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Sharp Health News

Resolve to take care of your mental health

Dec. 28, 2020

Resolve to take care of your mental health
A new year is around the corner, and many of us will set new 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. In 2020, a recent poll found that more than half of adults reported their mental health was affected by stress related to COVID-19.

"It's increasingly important that we consider our mental health," says Dr. Lauren Butler, clinical psychologist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. "We are living during the time of a pandemic. It's unprecedented. As such, it can be easy to get lost in rumination about the way the world used to be or catastrophize about what the future holds."

According to Dr. Butler, even during stressful times, setting goals is a great way to help set a positive tone for the year and give us some solace and familiarity in a time of uncertainty. It sends the message that we are still important and so is our future.

"Despite painful and tragic times, sometimes there's a glimmer of beauty that shines through - such as recognizing the important things in life that we may take for granted in our fast-paced world that has suddenly been halted to a turtle's pace," she says. "New Year's resolutions can honor this beauty."

To successfully fulfill resolutions, Butler suggests setting goals that are SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited - to increase effectiveness and fuel a sense of accomplishment.

She offers the following four ways to take care of our mental health:

  1. Practice self-compassion and compassion for others.
    Self-compassion with goal setting is important. Perhaps your goal can be to revisit financial or savings goals or finally dive into the hobby you've always wanted to try. Remember to catch judgments of yourself and others during this time. You're doing the best you can, and it's important to give yourself credit for that. Additionally, we're going through this pandemic together, so try to be gentle to others, as well.

  2. Balance self-care and accumulate positive experiences.
    It's crucial to engage in daily self-care. Make it a habit to achieve one positive experience a day that inspires calm, neutral or positive emotions. This doesn't have to take a long time. Maybe it's stepping away to take a deep breath, it could be an at-home face mask or mindfully watching a favorite movie. Make a commitment to be more mindful of our day-to-day experiences and find new, safe and creative ways to connect with those who are special to us.

  3. Cultivate gratitude.
    Before you go to sleep, write down three things you are thankful for and reflect on them the next morning. Cultivating gratitude helps decrease emotional intensity and make meaning of our experiences, which is important during this time of uncertainty.

  4. Take care of your physical and mental health.
    Commit to yourself and to your physical and mental health by setting appointments and following through with them, washing your hands, wearing a face mask and practicing physical distancing around others from outside your household, and staying home if you feel unwell. These are great resolutions to set for anyone who avoids making or going to physical or mental health appointments or may have grown tired of COVID-19 precautions. Plus, when we make ourselves and our health a priority, we can improve overall wellness and decrease emotional vulnerability to stressors.
No matter what goals you set, Butler reminds us to give ourselves grace if not all of them are met.

"The reality is, we need to take the time to meet ourselves where we are, especially during these unprecedented times," says Dr. Butler.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Lauren Butler about improving mental health in the new year, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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