By Telawna Kirbie
Many have an annual tradition of creating New Year’s resolutions. I, personally, do not, as it usually serves as a reminder of my own lack of self-discipline. However, I do enjoy reflecting on the previous year and examining things in which I would have or could have done differently, as well as what the new year might hold.
How might we go into a new year, the year 2022? What things might we look forward to? How can we prepare our best for any of the unknowns that might come our way?
Everyone has mental health just like overall health. You can be in poor health, good health or somewhere in between. Just like your physical health, your mental health requires care and maintenance.
What do you do for your mental health? Here are some things you can do to support your mental health for 2022.
Monitor and assess your mental health
How are you doing mentally and emotionally? Ask yourself what emotions you are experiencing and if this is typical for you or does it seem to be more or less than average.
Are you sleeping well, feeling rested? How is your appetite, more or less than usual? How is your activity/energy level? Are you feeling social or prefer to isolate yourself more than usual?
You may also ask those around you how you seem to be doing. Often, the ones closest to us see our moods and emotions more clearly and quickly than we can.
If you are concerned about your mental health, it’s time to act and seek help. Talk to a trusted family member or friend, a medical doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist.
Be mindful of anniversaries
You may have heard this before but there are times when we respond subconsciously to anniversaries of events that have been troublesome or difficult. For example, you may find that every fall you seem to be more fatigued and experience depression. This may be related to a loss that you have experienced during this same time in the past.
Deaths, losses, and difficult life circumstances can be triggered by seasons, time periods, music, sounds, smells, and voices in the present day that serve as reminders.
Be wise to make note of these events from your own life so that looking ahead you can better prepare for these times in the future.
For example, if I am feeling down and depressed around fall every year but I know that it is related to losing someone I cared about, then I can prepare and am not surprised if I find myself experiencing difficulties at that time.
Identify and talk about feelings
This is beneficial for everyone as it allows us to label how we are feeling rather than stuffing our feelings down somewhere that they will undoubtedly resurface at some time.
It is also important to resist judging your feelings. We have no control over our feelings, only what we do with those feelings. Just the simple act of stating how we feel is therapeutic.
As a society, we have a strong need to make any “bad” feelings go away. Truthfully, we cannot make any feelings go away. We simply must deal with them and move on. The process of making them go away or fixing them, is unhealthy and ineffective.
Identify someone close to you whom you trust that you can freely share your thoughts and feelings with. If you do not have someone you can trust, write your feelings down in a journal or seek out a trusted individual or a therapist with whom you can share.
“Self-care” has become a common phrase that is most often attributed to long hot bubble baths and pedicures. Both of those can be self-care practices but focusing on those two simply misses the mark. It is the concept of self-care that must be first understood to choose practices.
Self-care is very individualized and based on one’s specific needs. I make it a habit of identifying what makes me feel good, calm, relaxed, hopeful, and well cared for without any negative consequences. What gives me energy and motivation?
For some it may be a bubble bath, for others it may be watching television, reading a book, doing a puzzle, gardening, exercising, taking a drive, cleaning, etc. It is good practice to determine some immediate short-term self-care practices and some more time-consuming activities.
Obviously, if you are stressed at work and need to calm down, you can’t very likely take a bubble bath. However, you can practice some deep breathing, meditation, walk around the office or take a short break.
Reach out for help
Mental health still carries an unfortunate stigma. Although just as critical as our physical health, there is still shame and embarrassment about seeking help. We must ignore this stigma and reach out when in need.
We need to resist the urge to avoid talking with trusted individuals, health care professionals, and other treatment providers about our symptoms. Research shows that the combination of medication and therapy works most effectively. One would not hesitate to take medication for diabetes or blood pressure, but some people still resist taking medication to help with mental health. Medications may be temporary or more long-term but often can stabilize your mood and emotions so you can feel better.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few things to be reminded of going into a new year. Do not ignore your mental health as it is vital to your relationships, day-to-day activities, and overall quality of life. Take care of your mental health so you can be your best you in 2022.
Telawna Kirbie, LCSW-S, is director of behavioral health initiatives for Prosper Waco.