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Today, so many of us are dealing with the dual stressors of pandemic-induced trauma and anxiety watching world events unfold. Here in the Twin Cities, we are so lucky to have life and business coach Jasna Burza as a resource to share her wisdom gained through her lived experiences. She has a unique way of providing clarity and maintaining positivity, which she did in our recent conversation about how to prioritize our mental health right now.

Artful Living | How to Prioritize Our Mental Health with Jasna Burza

Photography by Gael Vaurin

How can we process the pandemic-induced trauma we’re collectively experiencing?

By actually doing it: processing. Do we have an awareness of how we’re feeling? The world is moving on as if nothing has changed, and yet, we are all different whether we want to admit it or not. We are all affected. Things are somehow different, and even though we sometimes can’t put our finger on it, we have to own that.

By that I mean, we have to ask ourselves what is different about us and how we want to move forward. In a brave new world, we have to learn to control the narrative instead of just going along with demands that no longer fit us. It’s no surprise that most people actually like working from home and enjoy the slower pace of life. What does that tell us? It tells us that we have been going 300 mph toward a brick wall and none of us wanted to press the brakes because then we would have to admit that we were drunk.

The pandemic did that for us. I think many people were able to reassess their lives; many people were able to sit with themselves and process things that they couldn’t see while driving at such speed. But not everyone did this. And now that the pace is picking up again, we don’t like it. We have to learn to sit still and ask ourselves: How am I different? What do I really want? In what ways am I now sabotaging myself? Where do I need to pay attention? How do I heal parts of myself that are triggered?

In order to do that, we have to carve out time in solitude and in nature and have lots of time to ground, both physically and emotionally. With the nicer temps, I believe everyone should find their way outside every single day and lose themselves among the trees for 15 minutes. And if you don’t have 15 minutes, then you need three hours. If you don’t take a break, you will have a breakdown. To process something and give it airtime, you need to create space for it. Sit down and write it down; process it with friends or specialists.

And of course, seek help when needed. There’s no need to suffer alone or in silence. Some people will greatly benefit from working with a therapist, healer or life coach. We should always seek help when we feel we can’t figure it out ourselves. Unfortunately, most of us would prefer a quick fix, but it doesn’t work that way. We have to walk this journey knowing we can and will come out stronger after this.

Artful Living | How to Prioritize Our Mental Health with Jasna Burza

Photography by Gael Vaurin

Most of us are feeling burned out from the past two years. How can we take better care of ourselves?

With acceptance, awareness and compassion. I think the first step is knowing that almost everyone is feeling some of those symptoms. I notice people blaming themselves and thinking there is something wrong with them, when research shows that brain fog is an actual result of the pandemic, even for those who never had COVID. It’s fascinating actually. In my 12 years of coaching, I have never seen anything like this: High performers who have all the resources at their fingertips are struggling with motivation and follow-through. We should find comfort knowing that, according to this study, it’s not just us.

The brain fog and exhaustion are real. And if we could just rest for an extended period of time, that is the first thing I would recommend. But most of us don’t have that luxury; we have responsibilities that need attending to. So we have to find ways to soothe ourselves all while learning to be in alignment with what we are doing. To soothe ourselves, we are unfortunately picking the dopamine hits and information overload: Netflix, TikTok, etc. Information overload is real; I recently read that we now process more information in a 24-hour period than people did in a year back in the 1800s.

We have to find better ways to take care of ourselves, including the old-fashioned methods that always work and will never go out of style. Step away from electronics, go walk in nature, observe flowers, animals and the sky, go paint or dance or play with your children or pets. Create some space in your life and your thoughts. Your mental and physical health will thank you for it.

How do we learn to live with uncertainty, especially when the world seems so unstable?

I believe that, unfortunately, this instability and uncertainty will continue to expand in the world and our lives, especially in the next few years. The pace of change in all sectors is unprecedented, and this is very unsettling for us. The only thing that I know how to do that actually works is to still the uncertainty and instability inside of us. I have met people who remain peaceful in all circumstances and often, it’s because they tend to their inner garden. They meditate and learn to claim the thoughts that create the emotional storms that are a response to the uncertainty.

Secondly, we have to tell ourselves over and over again that we will be OK, no matter what. This affirmation is a seed for our subconscious, and as we nurture it, it grows knowing. We are building resilience. Life is complex and full of twists and turns. This instability gives us a chance to flex that muscle and be OK, no matter what life brings us. As always, deep breaths and baby steps.

What are your top tips for prioritizing our mental health these days?

Spend time in nature without your phone. Whenever I go for a walk and leave my phone at home, at first I don’t like it. I like having my phone on me for that dopamine hit. But then I am always so much happier, calmer and more aligned. Something changes within me. It’s simple yet very, very hard for most of us.

Find a form of meditation that works for you. Emotions in the body are created by the thoughts we are having. There is no gap between thoughts and the information we are receiving; there are no breaks. And yet, meditation studies consistently and definitively show that we are happier and more peaceful when we practice meditation. I dream of a world where we are paid to walk in nature and meditate since money drives us so much; the whole world would be a much better place.

Surround yourself with people you love and do things that bring you joy. As social creatures, we need people. Because of the brain fog and exhaustion I mentioned, we just want to tune the world out because it takes so much effort and instead be left alone with devices that give us numbing and dopamine hits. But anthropologically, we are designed to live in groups; it signals safety and belonging, which are primal needs for all of us.

And make sure you smile. What hobbies or things give you an opportunity to be kid again, to smile and to fill your heart with joy? The emotion of joy is known to make everything in our lives work better.

And finally, what are you most excited about right now?

I believe we are now entering a period of time when more instability will ensue. We see that as a bad thing, but I observe the world differently: Sometimes things have to get bad enough for us to made radical changes as individuals and as a society. That gets me excited because instability fosters innovation in thinking. We are forced to do things differently.

I also see much more awareness about mental health and acceptance that we are all simply overwhelmed — including the fact that we are talking about this right here and now. Maybe this will foster more compassion toward ourselves and others, and will finally make us exit the current of mainstream expectations and demands, and say, I actually don’t want to do all of this — not on these terms. I want more simplicity and peace in my life. And when enough of us demand that, society follows.

On a personal note, I am excited about sunshine and daily rejuvenating, as well as spending the majority of summer camping with my family in the Boundary Waters. Talk about taking my own medicine!

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