January 1st is always a time of reflection and planning for me.  A brand new calendar (I still get a paper one every year), full of promise and possibilities, awaits my sharpened pencils.  First, I review the past year and force myself to acknowledge the successes, however small.  Notice I said “acknowledge,” not “celebrate.”  Like most of us, my recovery is a work in progress.

Next, I plan my New Year’s Theme.  Resolutions?  I’ve never been able to stick to them for more than a few days, so about 10 years ago, right about the time my WRAP plan was starting to show results, I developed the New Year’s Theme.  My theme is the Big Picture project that I want to focus on over the coming year.   This year’s theme is “Frugal Abundance.”  Last year I had three major expenses and a trip that went way over budget, so I decided this was the year to get back on track financially.  But “budget” is money-talk for “diet” – not very pleasant.  So that’s where the abundance part comes in.  And, lo and behold, the Abundance is neatly listed in my Wellness Toolbox!  If you recall, Wellness Tools are things you use to help you stay well and to help you get well when things are breaking down.  They are inexpensive and readily available to you.  They are abundant.

For those of you who are not familiar with WRAP, it is a planning process that you can design for yourself to get well and stay well.  Mental Health Recovery, developed by Mary Ellen Copeland, has four parts, Key Recovery Concepts, Wellness Toolbox, Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), and Recovery Topics.  The Key Recovery Concepts are Hope, Personal Responsibility, Education, Self-Advocacy and Support.   These form the backbone of your WRAP plan.  I described the Wellness Toolbox above.  The WRAP itself has nine sections which you create yourself, adding and deleting as necessary to make it work for you.  If you would like more information, please see mentalhealthrecovery.com.  If you are interested in creating your own WRAP plan, please go to https://mha-in-de.corsizio.com to see the course offerings at MHA.  All of our classes are free.

Back to my New Year Plan.  For me, Wellness Tools are a little too enticing and I have to be careful that I don’t spend so much time on Wellness Tools that I neglect the things I need to get done.  So I use them more as incentives.  If I finish scheduling all of my medical appointments, I get a bubble bath.  If I balance the checkbook, I get to read for two hours.  And so on.

The next step is to break down the process.  What does Frugal Abundance mean to me?  I have several pages in my journal on this (and I got a hot chocolate for my efforts).  What is my motivation?  Get my finances cleaned up without feeling deprived.  And I want a new car.  What steps do I take?  Here is where we often get stuck.  Without a plan of small steps, the goal is too overwhelming.  So it is best to plot the process in bite sized chunks.  Once I’ve done that, I add the first two or three steps to my Daily Maintenance Plan.  You can use the Daily Maintenance Plan (one of the nine parts of WRAP) to incorporate any new habit into your daily routine.  But changing habits takes time; you can’t overhaul your entire life all at once.  That’s why only two or three items get added at a time.  For example, I have added make lunch every evening, plan meals every week, and go grocery shopping every week.  These three things should save me money (I usually eat out).

Now, I have tried this before and given up numerous times.  I hate cooking.  I hate cleaning.  I hate eating my own cooking.  I love being waited on (which is why I eat out).  So the next step is to plan.  What are my Triggers (another of the nine sections of WRAP)?  What am I going to do when they happen?  Sound familiar?  Put it in writing in your WRAP plan.  For example, one of my Triggers is being tired when I get home.  So my plan is to be prepared.  I have found a sweet spot that I can live with.  I buy fully or partially prepared food at the grocery store (like frozen lasagna and frozen shrimp fried rice).  These are quick when I get home tired, but healthier and less expensive than eating out.

Next, I have to pick something from my Wellness Toolbox as a reward for actually doing my plan.  So. If I eat out less than 3 times in a week, I get chocolate.  Notice I gave myself some wiggle room here.   I usually eat at least 12 meals a week in a restaurant.  So if I say I am never going to eat out, I am just setting myself up for failure.  Some people put a picture of the end goal on their refrigerator or bathroom mirror for extra incentive.  Perhaps I should hang a nice big picture of the car I want.

Throughout the process, I have to remember the Key Concept of Support.  Who can help me?  How?  My sister taught me how to make a menu plan for the week before I go shopping and then making a grocery list from the plan.  This works better than my original process which was to walk through Trader Joe’s grabbing whatever looks good and then eyeballing the cart to get about a week’s worth of food.  I kid you not.  So get a supporter who will be in your corner and has some experience doing whatever you are trying to do.  Some people also find it helpful to have an accountability partner.  You each share your weekly goal and then meet once a week to talk about how you did and brainstorm solutions through the tough spots.

Finally, log the results of your endeavors.  See the progress and reward yourself from your Wellness Toolbox.  After three or four months, the first few steps should have become habits, so you can add new ones to the Daily Maintenance Plan.

Happy New Year.

MHA Blogger:Nicole J. Perefege, JD, MHA Peer Educator
Nicole is a recovering attorney who has been an Advanced Level Wellness Recovery Action Planning Facilitator since 2014. She has a strong need to help others overcome the difficulties, stigma and discrimination that she experienced or witnessed in her own recovery and tries to be an example of recovery to others. She credits her own WRAP plan for helping her achieve and maintain wellness. She loves to travel and is a devoted fur-baby mom to a dog and three cats.