If you’re a college student settling in to the throes of spring semester or a mom coordinating carpool pick-up, you’ve had a fair share of threats to your sanity.
Let me rephrase: If you are a human being on Earth right now, you know what it’s like to feel unhinged panic.
As humans, we respond to stress in a variety of socially acceptable ways: exercising, meditating, writing, drawing, the list goes on. But sometimes, we respond other ways: binge eating, skipping class, abandoning responsibilities. In the darkest of times, we find ourselves responding in ways that hurt us, like avoiding confrontations with loved ones, ignoring our own feelings, posting incessantly long rants on Facebook.
Let’s refer to these three categories as the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, respectively.
The Good: These are positive approaches to stress; they’re healthy, productive and safe. We feel comfortable talking to our friends and family about them, we even brag about them on social media. We say things like, “I’m really stressed out, I’m going to run it off,” or “I feel so much better after I went to yoga.” We’re proud of these responses.
The Bad: These are harmful reactions to stress, but we still talk about them to the people closest in our social circles: roommates, parents, significant others. We aren’t, however, talking to everyone about them. We say, “sorry I ate the rest of the ice cream, I was really stressed out about an exam,” or “can I talk to you about something?” followed by admission of guilt. We’re rarely proud to admit we’ve done these things, but we’re not afraid to do so.
The Ugly: These are destructive responses to anxiety, and are rarely deemed socially acceptable. Cheating on a significant other, abusing substances, creating lies to cover up mistakes. When we resort to these tactics, we hurt others just as much as we are hurting ourselves, especially when we aren’t talking about them.
Society tells us that these actions are wrong, that they make us bad people, that we should be ashamed of them. But if we never remove the stigmas that come from making human mistakes, how will we ever be comfortable enough to ask for help when mistakes become habits? How do we address things we cannot talk about? When do we decide our mental solace is worth the shame, the embarrassment, the guilt?
After a stressful Fall semester caused by my incurable and human tendency to make mistakes, I harnessed a mantra that I continue to grip with all the strength I have:
Sanity over everything.
It is more of a consolation than an excuse, a reason to address parts of my life that weren’t and aren’t good for me: stressful relationships, burdening social obligations, failed attempts at getting a “spring break body,” overcommitting to everyone and everything in my life.
Sanity. Over. Everything.
I was stressed out by all the things in my life that were beginning to drain my energy, effort and enthusiasm for my life and the lives of others around me. I needed to learn how to prioritize my sanity over everything, and I can only hope to encourage others to do the same.
Sanity. Over. Everything.
It’s worth the hard conversations, the confrontations, the stress of coming forth with your anxieties about facets of your environment. Of course it’s going to be hard at first, but the short-term loss of dignity is worth the long-term gain of mental solace and healing.
Sanity. Over Everything.
Go ahead, swing by that yoga class you’ve been meaning to attend. Skip class to call your mom. Be late to work because you stopped for coffee. Splurge on the shoes that make you feel like a boss ass bitch. Eat the whole pizza. And if you feel like you need the good, the bad, and the ugly, take the time to tell someone about it. It’s okay. It’s going to work out.
If it keeps you sane, it’s worth it.
You’re worth it.