The subject I am referring to, as you may have guessed by now, is anxiety, depression, and the overall state of our mental health. Even though we have a myriad of appliances and devices to make our lives easier, it has become infinitely more complicated and stressful. Our lives can quickly be overtaken by fear and busyness. Is it any wonder? Take a moment to think about what we have lived through over the past few years. A world-wide pandemic that took many of our loved ones and friends, the war in Ukraine, through the roof inflation, mass shootings becoming a near daily occurrence, excessive brutality and violence, and an ever-changing job market. Combined, this has been the perfect storm, causing additional mental health distress to our already busy lives.
Another culprit in causing anxiety and depression is our disconnection from each other. How often have you been out to dinner or at an event and looked around to see everyone on their mobile devices? Our children are certainly feeling the effects of this disconnection. I recently visited a playground with my daughter and her two children. There were several other parents there with their children and as I looked around, I could see many of them on their phones, rarely looking up to watch their children. One little boy caught my attention as he called out to his mother numerous times to watch him swing on the bars, but to no avail. She remained glued to her phone ignoring his cries. I instantly imagined what he must be feeling. I could see his shoulders sag and his head drop as he came to the realization that whatever his mother was looking at was far more important than he was. It broke my heart, as I am sure it did his.
Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, educators, ministers, coaches, community leaders, I implore you, for our children’s sake, please make a consorted effort to connect with those around you, especially our children. Lead by example and do what it takes to make those in your sphere of influence feel heard, loved, and appreciated. The most precious thing we can give them is our time and attention.
I recently sat in a meeting where local teens were asked why they thought so many of their peers were struggling with mental health issues. Their answers came through clearly and consistently. What they most long for as they seek to combat their anxious and depressive thoughts, is to be noticed, supported, and loved by their parents. Isn’t that a basic need that we should already be providing for our children?
The problem has become so prevalent that there is now a term used to describe individuals who ignore those around them due to their obsessions with their phones. It is called phubbing. It was created by combining the words phone and snubbing. I am not sure this is a proper form of the word, but here it goes. Let’s all do our part to make a conscious effort to not phub those around us.
Our children are our future. They are precious and worthy of our time and attention. Let’s become reconnected. Reconnected with our families, our friends, our coworkers, our community, our world. I am the first one to admit my guilt when it comes to giving in to distractions. Not only is it people that we can become distracted from, but it can also be nature. Recently, I found myself listening to an audiobook while walking my dogs on a wooded trail. It suddenly struck me that I was missing the beautiful melody of nature’s song going on all around me. I couldn’t hear the birds, the wind whistling through the branches, or even the stillness around me. I was too absorbed in listening to my book. I turned it off and stowed it away, seizing the moment. I believe that is what am trying to say, all wrapped up in a concise package. Seize the moment. Don’t give way to meaningless distractions.
I believe this quote says it much better than I ever could. “Never ignore a person that loves you, cares for you and misses you because one day you might wake up from your sleep and realize that you lost the moon while counting the stars.”
Rhonda S. Kelley, Executive Director
Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce