Recently, there are a lot of news that are circulating online (real and fake ones) and to be honest, reading them sucked the energy out of me. Yesterday, I went for a log off. It’s not the first time that I did it on purpose and I usually disconnect from social media if I feel like it’s already taking a toll in my mental health.
I know I am not supposed to absorb everything but I can’t also help myself not to be affected on what’s going on around. I find comfort as well that my internet connection is down the past days, so yeah it’s really a perfect time to go offline.
So yesterday, aside from the unstable connection, I truly decided to do a mental health break. It was a conscious decision that I have to do although it’s really tempting to check social media from time to time. It’s like a default in our system that we have to stay connected especially in this time of pandemic. But yesterday, I purposely left my account unopened.
I know there would be messages from my loved ones but I informed them ahead through text that I won’t go online for that day. I appreciate that they respect my decision. I also don’t want them to worry about me so I gave them updates to let them know that I’m still alive and breathing. Lol.
Taking a mental health break or social media detox is a form of self-care for me. When things get extremely overwhelming, I know I have to protect myself and my sanity, of all things. I want to stay sane because people need me.
Being in a helping profession, such as in the field of Psychology, would mean that I give a part of myself to others– especially my time. And I know that I cannot pour from an empty cup. I have to equip myself with the psychological resources while making sure that I am also mentally okay.
You see, self-care is never selfish. It’s also not a one time thing like a reward of some sort, but a habit that we should cultivate. Imagine, why do we give off ourselves easily to others but why can’t we give time for own needs? We spread ourselves too thinly for others yet we give ourselves the least priority.
Ironic, isn’t it?
Well, it shouldn’t be the case. We have to acknowledge that we can also feel drained, lost, unproductive, sad, lonely, stuck, etc. Hence, it’s really fine to feel those emotions as part of being human.
The negative feelings don’t signify the absence of the positive ones. They actually put balance in our system.
The yin and the yang.
They can coexist.
Just because we’re happy doesn’t mean that we can’t feel sad.
Like for example, I am currently happy with my life but I am also sad hearing the news about people who are struggling to make ends meet. It’s a form of empathy, feeling what other people feel. But also as an empath, I have to put boundaries or else, other people’s emotions will devour me and just like a candle, I might burn out gradually.
The best thing about taking a mental health break is you get to be in touch with yourself. You become more mindful about your emotions and your thoughts. You can actually connect more to people in a deeper level rather than the superficial ones. You get to prioritize yourself and your needs. You also get to assess where you are in your journey.
It’s a like a system reboot, giving yourself a pause, a chance to step back so you can move forward.
Mental health break should not be taken as an escape but a kind act of facing the realities of life in a more loving, compassionate way towards ourselves. In the end, we only have ourselves. Check yourself, are you really okay?
One thing I learned from my yoga class before is when you feel the tension arising and you seemed out of focus because of the pressure, just remember this one word…
We may feel pressured to keep up with the demands of life but we shouldn’t discredit how far we’ve come just because we haven’t reach the destination yet.
It’s really okay to take a break. No one owns your time, but you.
If you think that it’s selfish, then I tell you, be selfish. Even for once.
I always look forward to birthdays. It might just be an ordinary date in a calendar but for me, it holds a special meaning. It is that one special day of the year that you get to celebrate your existence.
When we talk about birthdays, they’re usually coupled with the idea of foods, people, gifts, parties (and booze). There’s the cake with the candles that you have to blow in order for your wish to come true (or maybe not). Well, it has just been a tradition most of us grew up with.
This year, I was looking forward to my birthday. My original plan was to go on an international solo trip. It would be a supposed first time experience that I will travel alone in an unfamiliar place. I was really excited for it and I even put it in my 2020 planner.
But then, COVID happened and my plan remained in the paper where I excitedly wrote about the things that I would do. I have thought of an alternative plan which is to go back in our hometown and celebrate it with my family. But since Cebu was placed back under ECQ, all operations for traveling and passenger transport were halted.
Until yesterday, I was in denial that I will be celebrating my birthday alone. Quarantined birthdays are now the “new normal” but I can’t seem to accept that I will be a member of those people who celebrated their birthdays amidst the pandemic.
Apparently, I don’t have a choice. I decided to embrace the reality of celebrating my birthday alone. There were no fancy foods, no glittery gifts, no other people. It’s only me, in my room.
I have to admit it, it was lonely and I can’t hide the fact that I wish I was with my family or if only there were few people around me to sing a birthday song for me. I mean, it’s utterly fine with me if I am quarantined during my birthday as long as I am celebrating it with my loved ones. Yet, none of those options were possible.
I feel like I was totally isolated. What could get any worse than being alone in your birthday during quarantine? As if living alone wasn’t enough. It sucks, right? But instead of sulking in sadness and self-pity, I managed to carry on and connect with people virtually.
Thankfully, my loved ones and few friends made an effort of creating an online birthday bash for me. Well, there’s nothing that could really replace the face to face interaction but what else can I do but to adapt and adjust to what’s available at the moment.
Still, I am really grateful for the people who reached out to me. My birthday was not made public for some personal reasons. I didn’t post about it as well in my social media on that very day. It’s not about challenging who can remember my day without fb notifs or stories but I just want to keep it lowkey and perhaps, a little bit intimate (with myself and few people online). They are the ones who were there for me even if I can’t offer them anything, not even a single candy.
It’s a realization that I no longer want material things but I just want to celebrate what I have.
Maybe the quarantine enhanced my introverted side or maybe it’s because of my age that I just want a simple celebration. It could be both. Resources were also limited because of the stay-at-home order although online deliveries are possible. However, instead of thinking about it as a quarantined birthday (like how some people call it) I made my own version of a minimalist birthday.
Before, I used to think that the measurement on how loved and valued I am is thru receiving a lot of affirmations and material things from people. But yesterday, I just want to celebrate my special day by counting what I already have rather than anticipating what I can get.
It made a huge difference in my perspective.
Expectations can hurt. Really. That’s why one of my greatest realizations is to stay in the realistic side. Expecting is normal but you have to also view things in a realistic perspective. I’m not saying that we stop ourselves from expecting but it’s more of managing our expectations and putting more logic behind it. In this way, we can approach things maturely in case things don’t go as we expected them to be.
Celebrating my minimalist birthday was not that bad afterall. I gained fresh perspectives about life. I learned to value the things that are truly important to me. Lastly, I have let go of the idea that birthdays are all about getting and receiving more.
Birthdays are actually about being genuinely happy, being contented of what you currently have, and celebrating the person that you have become– bolder, stronger, wiser.
Picture this, after years of struggle, you can finally walk on that stage, receive your diploma and give that big smile to the photographer. After the ceremony, you will see photographs of yours outside the venue. You will then recognize that face. “Oh that’s me”. Finally! Your family will be there, too, smiling proudly from your back while you claim your photos. Then you will also have pictures taken with your close friends while throwing the graduation cap up in the air and unanimously shouting “Yes, graduate na jud mi!”
You are smiling from ear to ear for that thought.
Then reality struck you, COVID happened…
To you, this pandemic is the antagonist of a supposedly “happy ending” that you imagined in your dreams and your waking life. One time, you were so excited and then the next time, you don’t feel any excitement at all. The supposed to be graduation day becomes an ordinary day, just another day in your quarantine life.
You might be even looking for some silverlining (or rationalization) like at least you don’t have to spend for a fancy dress or tuxedo for the gradball, or you don’t have to invite your whole clan for a get together, or you don’t have to worry about where to have a graduation getaway. But admit it, your heart swells that none of this will ever happen. Or if it may happen, it is not something like what you expected it to be. It will not be grand. It will be simple.
And that’s undeniably painful. Expectations hurt. I mean, who wouldn’t have expectations? The moment that you set foot on the university, you are already looking forward to the graduation day. Aside from gaining friends and acquiring knowledge to prepare you in the real world, you have this idealistic mindset that after graduation, it will be the first taste of freedom– freedom from academic responsibilities and freedom to do things on your own. Yeah, that sounds good but let me tell you this, that freedom is only for a little while. Soon you will be taken to the shackles of the “adulting” life. Soon you will have to face other responsibilities as you transition to the next level.
So before that happens, you would want to at least celebrate. You want to immortalize this moment and look back at it with great triumph. Afterall, the tassel is worth the hassle, right? But what if there’s no tassel to symbolize this feat? Will you still feel happy? Or will you feel like there’s an important part that is missing? It’s a bit odd that you won’t be able to live that experience and savor the moment. It’s like finishing a race but you’re not given a medal or any entitlement that will validate your efforts.
However, despite that, what I want you to realize is that even if you will not have your graduation ceremony (for now), that doesn’t take away the fact that you already graduated. The ceremony is just a formality to end things. You have to be proud of what you have achieved and where you are right now. The whole journey will be a reminder of how you make it through when there were so many times when you could have easily given up. Surviving the roller coaster ride in your academic years is already an achievement in itself.
Although there is no certainty when this will be over, but when the time comes for you to have the special ceremony (if it is still possible), cherish the moment and always remember that yours is a special one. You did not only survive the rigorous academic requirements, you survived it while facing the pandemic that challenged you in various aspects. That’s already something worthy to be proud of! You’re indeed a warrior!
You are still a graduate, not because you wore the toga but because you finished it strong.
Congratulations for not giving up and for reaching this far.
We are proud of you, batch 2020!
Quarantined but definitely a fierce batch.
All the best,
*featured image courtesy of pinterest.com. Credits to the rightful owner of the photo. 🙂
We are in this period of facing a global crisis brought by the pandemic. This is an experience that is universal to everyone— all people from different walks of life. No matter how we see it, we are all at it. No one’s an exemption. That’s why when the government declared community quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus, I was greatly affected. I was affected for a lot of reasons: First, this would mean not going out with people for couple of weeks (or a month); Second, this would mean staying indoors and not having any outdoor activity to relieve stress and it’s really making me feel sad; Third, I have to deal with the loneliness that comes with living far away from my family which I really don’t like; Fourth, there’s a pressure to be productive because of the notion that I have all the time that I need, yet, there’s also this crippling, helpless feeling and I suddenly don’t want to move a butt; Fifth, I hate slowing down.
There it goes. The biggest reason is I hate slowing down. I guess that would summarize all the other reasons. I hate slowing down because I have always been the type of person who is on-the-go. I am always out there, doing things that would especially make me feel like I have done something and not just take up valuable space and oxygen. Oh, that may sound a little off but that is just my personal opinion and I don’t really want to feel “useless” when I know that I can do something. It’s quite a high demand I put forth for myself and I don’t really like to just stare aimlessly and do nothing. Do you also feel that? My soles are itching to go out and be involved in various activities, if that makes any sense. Also, I always have this tugging feeling of being somewhere out there—school, community, nature—everywhere but my room.
And probably you might wonder why I don’t like staying in my room. To be honest, staying in my room for long intensifies my loneliness and feelings of being homesick. Seems childish, right? I can’t also understand why I still feel this way even if I’ve been living independently for almost ten years. That should be enough training to get rid of this longing. But for me, it doesn’t work that way. I still miss home from time to time. I miss my family, the good food, the bonding. I miss it all. And while living away from family seems great to others, to me, it isn’t. It’s a constant reminder of the sacrifices that I have to do just to make my dreams come true. I honestly envy those who are living with their family because they can split bills with them, eat good home-cooked foods, or share Netflix account with them. Kidding aside, the reason why I feel jealous is because they have their families living with them and they can see or hug them whenever they want to. In times of trouble and uncertainty, it really pays to have emotional support from the people who are very dear to you. But in my case, I have to fill that void through texts, chats, calls, videocalls—anything that would bridge the emotional and physical distance that I am currently struggling with.
Slowing down also means I have to be in touch with myself and process certain impending emotions. Perhaps, I was so used to escaping and getting myself busy with other things that dealing with my own emotions scares me. I am afraid of what I might discover in myself. It may not be something that I am ready to accept. I may have things that I unconsciously placed in a box that opening it will mess up what I already knew about myself. I don’t like it. I fear vulnerability to some extent. Because to be vulnerable means being aware that others might see you differently than how you perceive yourself.
But slowly I learned to embrace vulnerability and honestly, it feels good. I have also expanded my vocabulary of emotions so I could appropriately distinguish different feelings. It’s not just being happy and sad but it could be something that would range from disappointment, frustration, anger, discouragement to joy, bliss, warmth, thrill, gladness, etc.
It actually took me 10 days before I have fully adjusted with this kind of set-up. I have the urge to go out but I have to discipline myself or I’ll put my safety and health at risk. I also don’t want my parents to be worrying on me since Cebu is already placed in enhanced community quarantine with very limited mobility. And God forbid something would happen to me, I know they cannot visit me immediately. Worst, I may die alone. Not a nice picture though. So, while staying at my room, I decided to make the most of my time. I read books, I write poems, I practice calligraphy once again, I chronicle events in my journal, I exercise, I make coffee, I call my loved ones, I check on my friends, I self-reflect and become more intimate with my relationship with God, I listen to good music, I do my pending tasks at school. Well, the last one’s a challenge but I am working on it.
Right now, I just want to be purposeful and do things purposely. I think the reason why I am feeling helpless is because I lack purpose and acceptance. I haven’t fully accepted that this is the situation now and IT IS REALLY happening. Also, I seemed to lack goals. Those small goals that would make me feel accomplished by the end of the day. It’s like I haven’t done something that I can consider an “achievement”. So, to address that, I write my goals for the day. Like checklists of what I want to accomplish even as simple as taking a bath and eating on time (yes, I have to put that on the list), responding to emails, or calling my parents. That is already a small win for me. I write it down so I can tick it off and track my progress. Maybe I’ve been wired to think this way. But lately I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to just do nothing, that I don’t have to be productive always. It’s okay to have that long sleep and not to feel guilty about it. It’s okay that I have ample time to do my “indoor hobbies” that I haven’t done for so long because I am always plying the outdoors. Maybe it’s time to explore the other side of the road and not speed up.
Aside from my personal drama, my heart wrenches for those people who are fighting this war in the front line. And also to those people who need to go out and work daily just to make ends meet. It’s a sad reality. But instead of basking on guilt and pity, what I have thought to do is to probably maximize the time that I have. I decided to volunteer in our school’s program to be a mental health responder. Technically, I won’t be acting as a psychologist since I don’t have the license yet but what I can do is lend an ear to those who are experiencing trouble in handling this difficult situation. If things would go out of hand, I can always refer them to the right persons in our profession. I don’t know yet how this would work but I am very much willing to give things a try and to help however I can.
My takeaway from this situation is it’s okay to lose the momentum, to step back and re-assess where we are in this journey. It’s common for us to do our best to escape the confines of time by accelerating our schedules, speeding up our pace, and doing whatever it takes to beat the clock. It takes great patience and discipline to be comfortable on not doing anything “productive”. Sometimes we are so obsessed with our own timelines that we forgot those things that truly matter for us—family, health, friends, partner, community, and even our personal goals.
At the face of this crisis, may we not lose the essence of who we are in trying to succumb to the idea of doing something to feel that we mattered. Slowing down means taking time, being in the here and now, choosing to be productive in being unproductive, allowing ourselves to be in the process, letting go, and trusting that things will be alright soon.
After all, the only way to get through it, is through it. We got each other’s back. May we all emerge as better and stronger versions of ourselves.
Some people asked me this question: “How did you get yourself into loving the outdoors?”
Honestly, I can’t also seem to fathom how it all started but I guess it was something like falling in love that you can’t explain why and how it happened.
Maybe this is what falling in love looks like—you feel a special emotion, you allow your self to aimlessly follow that desire, and then you commit to pursuing it whatever it takes.
Needless to say, I am not the type of person whom you would expect to be betting her neck into doing some crazy adventures. I have this effeminate demeanor that suits a home body. Well, looks can be deceiving. hehe. Perhaps, everything started somewhere right? If I recalled it correctly, it was in my prime years where I have been greatly engrossed with National Geographic magazines. It sparked an interest to discover more. Their global campaign, “Live Curious”, became the foothold from where it all started.
This desire for exploration morphed until I was in college but at that time, I didn’t have any extra finances to support my adventure-seeking tendencies. You know when you are still a student, you are expected to study and get good grades. So, I focused more on academics and extra-curricular activities, tentatively setting aside the desire for good adventures. I didn’t openly talk about it as well. I didn’t want my parents to be spending money for my own wanderlust so I waited. However, after graduation, I got caught into the busyness of life and “adulting” hit me hard. I was working while doing review that I almost forgot about my ambitions and my growing interest to explore the outdoors.
It was not until I had my first canyoneering experience last 2016 that I realized that I am capable of living a life out of my comfort zone, out of my bubble. That canyoneering experience opened my eyes and re-ignited the spark to try different things despite it being risky. I started to read articles and blogs, followed different personalities in outdoor world, and started saving for my adventures, including my gears.
2017 was the year that my outdoor lifestyle started sailing. One of the highlights is when I first joined a Trail Run event, an activity that combines hiking and running on trails. It was something unique and I have never experienced anything like that so I ecstatically gave it a try. The event, Pamutan Trail Fest, became the gateway where I got absolutely hooked into trail running. After that first experience, I looked forward to joining the same event the following year. However, since the Trail Fest is just an annual event, I channeled my interest on road running with more events organized monthly.
In 2018, I joined my first legit road race which is a 10km run in Cebu City Marathon. The feeling was great the moment I hit the finish line and to be honest, I was curious how it was like to run a half or full marathon. Seeing both pain and pleasure in the runners’ faces made me wonder if I’ll also reach that point. I brushed the idea away because at that time, I knew I was far from doing it. I was satisfied to run 10km and for me, it was more than enough.
I joined another 10km run, the Sub-1 10k and I attempted to get the target of running 10km in less than an hour. I clocked in at 1:10:00 and was 10 mins shy from reaching the cut-off. Despite that, I am still happy that I tried. The sub-1 10k goal was an elusive one and I realized that one must have a proper training for that. Maybe I was just so ambitious at that time haha. But then again, it challenged me to do better and train harder for next time.
Maybe the greatest plot twist of my 2018 running journey happened when I ran my first 21km unintentionally. It was somehow “unintentional” because I was supposedly eyeing to register only in a 12km run but all of the slots were taken and I have two options: run 5km or run 21km. I chose the latter even if I was doubting if I can really make it or not. Was it worth it? Well the picture below says it all.
Without regrets on my first half marathon, I joined another 21km run during the Milo marathon but I did not make it to the cut-off time of 2 hours and 30 mins. I was short for 20 mins. Anyway, I was still happy with the results that I finished it injury-free.
2019 was probably the year that my passion for the outdoor skyrocketed. I can’t also believe that I was able to do the things that I thought were impossible. This was also the year that I finally found a community that loves the outdoor as I much as I do. Sugbu Trail Masters(STM) became my alcove in this outdoor lifestyle. They welcomed me and my group whole-heartedly and later on, I found myself joining some of their weekend fun trails. The fun trails turned into a get together of people from various walks of life.
STM has inspired me to become a better runner and a better person in general. In those moments of solitude where I found myself running along the rocky terrains, tracing the streams, passing through the mossy forests, I discovered things about myself—both my strengths and weaknesses. I discovered that nature is the best therapy to process my emotions. It was the peace that I needed to calm the chaos of my mind. And how fun it was to share it with people who are going through the same. Everyone in the group became an inspiration to commit to a healthier lifestyle. Everyone celebrated each other’s achievement regardless if you run a 5km on the road or if you run a 50km on the trail.
Here, I chronicled some of the highlights of my year-long journey with them from March to August of 2019 (photo credits to STM)
I got myself into another hiatus and for the longest time, I decided not to join any running event. The reason is I don’t have proper training and I don’t know why I have so many reasons err… excuses at that time. Hahaha. And because I stopped training, I struggled to finish another 21km run organized by IPI. I was actually thinking of riding a jeepney going home because I can no longer feel my legs but I pushed a little more, and a little more, until I reached the finish line. Good thing they have efficascent oil as part of the freebies. haha
After several months, I joined the annual Pamutan Trail Fest for the third time. It has been a yearly tradition for me, I guess. I still have my bias on Trail Running and I have a lot of reasons why I love trail run than road run.
The following month, I joined the Cebu Safari Run with a bunch of friends. This was a last minute registration and because I was so busy that time, I didn’t quite expect that I will be running with no proper training once again. I am just happy that we finished it strong and that my friends are giving trail running a try as well.
I was in a 3-month break because of my master’s thesis. After successfully proposing my research, I decided to go back and rekindle my passion in trail running. So, before the year 2019 came to a close, I joined one trail event that made my comeback more unforgettable. I ran 15km with my friends and the event reunited me to the trails and to the people in trail running community.
Aside from road and trail runs, year 2019 also pushed me to my limits where I gave myself a stretch in doing things I haven’t tried before. I was able to go far in the conservation area of Bukidnon in search for stunning waterfalls and heart-wrenching adventure. I also did my first dual zipline in Asia’s longest zipline in Dahilayan Adventure Park. It was a wonderful year-end adventure that filled my heart and mind with some good kick of adrenaline.
Jumpstarting the year 2020, I finally ticked off one thing that I have been keeping on my list— mountaineering. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to apply what I have learned from the Basic Mountaineering Course that I attended last 2018. In BMC we were taught about the fundamentals in responsible mountaineering.
Now for the application, my friends and I went for an adventure at Mt Lanaya. The application was a bit challenging than the concepts and principles. But one thing that was retained in my mind is the principle of Leave No Trace (LNT). Whenever I go outdoors, I always keep in my mind to bring my trash with me. “What goes up, must come down” so if we bring packets of food or plastic containers in the trails or camp, we also bring a trash bag with us and make sure to bring the trash back to where it could be disposed properly. Not only that, following proper outdoor protocols are very important to ensure safety.
The base camp in Mt. Lanaya already gave a beautiful view but I know that the feeling is different when I look at it with a view from the top. So far, my greatest achievement in mountaineering was climbing the peak of Mt. Lanaya also known as “Kalo-Kalo” peak, a tough climb for beginners but we made it and I am looking forward to conquer more summits!!!
After the Mt. Lanaya adventure, I soon ventured into another activity– rock climbing. It was introduced to me by my colleagues at work who are also into this kind of lifestyle. The curiosity made me say yes. I first joined a practice wall climbing activity at Metrosports to prepare myself for the actual climb.
During the actual climb, I was looking at the big rocks in front of me and I was suddenly scared. It just dawned in me that I’ve been very active in the outdoors that I might have miscalculated or overlooked the risks associated with this activity… and perhaps, in all the adventures that I’ve been doing lately. Thankfully, our guide were professionals and they made sure that we are following the right protocols in rock climbing (photo credits to @stonesinmyshoes).
To top it all, last February, we were supposed to be participating in the Alicia Trail Run at Alicia, Bohol. However, it was postponed for health and safety reasons. In lieu of that, we decided to go for an adventure instead and simulate the route of the race. It was memorable for me since it was my first out of town trip with Sugbu Trail Masters.
Looking back at everything that happened in three years span, I can say that exploring the outdoors gave me various insights and perspectives. The outdoor life made me realize that there are things that I am capable of doing which I originally thought were impossible to achieve. That “I can’t do that” to “I finally did it!” kind of mindset is very much applicable in different aspects of my life. Not that I don’t feel any fear anymore but I began to face fear head on knowing that if ever I will fail, there will be no regrets, only lessons learned.
So what is it all for? The adrenaline rush?— Maybe. The thrill? —Maybe.
But I believe there’s something deeper. There’s something more.
I believe that the reason for all of this is my never-ending curiosity. I want to know how it looks like, what it feels like. I can’t just settle with people telling me these things but I really want to experience things first-hand.
I always keep in my mind this quote from Mark Twain. I’ve read this somewhere years ago and this has become my inspiration for living a more rustic lifestyle.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ”
Now, if you are this type of person who can’t just settle hearing other people’s experiences, maybe it’s your time to finally move out from your safe zone to your growth zone. Calculated risk is always the key.
At this point, there are still things that I haven’t tried and haven’t done because I am still conquering these fears one adventure at a time. I have so many things that are still on my list like scuba diving, cliff jumping, spelunking, joining one of the Spartan Races, and maybe one day I’ll face my greatest fear.
I always trust the process and until then that I muster the courage to face all my dragons, I can surely say that I have truly lived.