A new year can mean new goals and new beginnings. One important goal is to find ways to support your mental health in the new year.
Some of the most common goals include making more money or losing weight; but often people don’t realize that supporting your mental health can have a positive impact on all of your other goals. You may see that making money and losing weight is easier when you have the peace and stability that devoting to your mental well-being can bring. This is true for lots of goals you set for yourself.
So let’s talk about 3 ways to support your mental health in the new year:
1 – Apply lessons you have learned from yourself and others.
When you get together with family you usually learn something about yourself and/or them. It’s an environment that is different (sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a not so good way) so thoughts, feelings and behaviors come to the surface that otherwise may have stayed under wraps.
So what did you learn about yourself and your family over the holidays?
Take a minute to reflect on this. How do you see what you have learned impacting the way you do things in your life going forward, either for better or for worse?
Here’s an example:
My family always does things last minute and I see I do that too in my day to day life; like paying my bills or picking my kids up from school. I have identified it as a trait that is consistent in my family and something that I do as well.
But maybe I don’t want to continue this behavior because it leads to stress in my daily life. So how would I actually like to do it if I got to choose instead of falling back on old habits? Maybe I could begin setting a recurring reminder for bills or set up autopay; I could set a daily alarm to remind me when to leave to get the kids.
I have learned something about my family and myself that may be having a negative impact on my life, but going forward I am deciding to make a change for the better. This has a positive impact.
Speaking of positive impacts, we can actually schedule things that will help promote our mental well-being.
2 – Schedule vacations and downtime
Most of us are guilty of staying in a state of busy-ness and we feel like something is wrong if we have downtime, or that downtime is a negative thing. So we then try to fill in any downtime with another task or activity.
But the truth is, downtime is essential to our mental health. We need time to rest, recharge and let our minds and bodies take a break.
When you don’t give your mind a chance to pause and refresh, it doesn’t work as efficiently. You might also be more likely to experience burnout and the health problems that go hand-in-hand with chronic stress. (Cleveland Clinic; Health Essentials – Why Downtime Is Essential for Brain Health)
One solution for this is to schedule your downtime. When I say schedule it I mean put it on the calendar and protect it at all costs! Do not allow yourself to schedule anything over it or postpone it (unless you have an emergency situation). Treating your downtime just like any other important appointment will help you establish boundaries and take back your time.
When you are looking ahead at your calendar for the new year, go ahead and schedule vacation time and downtime. When you have something to look forward to it makes stressful events or the overwhelm of a busy schedule a little less daunting because you know a break is coming soon.
3 – Take a social media break
For a lot of us, social media has become a part of our daily lives. It’s how we keep up with friends and family, it’s where we go for news and updates, and where we learn cool tips and about useful products that can help us.
But social media tends to lead us down a path of constantly comparing ourselves to others and most of the time we do not feel like we measure up; which can lead to anxiety and depression.
The reality is that everything you see online is the ‘highlight reel’ of other people’s lives. People only share the good parts, but they really have all the same problems as the rest of us. We may know this but it’s still hard to resolve that in our minds when we are bombarded with all the good, and don’t see the struggles.
The thought of giving up social media altogether may also cause negative feelings because you don’t want to be cut off from others or miss out on the positive things that social media does have to offer. So a good solution may be to take social media breaks.
You can do this in a variety of ways.
- You can take one day a week off of social media completely; think of it as a cleanse or hitting the reset button.
- You can set limits on when you check social media like only allowing yourself to go online every two hours or four hours, or twice a day.
- You could put time boundaries in place, such as no social media after 6:00pm every night.
Develop a plan that works best for you but the main thing is that once you make your plan you stick to it.
In her TED Talk, ‘Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health?’ Bailey Parnell, shares that “numerous studies from the US, Canada, the UK…have linked high social media use with high levels of anxiety and depression”. You can watch the video HERE of her entire TED Talk, to hear more details about how social media can have a negative impact on your mental health. (TEDx Talks; Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health? | Bailey Parnell | TEDxRyersonU; June 22, 2017; Youtube.com)
Spending less time on social media, or taking periodic breaks, will allow you to separate yourself from the constant comparison and idea that you don’t measure up to what you see online.