There are likely two groups of people heading into the new year. One group has emerged from 2016 like an action movie hero, strapped with reinforcements and ready to take on whatever comes their way. The other group may feel pretty beaten down by the previous year, ready for change to come, but just really damn tired.
No matter what your outlook on 2017, a part of your plan should be to prioritize taking care of your mental health. If last year showed us anything, it’s that the unexpected is possible and we need to find a way to keep moving forward in the face of uncertainty. Jump into the new year with an idea of how you can prioritize your mental and emotional health every single day.
1. Reduce the distractions
Distractions are everywhere nowadays. We can easily slip outside of our day-to-day and into someone else’s via TV and movies and can lose chunks of time mindlessly scrolling the web. Make 2017 the year you regain some control of your free time.
If reducing distractions is counterproductive to staying balanced for you (hey, some of us need them more than others), at least look at improving the quality of them. We all might need a Candy Crush break every once in a while, but you could also find benefit in reading, starting a craft, meditating, cooking or rock climbing. Limiting distraction time forces us to face what we are up against, which is typically the only way we can overcome such hurdles.
2. Take a hard look at the quality of your relationships
If relationships were a source of headaches or heartache last year, now might be the time to make some tough decisions about who takes up space in your inner circle. Toxic friendships can hurt our mental health and abusive relationships can do even more damage. Even family can be a source of significant stress.
Take some time to evaluate what types of relationships you want to have this year—and which you deserve—and then create the boundaries you need. These boundaries may take shape as a heart-to-heart about someone’s behavior or could even result in severing ties. As long as you aren’t being intentionally hurtful, do what is necessary to keep yourself afloat.
3. Do things you know are good for you
Tally up the times you said to yourself “Man, I really need to…” in the last 366 days (remember, 2016 was a leap year) and you might have an astronomical number. What was holding you back in doing the things you felt you needed to do for yourself? What were those things you needed to do?
Whether this task list includes “small” things (like journaling, taking more photos, seeing family more often, taking more hikes, going to bed earlier) or “bigger” things (overhauling your finances, getting on the right medication, signing up for life insurance), make those things your priority throughout 2017. Over time, they will add up to more security and better mental health.
4. Give yourself credit and give yourself a break
One of the most significant hurdles in our efforts to do well in our daily lives is our own self-talk. We have an immense power to tear ourselves down or to build ourselves up. This year, use that power to give yourself credit for your accomplishments—big and small—and to give yourself a break when you make a mistake. No one is perfect and we are all figuring out this thing called life. Sometimes our brain needs a reminder of that.
5. Talk to a therapist
Lately, the idea of going to counseling has become less taboo and more of a valued piece of self-care. People dealing with everything from life stressors to diagnoses that get in the way of everyday life (and everything in between) can benefit from having someone with whom they can hash things out. And, nowadays, therapy doesn’t have to take place in an office. Online and electronic counseling is possible through websites such as Talkspace and BetterHelp, which are also affordable ways of increasing your support system.
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