As we begin another new year, the focus on reinventing ourselves and upgrading our lives through resolutions and self-improvement products is heavy, and can feel stressful. Self-care can even feel like one more thing on our impossibly long to-do list; another way to spend money and time that we don’t feel like we have. It can be a challenge to figure out what to prioritize, and we sometimes find ourselves burned out by February.
So how do we make positive changes that will last and not feel impossible? How we keep from burning out? We don’t have all the answers, but research has consistently shown that it is more effective to take small, realistic steps than to create drastic changes and try to stick to them. Additionally, if you’re stressed about stress-reduction, sometimes this indicates that it’s time to take something off our list, not add in another “stress-reduction” activity.
Throughout the year, it is a good idea to stick to simple, attainable, and realistic goals, such as repeating a verse or mantra that reminds us of our value each day, going outside for 5 minutes a day, or putting away your to-do list a half hour before bedtime.
What we don’t always realize is that, for example, when you make the effort to get outside for those five minutes, you’re likely to spend even more time soaking in the healing power of nature. But if you don’t, you’re still reaching your goal, and that by itself feels good and makes you happier. So if you have depression or you’re in pain, the very act of taking even a very small step toward healing, is healing in itself.
Health and self-care are important, but it is also important to remind ourselves that we don’t need to be reinvented each year! We can take a tip from Dialectical Behavior Therapy and nurture a “radical acceptance” of our current situation and self, and a “radical commitment to change,” in the areas where we really need to.
It’s a good idea to periodically take some time to evaluate how you’re doing overall. Ask yourself:
- Am I keeping up on my goals? Do I need to cut back on something?
- Am I feeling stressed? Am I feeling depressed? Overwhelmed? Anxious?
- Do I need to do more healthy activities, fewer activities, or something different altogether?
- Do I need to do something other than just make lifestyle changes, like talk to a health professional?
You can even take an online mental health assessment at http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-screening-tools. Sometimes maintaining mental health means balancing your lifestyle, and sometimes it means getting treatment and a medical plan, so these sorts of periodic check-ins are an important part of staying healthy.
So in 2019, I hope we can all remember to commit to attainable goals for growth, love and accept ourselves, and commit to periodic assessment of our wellbeing in order to continually maintain our health. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2019!
This post was written by Emily Coggin Vera, Executive Director of the MHA.