author: mac brock | a&c editor
“‘Uh-oh’ – my body, mind, and spirit.” Tweet. I thought it was funny. Then, I turned my phone off and went to sleep.
It was a difficult, stressful week. It’s a busy time of year for everyone – whether it’s finals, extra-curriculars, or just the routine, busy lifestyle that comes with early spring; everyday stresses are at a high. It was Friday night, the pressure of the new season was weighing particularly heavily, and I chose to take to one of my more common (if vain) therapeutic outlets: Twitter.
“’Uh-oh’ – my body, mind, and spirit.” Tweet. I thought it was funny. Then, I turned my phone off and went to sleep.
In the morning, I was surprised to find that my late-night rambling had become my most successful tweet ever. I’ve never posted something to the site that’s received the same amount of traction, including one reply saying it “resonated.” My stress was received with the same level of “relatability” as a casual meme or funny animal picture.
This has become a norm in my social circles. Lethargy, isolation, and burnout have transformed from social crises to bonding points; but, what’s the effect when our gut reaction to a friend’s trouble is to reveal to them our own?
I’m not innocent of it. A friend tells me about their stressful day, and my first instinct is to match them. Is it because I want to use it as a connection tool? Because it’s hard to share the attention for that little amount of time? Either way, it has the common result of detracting from my friend’s needs.
On Facebook over the last couple years, the content of my newsfeed has changed drastically to include about four different types of posts: political, promotional, recipes (the best type), and dark lifestyle posts about being a chaotic mess with four comments from my friends saying “me” or “relatable.”
Chaos has become cool. We have unintentionally glamourized being overworked and overwhelmed. Being busy has the equivalent connotation of being important.
The stigma of mental illness is fading fast. We’re respecting, and acknowledging, and celebrating each other’s traumas and struggles. Now for the next step: to learn how to properly provide care and support for others when it is needed.
The next step is two-fold: changing our standards of “cool,” and changing our standards of support. When a friend gets a break, or goes on a vacation, or has a quiet period, monitor your response. Does your first instinct want the same luxury? Have you ever told a friend “I wish I had a vacation,” or “you’re so lucky?” They come up as my reaction sometimes. Instead, celebrate your friend’s opportunity to reset them. Make self-care cool.
On the other hand, when a friend approaches you with – or casually steers the conversation toward – time-related stress or anxiety, quiet the voice telling you to relate. Listen to them. Be a witness and sponge to their experience and their needs. We all know that a helpful ear does a world of good. Give them the time they deserve, in appreciation for the times someone has given you the same.
I can’t say all this from a high horse. I’m going to continue working. Join me.