Going into a brand new year can be equally as exciting and scary. Who knows what it may bring? Will it be good or bad? Will you experience anything life-changing this year? A new year in front of us can be a daunting thing but it doesn’t have to be scary – and for people like me who suffer with anxiety and mental health problems, it can be a welcome sight to have a solid foundation on which to try and build a fresh start and a new mindset. I do tend to stray away from the, ‘new year, new me’ malarkey and I don’t believe we can truly start ‘new’ but I do believe we can improve ourselves and take active steps to do that and therefore, become healthier and happier people – both physically and mentally. But today, I want to focus on the mental side of that metaphorical coin and share my tips on how to look after your mental health in the new year.
1. Take things one day at a time: Make a conscious effort this year to stop trying to predict what’s going to happen, stop thinking of all the elaborate scenarios which may or may not happen and stop assuming the worst. Or the best. Just assuming anything at all. My counsellor always told me that the most likely scanrio to happen is the one you never even thought of. Take it slow. Slow is good.
2. Stop apologising: One thing I do a lot is apologise for just about everything. I don’t think this is exclusive to just people with mental health conditions – I think as a society we are conditioned to just apologise for any minor inconvenience but I think that needs to stop – I even wrote a blog post on things we need to stop apologising for last year – and apologising for your mental health is never, ever necessary. Do not apologise or feel bad for doing something or not doing something because it is not the optimum thing for you to do to be healthy and function. Carry that into the new year.
3. Talk and/or see a therapist: I’ve had a private counsellor for over 3 years and although I don’t see her regularly anymore (I can arrange one-off sessions if I feel like I really need them) I honestly couldn’t praise her enough. I’ve come to think of her as a friend -a friend who is exclusively there and available for if and when I need professional advice and support. There is nothing embarrassing or weak about seeking help – quite the opposite. There are also many other fantastic services available to help you through difficult mental health situations – like Samaritans. Talking is always good. Talking about your problems will never go out of style because it’s the easiest and most convenient thing we could possibly do.
4. Leave the past where it is: Anything that happened in that god awful place called 2016, forget about it. Just forget about it. Dwelling on the past is one of the most damaging things we can do for our mental health. Any time you slipped up? Forget it. Any time your mental health wasn’t as good as you hoped or expected it would be? Forget it. Any time a friend or family member didn’t take you seriously or didn’t quite understand? Forget it. Nothing can be gained from thinking about our downfalls in the last year.
5. Have small goals: Goals are key – to just about everything. We need goals to keep moving forwards and I’ve found setting myself small goals, which focus around my mental health can be just as beneficial as the massive ones. For example; I may set myself a goal of going to a café or a restaurant one month. A goal is a goal, no matter how big or small and if you fail? So what. Regroup, evaluate and make more goals.
6. Keep a gratitude journal: Since 31st October 2016 I have been keeping a gratitude journal and writing down one thing I’ve been grateful for each day. They have ranged dramatically from ‘I am grateful to survive another year! (December 31st)’ to, ‘I am grateful for a bacon sandwich’. But it helps so much and allows you to look back over your day and find a small element of good, even if it felt like the worst day in the world.