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Make 2019 your best mental health year yet

Raise your hand if you’ve ever set yourself a hugely ambitious new year’s resolution? To write a book? To climb Everest? Or maybe just to quit smoking, join the gym and get fit?

Hands up again if you’ve failed to meet nearly every one of those resolutions. You’re not alone there. In our January blog, New Year, New You? How to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Last, we mentioned that only one in ten of us manage to stick out our resolutions for the year. That’s a shockingly low statistic.

In that article, we discussed ways to make sure you achieved your resolutions, no matter what they were. For next year, we want you to make your mental health a priority. This December, as we approach 2019, we’re hoping to help you make the kinds of resolutions that will ensure 2019 is your best year yet for mental health. After all, if you don’t have your health, what do you have?

Before we can get on with the exciting business of setting resolutions for the new year, we need to first sit down and do some real work on ourselves. It’s important to uncover aspects of our mental health over the last year, and the years before that, to uncover what’s truly been holding us back. Pinpointing where we struggle is the first step in being able to make a plan for the future.

So, sit down with a pen and paper and make a mind map of everything that you’re struggling with. Be it stress, feeling overwhelmed by work and home life, feeling isolated or lonely, having difficulty with anxiety or depression, not being able to get into shape or stick to a healthy lifestyle routine – whatever it is that’s on your mind. Be as specific as you can be: If you know what’s causing your problems, write it down. If you’re unsure about why you’re struggling, but just know that you are, write that down too.

There are some surprisingly simple things that you can do to ensure you tackle your mental health struggles head-on and make 2019 your best mental health year yet. It all starts with having a plan. Once you’ve written down all the things you’re having trouble with, now’s the time to create a strategy to overcome these. Each and every one of us will have a different strategy, depending on what we’re hoping to achieve. However, here’s a bit of a guide to help you along.

  1. Write down your goals and keep them somewhere easily visible to you. Your goals may be something like “learn to love and appreciate myself” or “take back control over my anxiety” or “build my confidence”. Be specific and clear when setting your goals.
  2. Set aside 15 minutes each day to meditate (or simply have some ‘quiet time’) and at least 30 minutes for exercise (be it some time in the gym, or a walk around the neighbourhood).
  3. Make a meal plan for each week, based on healthy meals that are simple to cook and shop for (the simpler and easier your meal plan is to follow, the more likely you are to do it).
  4. Set aside 1 – 2 hours on XXX day of the week for grocery shopping (try online shopping if you don’t have time to get to the store). Planning is key!
  5. Start a journal: Before bed each night, express how you feel your day went and what you hope to achieve tomorrow. Each morning write down three things you’re grateful for. (Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can have an incredibly positive effect on your outlook.)
  6. Start a new routine which is directly related to your goal/s for the year. For example, if you’re aiming to finally overcome your anxiety, make a regular appointment with a counsellor or psychologist. Or you might like to see a life coach, to help you develop tailored, personal strategies to reach your own personal development goals.
  7. Open up to someone who will keep you accountable. Be it a friend or a loved one, or even someone in an online support community, find someone with whom you can check in regularly and share your progress. If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to anyone you know about your mental health goals, your counsellor or life coach is someone objective who you can go to without fear of judgement.
  8. Set specific dates to check in with yourself and see how you’re progressing. Mark these dates in your calendar and be sure to take some time to assess where you’re at, how far you’ve got to go, and make tweaks to your plan as necessary.

Before you head to the cupboard for a block of chocolate – stop. Don’t undo your hard work by rewarding yourself with things that are only going to make you feel terrible later. Every time you reach a milestone or overcome something that would have previously been a struggle for you, congratulate yourself and do something kind for yourself. That might mean taking a hot bath that night, taking yourself out to the movies or to see your favourite sporting club, going out for lunch with friends, or simply taking a little extra ‘me time’ to relax during the day. Whatever your reward might be, be sure to recognise your wins – no matter how small – and give yourself a pat on the back.

They key to making 2019 your best mental health year yet is to prioritise your mental health! New Year’s Eve and the resolutions that follow are all about reflecting on the year that has been and deciding upon what we want for our next 12 months. If you’d like to make your mental health a priority in the coming year, connect with us at Integrated Health Specialists and find out more about the life changing programs we have on offer.  Wishing you a wonderful 2019!

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen