Over coffee, looking at sunrise in Nagarkot, my brother as usual made a savage comment, “One time I see you all nice and hanging out with a friend and next you are all cold and not talking to them, why are you so mean?” I took a sip of my coffee and replied, “I am not the Greek God Atlas to take the entire burden of the world on my back and walk. If people constantly give me negative vibe, I think I don’t want that friendship. I couldn’t choose a brother but I can choose my friends.”
At three different coffee meetings a colleague I was friends with kept on complaining about how her husband doesn’t look after her and her needs, how she doesn’t have friends, how mundane life is, the sacrifices she has made and lack of appreciated, and how my life is so full of excitements and events. At one point I couldn’t take it and asked her what is one thing she does to make a difference or to solve the problem. There was a surprised glare and no reply. I asked her if she expects me to intervene and solve her problems to which there was no reply as well. That day I realized how much we all love to complain and not do a thing to solve our problems. Maybe we enjoy playing victims and get attention.
After a few weeks I realized I was avoiding her. It was not intentional but my reflexes were that I didn’t want to be around people who keep acting miserable. My Grand Aunt once told me, you will be the company you keep, so girl, choose your friends wisely. It did not make sense when I was 11 but at 40 it makes all the sense in the world.
Psychologists say people impersonate the friends they keep. We pick words, behaviors, antics and values of our friends or people we are close with. So it is important to choose wisely. Our brains are mostly attracted to negative thoughts but there are ways to channelize them.
First and foremost, it is fine to avoid negative people. I don’t have a precise deifinition of negative but I mean anything that exhausts you or does not let you grow into a better person. It is absolutely okay to let it out of your system. Sometimes it could be a toxic relationship or marriage or just a friend who keeps complaining about everything and not doing anything about it. Your mental health is more important that anything and anyone else. People might find you rude or selfish for moving on, but trust me, this is for your own good.
Last year, when the world was first hit by Covid, people thought it was a hoax. Some considered it a biological weapon and some thought it was a conspiracy to control population. We stayed home, we tried to survive, thinking it would all be over. We all were looking for a chance to survive so that we could get back to normalcy, even if it would be a new normal. Life suddenly became more precious than anything else. Family and friends started becoming dearer. People staying home learned to cook, to bake, learned a new skill. Staying positive was difficult but not impossible.
But the second wave feels like a second fracture on your already plastered bone. People we know are getting infected faster than we thought, our loved ones are dying. We are all equally scared and feeling anxious. We still don’t have a choice but to hope and try to stay positive. We have to hold on to that little hope that we will survive this. For that, your mental health needs to be on constant check.
A few basic coping strategies then. Practice gratitude for all the good things around you. It could be a plate of decent meal, or a family that is annoying but healthy, alive and together with you. Calling your close friends and appreciating their presence in your life each day also helps instill positive thoughts in your mind. Above all, right now, cut yourself off from people who add negativity in your life. It could be a friend who shares unnecessary fake news on social media (block them, it is okay), a friend who keeps whining about not been able to go out, or a relative who only talks about death numbers in your WhatsApp group. These are things you can right now avoid for your mental peace.
Watch the sunrise or the sunset, read a good book, call at least one person you care about each day. Be that person people can draw positive energy from in this time of crisis. And a little selfishness makes this world a better place—by adding one positive person to it. I would say let us become selfish for a change.