and require grieving.
The most important thing: We should not convince ourselves that we are fine when we’re not. It is important to admit that we are struggling with things. By recognizing our problems, we can move forwards intentionally.
Don’t be guilty about being emotional
We often feel guilty when we’re dealing with mental issues or when we feel emotional. Dr. Emily mentions the concept of survivor guilt. This is the guilt we feel when we are surviving and thriving and others are not. When we see people who have larger problems, we assume that our problems don’t matter or that we don’t have any problems.
This is a faulty way of thinking, because our problems matter too.
Dr. Emily mentioned an interesting way to deal with our survivor guilt: When you are dealing with mental issues or emotions, treat yourself like you would treat a child. We wouldn’t say “Suck it up and grow up” to a child when they tell us their issues. Instead, we say: “Of course, you are lonely. You are dealing with issues. What could we do together. How could we honour your feelings.” We should use the same approach on ourselves.
Mental health and social media.
Because we are disconnected from the real world, we seek for connection on social media. In the end, Social Media are ways to connect with friends, families and strangers without having to go outside. These platforms partly fulfill our needs to be social.
But Social Media is like fast food: It fills, but it doesn’t nourish. And eating too much fast food is unhealthy. Being on Social Media is not the same as being around people in real life. And as we scroll through Social Media, we might even feel more disconnected once we’ve stopped scrolling.
So we should still try to seek for real, face-to-face human interactions. And disconnect more from social media
How to disconnect from social media
But how can we disconnect from Social Media? Chi and Dr. Emily discussed different approaches. Chi, for instance, uses AppBlock and sets a timer so that she cannot access Social Media apps for a specific amount of time.
Dr. Emily tries to moderate Social Media too. For instance: She tries to not grab for her phone when she’s waiting at a red light. You could try this too when you’re waiting in a queue or when you’re bored.
The following is important: Be comfortable being uncomfortable. When we tell ourselves to not grab for our phones, we will still feel an uncomfortable urge to grab for our phones. We must resist that urge. Sit with the discomfort and build that muscle.
Online activities shouldn’t dominate our day. We shouldn’t wake up and go asleep with our phones. Dr. Emily, for instance, starts her day with a moment of meditation. Then she focusses on some other tasks. By doing so, she sets the tone for the day. And after 9-10 PM, she doesn’t use any online media anymore. Instead, she focusses on other activities to unwind.
How to stop comparing ourselves to others:
We always compare ourselves to others. For instance, on Twitter and LinkedIn we see our friends be successful: They find a job or get promoted whereas we’re struggling with our jobs (or even finding one). On the one hand, we feel very happy for our friends and connections. On the other hand, we feel jealous.
How to stop this feeling?
We should first acknowledge that social media does not mirror reality. Our Twitter and LinkedIn feeds consist of curated posts. Generally, people only share their successes on social media. They don’t tell us about their struggles.
Second, we often tend to compare ourselves to people who are more experienced or skilled in an activity than we are. For instance, you could envy someone who’s in your boxing class, because they’re more fit and skilled than you are.
Now envy could help us work harder. Envy and looking at others boost us. But if you focus solely on others at the expense of focusing on your own journey, you are cheating yourself. You should focus on your own journey.
How to balance your emotions and expressions?
Lastly, Chi and Dr. Emily discussed about the extent to which we should express our emotions. Because being human is powerful. And being human means showing your vulnerability and emotions. Vulnerability is strength.
However, in a professional workspace, we generally don’t want to have someone in our team who is leaky all the time. And when we feel emotional, we don’t want our friends and family to be full-time therapists either.
So you should have a place where you can be as leaky as you want: Therapy. There, you can be as vocal and messy as you want. And therapists are trained listeners and they understand your emotions. A form of therapy I personally like is journaling and writing down Morning Pages.
This concludes my notes on this very insightful conversation about the importance of mental fitness. Make sure give Chi and Dr. Emily a follow on Twitter.