Our emotional health is just as important as our physical health right? That's why I am making it my New Year's Resolution to take better care of my mental health this year, instead of the past few years of vowing to eat more fruit and vegetables (doing quite well on), regular gym visits (achieved), drinking more water (sometimes), going to the dentist regularly (what dentist?).
I decided to post it online because I am definitely not the only one who needs to take better care of their mental health; I am sure there are lots of people out there who would benefit from a bit of TLC for their mind and I am hoping you might join me in making 2016 your most 'mentally-healthy' yet!
Here's what is on my list:
1.Stay in regular contact with my GP
Depression comes and goes and it can be very tempting for me to cancel check-in appointments with my GP when things are going well. What this means is that my GP doesn't know how things are going unless I reach crisis point. Keeping to appointments may help me spot warning signs of a relapse at an earlier stage and put plans in place before my only option is to go straight to 'damage-control'.
2.Seek out some more talking therapy to address some of the triggers
I was recently signed off work for depression and anxiety which gave me a bit of time and space to think about what was causing all this. I don't have all the answers but I know that dealing with a mum who can no longer speak, walk, or swallow normally and is very sick is emotionally very draining for me and I haven't ever had any support for this before. This year I am going to find myself some more support.
3.Get back into mindfulness
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with mindfulness. I have practised mindfulness in the past, but I do struggle to find the time to do it daily (see point 4 below). Problem is, when I can't find time to do it, I tend to start feeling guilty which leads to me not actually wanting to do it again. So I am not going to put too much pressure on myself and just loosely say 'I will get back into mindfulness.'
4.Take regular breaks from volunteering and mental health campaigning
Sometimes I feel like I am balancing 5 jobs: my day job in marketing, a trusteeship, a mentor for young people, a mental health speaker for a variety of organisations and a copywriter/blogger. I love all the work I do, and I think a lot of it is actually good for my mental health but with voluntary and campaigning work, there is no 'annual leave' allowance; you have to set your own breaks. And I am not very good at that, and mental health work can really take its toll sometimes. This year I am going put myself first and only take on what I can manage.
Writing is a huge stress-reliever for me; whether it is writing blogs, feature articles, press releases or Buzzfeed posts it is something that helps me unwind. I will write more regularly in 2016.
6.Cut off contact with people who make me unhappy or stressed
I had a horrible, abusive landlord in 2015; he was rude and argumentative, dropped in whenever he liked without asking and hardly ever did repairs. As a result I am moving out in 2016. I won't date guys who are disrespectful and pushy again and I will make a vow to cut off contact with anybody who goes out of their way to make me unhappy.
7.Don't skip meals; something little is better than nothing at all!
It can be a habit of mine to skip meals for three reasons: 1) I simply don't have time (see point 4) 2) When depressed or anxious I really don't feel like eating or 3) When things are really bad, I just try to sleep through the day. My relationship with food is a little 'colourful' anyway, due to an eating disordered past so maintaining healthy habits is of key importance to me. Even if I can't manage a full meal, some carrots and hummus or fruit and yoghurt is a good alternative to having nothing at all. And I find my mood is better when my body is fuelled properly.
8.Not feel guilty for having a lazy day every now and then
There is always more work to do: blogs to finish, laundry that needs hanging up, shopping, cleaning etc. What I really miss is just having those days where you can just lie in bed and watch crap TV; it is a luxury I only ever get when I am sick with a cold or flu when I don't appreciate it as much! I think the occasional lazy day is a good chance to relax and recharge.
9.Read more fiction books, just for enjoyment
Underneath the piles of autobiographies of people I admire, the stacks of self-help books and popular psychology books I do have some thrillers, some romantic comedies and heart -warming stories kicking around on my bookshelf. Loosing yourself in your chosen genre can be great escapism for a while and it will certainly make my overcrowded, late and smelly train journeys less painful!
10.Not to be put off trying new things because I am worried I'll be bad at them
Ah the perfectionist trait; if I can't do it perfectly, why do it at all? School and University can be good at pushing you out of your comfort zone but when you get to pick your own career path why ever push yourself out? I had a bit of an epiphany earlier this year at the CLASP World Mental Health Day event where I tried a tai chi class for the first time. To my utter amazement, I wasn't that bad at it, and it was actually quite fun trying something new for the first time. I would like to try other new things and not be put off by the fear of looking stupid.
So if you fancy joining me and making mental health your number 1 priority this year please comment below or tweet me at @openmindmh and I will feature your resolutions in a new blog, alongside some progress reports of my own!