Resolve to take care of your mental health

By The Health News Team | January 4, 2022
Resolve to take care of your mental health

The beginning of a New Year finds many of us taking stock of our lives, making resolutions for change and setting goals. For most, taking care of our physical health lands at the top of the list.

However, resolving to take care of our mental health is just as important, especially during the challenging times we're currently experiencing. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in any given year. A recent poll found that more than half of adults reported their mental health was affected by stress related to COVID-19.

As a fresh new year approaches, many of us may still feel tired, lonely, sad and restless to return to a more regular life. Some of us have experienced loss, such as the death of a loved one, unemployment or persistent loneliness and isolation. And we are not out of the woods yet as new variants of the virus make the COVID-19 pandemic drag on. We can easily get lost in our thoughts and jump to the worst-case scenarios, or have thoughts wishing things were how they used to be.

"Stress is like a coiled spring. Over a long enough period of time, the tension on the spring can increase,” says Caroline Atterton, LCSW, lead therapist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “It’s important to take time every day to relax, unwind properly and time out to take care of ourselves and our mental health.”

Setting goals is a great way to help set a positive tone for the year ahead, while providing some comfort and familiarity in times of uncertainty. Caroline says setting goals that are SMART – specific, meaningful, achievable, realistic and time-limited – helps increase effectiveness and fuels a sense of accomplishment.

The following are four ways to take care of ourselves and our mental health:

  1. Practice self-compassion and compassion for others.
    Self-compassion with goal setting is important. For example, for revisiting financial or savings goals, or diving into a hobby we've always wanted to try, it is especially important that we avoid being self-critical if we aren’t able to meet our goal or if we make a mistake. We need to remind ourselves that we’re doing the best we can, and it's important to give ourselves credit for that. Additionally, we are all still adjusting to unprecedented times, so we need to be gentle and compassionate to others too.
     

  2. Balance self-care and accumulate positive experiences.
    It's crucial that we engage in daily self-care. We can make it a habit to achieve one positive experience a day that inspires calm, neutral or joyful emotions. This doesn't have to take a long time. Maybe it's making a commitment to be more mindful of day-to-day experiences, like enjoying a warm meal, seeing a beautiful sunset, stepping away to take a deep breath, watching a favorite movie or connecting to those who are special to us.
     

  3. Cultivate gratitude.
    Cultivating gratitude can help boost our mood by encouraging our minds to focus on what we have in our lives, rather than what we don’t have. This doesn’t mean that we ignore struggles and problems, but that we do not allow hardship to overshadow the positives in our lives. We can practice cultivating gratitude by writing down three things that we are thankful for before we go to sleep and reflect on them the next morning.
     

  4. Take care of your physical and mental health.
    We can make a commitment to our physical and mental health by setting appointments and following through with them, such as washing our hands, wearing a face mask, practicing physical distancing around others from outside our household, staying home if we feel unwell, eating healthily, getting plenty of sleep and finding someone we trust to talk to. When we prioritize ourselves and our health, we can improve our overall wellness and decrease our emotional vulnerability to stressors.

So as a new year begins, let’s resolve to make our mental health a priority in 2022.

And let’s remind ourselves of all our inner strengths that has helped us make it through this past year.

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Caroline Atterton

Contributor

Caroline Atterton, LCSW, is lead therapist in the senior intensive outpatient program at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. She is also a Sharp Health News contributor.


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