New year, new me! Everybody’s heard these words around the new year, right? January 1st, for many, marks the dawn of a new existence. We set resolutions like going to the gym more, eating healthy, or ending our procrastination. Every year we promise ourselves that this new year will be different, but is it? Sometimes our high expectations for our “new” selves cause more harm than good, especially on one’s mental health. This year is no exception, as we deal with the dual pandemic of COVID-19 and the constant illumination of systemic racism.
So, what do we do? How can we protect our energy and cope with the trauma that is 2020? The answer is self-care, and not just the picture perfect self-care practices that bombard our Instagram feeds. While those can be nice in the moment, reality is self-care is challenging. It’s the constant reprogramming of your mind from harmful habits to beneficial ones. Five strategies to help with this process are:
1. Practicing Positive Self-Talk
Self-talk is that inner voice we have. It’s an ongoing dialogue with ourselves that determines what we believe, and what we believe determines what we do. The way we talk to ourselves impacts us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. When we practice being kind to ourselves we can boost our confidence, improve self-esteem, decrease stress, build good relationships, and create positive perspectives. Start with some positive affirmations or personal development books such as Switch On Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Everyday won’t be easy, but when you’re kind to yourself it’ll be worth it.
2. Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries is a super important part of protecting your energy and coping with trauma. Learn to say no, and this is definitely easier said than done, especially with family members. Sometimes we may feel obligated to give our time and energy to those we care about, even if it inconveniences us. Just remember that nobody is entitled to your time. The best part is that you don’t even have to explain if you don’t want to because your time is yours to give. Those you love will understand, and honestly if they don’t then setting that boundary is even more important and it will bring you so much peace in the long run.
3. Celebrating Your Wins by Practicing Gratitude
Sometimes in the midst of tragedy or loss we can forget how far we’ve come. Practicing gratitude allows us to pause, take a moment, and appreciate the good in our lives. This can be done by keeping a daily gratitude journal or setting reminders. Benefits of practicing gratitude include the improvement of physical and psychological health, self-esteem, mental strength, increases empathy, and reduces aggression (positivepsychology.com).
4. Making Time for Activities that Make You Happy
It’s easy to get wrapped up in responsibilities and obligations and forget that life can be fun. Make joy one of your priorities. Read new books, watch movies, draw, write, or listen to music. Create time for the things that bring you joy and make you happy. Your mind will thank you.
5. Ask for Help When You Need It
Let’s face it, we’re not superheroes. Sometimes we need a little outside help, and that’s okay. If you have an unbiased and supportive person to talk to then great! If not, it’s more than okay to find a mental health counselor. You are important, and your mental health matters. If your insurance doesn’t cover it, please feel free to call SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662- HELP (4357). It’s free, confidential, and open 24/7, 365 days a year.
As we continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19 and the unstable state of our country, please remember to take care of yourselves. Let’s start the new year off right by prioritizing our mental health as well as our physical health. Let’s redefine “New year, new me”.
Croft, C. (2018, June 08). Life Mastery: Achieving Happiness and Success - Using positive self-talk. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from https://www.linkedin.com/learning/life-mastery-achieving-happiness-and-success/using-positive-self-talk
Gesell, I. (2014, September 19). Leading with Applied Improv - Monitoring your self-talk. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from https://www.linkedin.com/learning/leading-with-applied-improv/monitoring-your-self-talk-2