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The New Year’s Promises, Not Resolutions, I’m Making for My Mental Health

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

New Year’s resolutions are not my thing. The thought of trying to stick to a list of changes for the entire year is uncomfortable at best and debilitating at worst. You can try keeping things vague: I’m going to lose weight this year. But then how do you measure your success? If next week the scale shows that I’m a down, am I done? Did I “win?” Or do I need to do more? On the other hand, if you get too specific, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment from the beginning. “I’m going to lose X pounds this year.” Great! So when December rolls around and I’m not down enough pounds (or, Heaven forbid, up X pounds), I get to end the year feeling like I let myself down? I mean, there’s a lot of opportunities there for mistakes, missteps, and flat-out failure; if that doesn’t have anxiety written all over it, I don’t know what does.

Still, I agree that the New Year is a good time to initiate things. This year, instead of resolutions, I am making myself promises. And instead of focusing on my physical health, I’m emphasizing my mental health in 2018.

Without further ado, here are my 2018 New Year’s promises.

1. I promise to practice better self-care.

Living with anxiety and depression takes its toll physically, mentally and emotionally, and it’s far too easy to give in to the comfort of bed when doing anything else seems like more hassle than it’s worth. Instead of spending my days lying around feeling stuck in my own head, I am going to put more effort into my self-care. Instead of taking naps, I’ll go on a walk or have a meditation session. I’ll shower regularly, even when I don’t feel like it. I’ll remind myself to eat, drink more water and take my medications every single day. I promise to do these things for the good of my health, my relationships and my life.

2. I promise to be more mindful.

My mental illness causes me to spend 99 percent of my time either dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future. This is doing me no favors. I miss out on opportunities to have fun or try new things. I miss out on what’s going on right in front of me because I’m too concerned with something I have no control over. When I think about all of the invitations I brushed off or events I was too anxious to go to, I legitimately get mad at myself. So I promise to spend more time in the present and to try to take advantage of those opportunities.

3. I promise to be kinder to myself.

Having depression, anxiety and low self-esteem means that when things go wrong, I usually blame myself and when things go right, I don’t give myself credit. I criticize myself when I’m not perfect (so, you know, all the time) and I don’t praise myself nearly enough for the little things, like just trying. I promise to cut myself some slack when I fall short of my own crazy expectations and I promise to commend myself when I make an effort, even if it doesn’t work out.

4. I promise to pay more attention.

Far too often, I find I’m waiting my turn to talk instead of listening to whoever is taking the time to talk to me, which is not only rude, but I’m depriving myself of the chance to learn something, either about the topic in question or just about the person talking. By not paying attention, I’m hurting myself and my relationships. I also need to pay better attention to myself. I missed a lot of really obvious signs that my depression was taking over my life last year because I just wasn’t aware enough. I could have saved myself – and those around me – a ton of pain and anger if I’d been more tuned in. I promise to focus my attention on the people and things that matter most.

5. Last, I promise to never give up.

I have to make a confession: there’s a really good chance that I can’t live up to these promises in 2018. There are going to be times when I give in to the warmth and comfort of my bed instead of bracing myself for a walk in single digit temperatures. There will be days when I just can’t stop myself from fretting over something that won’t even happen for another week. I will blame myself for things that aren’t really my fault, and I will forget to credit myself for the good things I contribute to. And I will undoubtedly lose my focus and I won’t realize I wasn’t paying attention until it’s too late. But I promise that no matter how often I slip up, no matter how off course I find myself, I will never stop trying to do right by myself and get back to a place where I can be true to my promises.

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Getty Images photo via LucidSurf

Originally published: January 19, 2018
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