All my life I heard about mental illnesses. In fact, I could say I heard about one mental illness: madness. Madness because of sickness, sickness because of madness. But it was only a few years ago that I heard the concept of mental health, not as the absence of illness, but as well-being. Because in the end, being well is what all of us look for in life.
As people, we also tend to share dreams, ambitions, and strive for success. A specific social, professional, or economic position that places us on a podium of success. Because of that urgent need to achieve success in the future, we end up distancing ourselves from our present, from the moment, and end up being burdened with anxiety.
The symbolic burden of success, social, family or work pressure, and most importantly, self-pressure, turn the path to success into suffering rather than enjoyment. Gradually, symptoms of our mental state start to manifest. Stress, panic attacks, and depression are so common. In addition to our internal battles, we also face external challenges from a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world; the economic, political, and social contexts of our regions; and the aftermath of a global pandemic.
In a recent study, the Innovation Laboratory of the Inter-American Development Bank Group (BidLab) and The Wellbeing Project highlighted that "6 out of 10 entrepreneurs show symptoms of burnout, and 3 out of 10 have severe symptoms of psychological distress." It also highlighted that 64% of participating entrepreneurs showed moderate levels of burnout, intense exhaustion that ends up affecting their mental, emotional, and even physical health. It is frightening how common, but still hidden mental health issues are.
The more I have learned about this term and understood that a state of well-being is "the state in which the individual develops their potential, is aware of their own abilities, and can cope with the normal stresses of daily life" (World Health Organization - WHO), I also learned practices to not get lost in the excess of the future, in the pursuit of success or achievements, and to internalize well-being in the present moment. Right here and now.
For example, seeing error as an immense source of learning; celebrating my small victories and celebrating the small - and big - victories of others; recognizing what gives me tranquillity, joy, and fulfilment. In the previously mentioned study, 84% of the participants talked about exercising, listening to music, reading, walking, sleeping more and better.
But there is also another formula that doesn't involve conjugating a verb, and that is, doing nothing. The pleasure of doing nothing.
It is not about having zero goals or blurring success, especially when that ultimate destination is a higher purpose for a better world, like it is for all of us that work in the social sector. But it is precisely us, those whose vocation is dedicated to the transformation of the planet and the beings that inhabit it, who feel more intense the daily weight of a difficult path, full of obstacles and pains.
Therefore, a break, a pause, a gift to our body, soul, and mind becomes necessary.
The author Byung-Chul Han talks about the society of fatigue, "in which each one voluntarily exploits oneself, believing that this is self-realization." What I like most about his work is the concept of "contemplative boredom," freeing ourselves from the distractions of ever-present entertainment in our lives that suffocate us and seem unwilling to leave us, and just being.
Contemplation is to dwell in absolute fullness in the present moment, to observe, listen, feel, be. During a restless and accelerated world, pausing and breathing is a revolutionary and loving act to take care of ourselves.
To nourish our well-being, our mental health.
So, I hope that after reading this text, you close the screen and with much enjoyment, and without guilt, do nothing.
Written By Nataly Erazo Ospina
Nataly is a Colombian feminist, activist and animal and human rights defender who believes in communication's power to drive behavioural change.She holds a degree in Journalism and Social Communication and is currently completing her master's degree in Creative and Cultural Management. She is also part of our sister to sister program 2023.