5 Ways I Plan to Look After My Mental Health in the New Year
As 2016 draws to a close, we reflect. Whether it has been the best or worst year of your life, as humans, we always want change. As a person with mental illness, from my perspective, change can be seen as both a positive and negative thing. I want things to change, but I’m scared of taking the steps to make these changes. I’m also afraid of how this positive change could introduce negativity into my life.
Next year could really be my fresh start. I’m not expecting for it to go perfectly, but there are certain steps I can take to improve my mental health and to look after myself.
1. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
In 2016, I spent a lot of time sitting alone in my room, feeling depressed. I didn’t want to interrupt anyone’s favorite TV program, family time or evening of essay writing. I made these events up in my head. In reality, my friends could have all been sitting alone in their rooms, bored out of their brains or even feeling exactly the same as me.
Please, remember you are never alone, no matter how much you think you are. You are not a burden. You are important and how you are feeling is important. Nothing is worth hurting yourself over. You deserve to keep breathing.
I also want to set myself the goal of being more open. It’s 2017. There shouldn’t still be a stigma surrounding mental health! The social stigma is something that makes recovery much harder. When I was admitted to the hospital in November, not a single member of my family knew I was there. I shouldn’t be afraid to talk to my family about something that is having such a major impact on my life.
My resolution: Make a list of all the people who I am close to with their phone numbers, and keep this in a place where I’ll be able to find and unhesitatingly call in crisis.
2. Be self-aware.
Psychological pain should be treated similarly to physical pain. If something hurts for more than a few days, then you should definitely do something about it.
In late September, I changed medication. Throughout October to December, I pushed the ones closest to me away, slept poorly, drank heavily, single-handedly decided to stop taking my medication and made impulsive decisions, such as to cut 12 inches off my hair. These are the tame examples. I was basically self-destructive. Be aware of behavioral changes and common signs of relapse. Don’t ignore it, and don’t put off getting help.
My resolution: Look out for myself during the period of change from my current medication back to my old and/or new medication.
3. Protect your self-esteem.
If someone tells me I’m (insert positive adjective here), then it’s hard for me to believe them. I went to a competitive school where I always felt substandard. This has definitely been a major cause of my depression. Despite telltale signs of depression, teachers failed to act out and assumed I was just being a “rebellious teenager.”
Never compare yourself to others. Don’t let someone else’s confidence make you feel small. There is an unlimited amount of confidence in the world. You have unique talents, and the comparisons you make just aren’t fair.
Avoid negative conversation that could trigger you. If someone brings up something you don’t want to talk about, then don’t be afraid to politely say, “Do you mind if we talk about something else?” If someone makes you feel bad every time you talk to them, then it’s probably best if you cut them out of your life (for now at least). Don’t give in to the people who say you are not good enough. If social media makes you feel like your life is a failure, then avoid it. Remember what people choose to share on their social media accounts isn’t a complete picture of their life, and comparing ourselves to this isn’t realistic.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — Audre Lorde
My resolution: Stop saying sorry as an immediate response to everything, and limit my daily usage of Facebook to one hour.
4. Sweat it out.
Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and releases endorphins and hormones, such as serotonin, which is similar to what most antidepressants do. The endorphins released from exercise are proven to help people with depression.
You don’t have to be great at sport to enjoy it. Recently, I joined the university trampolining club. I suck at trampolining, but the few sessions I’ve attended have been awesome. I always come out feeling positive (and sweaty!)
Setting a goal can also work really well for some people. In 2015, having never run seriously until about five months prior, I ran 10 km. This was definitely one of the most positive days I have ever experienced.
My resolution: Go to trampolining more often and go running at least once a week.
5. Get sociable.
There are times when I say I’m going to go to an event, and then, I decide not to go less than an hour before it happens. My anxiety tells me I shouldn’t go.
“You’ll embarrass yourself. No one actually wants you to go. You’re better off staying alone in your room.”
I always regret it when I see the Snapchats and the photos up on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to go out. Nothing is stopping you from leaving if you decide you aren’t having fun. Remember last week when you went to that social? You coped fine then. You had fun even! Your friends were all happy to see you.
My resolution: When you aren’t swamped with work, go out and have fun.
This is a brilliant Ted Talk in which Dr. Guy Winch explains why it’s so important to practice emotional hygiene for mental well-being. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you don’t achieve your New Year’s resolutions. Fresh starts can come at anytime. Weeks don’t have to start on Mondays, and years don’t have to start on January 1sts.
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