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Are you taking care of yourself?

Work, bills, personal problems, stress — it’s easy to let these things pile up until they seem insurmountable. For nearly every American, 2020 has been one of the most challenging times in recent memory. Stack a global pandemic, hurricanes, wildfires, racial tensions, contentious politics and bad news in general on top of one’s own individual issues, and it feels like the end of the world is upon us.

If you’re feeling that way, you’re not alone, and there’s one very simple question each of us needs to be asking right now — “Am I taking care of myself?”

The answer to that question shouldn’t be measured by productivity at work, timeliness on paying bills or how well the expectations of others are being met. Rather, it’s an introspective question that asks you to look in the mirror and consider your own personal wellness. How are you doing mentally, physically and emotionally?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, it has been widely reported that mental health issues, domestic violence and substance abuse have been on the rise nationwide. The circumstances we are currently living in have made it harder than ever to care for one’s self, and there are so many among us who are silently suffering right now.

This is even among our children, whose lives have been totally disrupted by the closing of schools and the switch to virtual learning. Beaufort County Schools, for example, has reported that instances of suicidal thoughts have increased almost twofold among its students, prompting additional training and resources for school system staff to help kids through those dark places.

Nationally, September is Suicide Prevention Month. Often associated with suicide are feelings of hopelessness, despair and a general sense of being overwhelmed. Right now, it’s really easy to see the world through that lens of hopelessness, which begs the question, “What can I do about it?”

The answer is finding ways to take care of yourself and the people you love and care about. There’s an old nautical adage that rings especially true these days — “You can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” That is to say, the circumstances around us are often beyond our control, but what we make of them is up to us.

At this time of hardship and uncertainty, please remember that self-care is not selfish. It’s a necessity. In finding ways to better care for yourself, and your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing, you’re also engaging in self-improvement. That in turn makes you stronger, more resilient and better able to stand against the strong winds blowing around all of us. You might just find a greater sense of self-respect.

But it doesn’t end there. Once you find that, you’ll be stronger not just for yourself, but also for others around you. In finding time and ways to take care of yourself, you’re also better able to care for friends, family and the community as a whole.

So this week, and going forward, take a moment every once in a while to look in the mirror and ask, “Am I taking care of myself?” It’s an important question, and the answer might just change your life for the better.