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The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is hitting its stride across the U.S.—as of early May, over 40 percent of adults across the country had been fully vaccinated—and after a long, dark year, there’s finally some light. But even as we tentatively pocket our masks and peek out into the world once again, it’s clear that the events of the past 15 months (not only the pandemic, but also a tense political climate, fraught election, and social uprising) will have a lasting impact on our mental health.

That’s why, in this week’s episode of The Well+Good Podcast, we’re revisiting a conversation I had a few months ago with three mental health professionals: licensed therapist Amanda White, Sad Girls Club founder Elyse Fox, and Black Girls Breathing founder Jasmine Marie.

As I say in the episode’s introduction, their advice for caring for your mental well-being feels even more salient now as we think about reentering this “new normal” version of our lives. That collective grief doesn’t just go away; we must now learn how to hold it alongside the highs and lows of our daily existence. As Jasmine Marie puts it, “We’re not a monolith. You can hold equal emotions…and it’s okay to experience more than one thing. You can be grateful you have a job, but also understand that it’s taxing you at this time.”

When it comes to honoring my emotions, one issue I’ve personally struggled with this past year-plus is feeling like I don’t deserve to have depressive feelings because, relative to so many others, I’ve had an easy go of it: I’ve been privileged to remain safe and healthy throughout the pandemic. But Jasmine Marie had a reality check for me, saying, “You know, this isn’t a competition on how bad we can all feel…You can always have compassion for others, but that doesn’t mean you have to neglect what you’re going through, because that does no one good.”

Listen to the episode in full, below:

White adds, “If we talk about from, like, a brain perspective, your brain doesn’t really care whether someone has it better than you or worse than you. You’re going to have emotions; they’re going to come up.” What’s more, the things you’re feeling might not always make sense. “And that’s okay!” White says. “As long as you can feel them and work through them. That’s the most important thing.”

In order to “work through” your emotions, you first need to pinpoint what they are. “The more specific you can identify [your feelings]…say, I feel frustrated versus feeling angry, the better you’re going to actually be able to take care of yourself,” White says. “One of the first things you can do, if you’re someone who does struggle to identify how you’re feeling, is to start getting curious about your body sensations. Our emotional states actually have distinct sensations that come with them.”

Jasmine Marie adds, “Sometimes it can feel very overwhelming to get to know your body.” When this is the case, she recommends you do a five senses check-in. What can you currently hear, feel, smell, taste, and see? “Or, take a particular body part…Are my teeth clenched right now? Maybe my jaw is tight. Learning to tap into your body more is a practice,” she says.

For more expert tips for caring for your mental health during this tumultuous time, listen to the whole episode above.

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