What are your New Year’s resolutions?
The three most popular resolutions are to lose weight, get organized, and spend less/save more. No big surprises there. Come January, most of us are ready to hit the gym. We’ve put on a few pounds over the holidays or just lazed around the house for the past couple of weeks. I’m feeling a bit like a slug myself. It’s time to get our bodies healthy!
And if you struggle with organizing your time, space, and finances, it’s wise to get things in order and stick to a budget. These are all valuable pursuits.
But what about your mental health?
In my opinion, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Do your New Year’s resolutions ever include getting yourself mentally healthy?
Mental health matters. If you don’t attend to your mental and emotional needs, your quality of life suffers; your work suffers; your relationships suffer; your physical health suffers.
Mental health is easy to take for granted. It’s not like a broken arm or a heart attack. There’s nothing visible to alert you that your mental health is suffering. Of course, there are signs, but you have to be paying attention. In fact, often people don’t recognize their mental health problems until they manifest as physical symptoms.
Common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress often show up as physical health problems, including headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, stomach aches, heart burn, heart palpitations, changes in appetite, or trouble sleeping.
Often we try to deny our emotions and mental health problems. Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma that makes it hard for many of us to acknowledge and seek help for these issues. Sometimes we have a hard time accepting our own emotional pain, fearing it’s a weakness, and instead we push it down, drown it in food, drink, or other compulsions.
Practice preventive mental health care
We all know the importance of preventative healthcare. You probably get a physical exam and some blood work every year or two to make sure your body is functioning properly. Unfortunately, most people don’t take the same approach with their mental health. Rarely do people go to a therapist as a preventative measure or talk to their primary care doctor about their emotional well-being. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are also many ways you can practice preventative mental health care on your own.
How can you resolve to improve your mental health?
- Get enough sleep
- Pay attention to your feelings
- Spend time in nature
- Pursue a hobby
- Laugh often
- Grieve your losses
- Accept yourself, imperfections and all
- Only try to change yourself, not others
- Ask for help; you’re not superman or superwoman
- Spend less time in front of electronics
- Connect with friends and family
- Try to do things because you want to, not out of obligation
- Practice gratitude daily
- Express your feelings
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Remember it’s healthy to say “no” sometimes
- Forgive yourself when you screw up
- Limit alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs
- Spend some time alone
- Get to know yourself
- Listen to your instincts
- See a therapist
- Practice deep, calming breathing
- If you’ve been prescribed psychiatric medications, take them as prescribed
Your mental health is essential. All positive change is built one small bit at a time. Choose one way to prioritize your mental health and practice it until it’s a way of life. The pay off will be worth it.
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©2016 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.