Supporting Your Mental Health in the New Year
January is the traditional time for making resolutions – losing weight, becoming more organized, saving money. But did you ever think that you might be able to do one thing that would make every other change a little easier? Taking care of your own mental health might be that one thing.
What is good mental health?
According to the World Health Organization, good mental health is a state of well-being. Mental health is an important part of overall health, and it’s important at every stage of life. When a person is mentally healthy, they feel good about themselves, have high-quality relationships, and can manage emotions and deal with difficulties. Good mental health allows you to:
- Cope with the normal stresses of life
- Work productively
- Realize your potential
- Contribute to the community.
You’ll notice that having good mental health doesn’t mean always being happy or feeling good – instead, mentally healthy people know that life can have ups and downs and have the tools to handle them.
How can I take care my mental health?
Many things can affect a person’s mental health, including some that they can’t control, like genetics, poverty and violence. But there are things you can do to be as mentally healthy as possible. Here are some ideas to help you take care of your mental health:
- Build relationships. Having strong, supportive relationships with others – family, friends, coworkers – is one of the best things you can do for your mental health.
- Care for your physical health. Good physical health is related to good mental health. Exercise, eat healthy food, don’t smoke, and limit your use of alcohol and other drugs.
- Get enough sleep. Creating and sticking to a sleep schedule can make it easier to fall asleep and get enough sleep. Avoid the blue light from devices and screens that can affect your sleep by turning off your phone or computer or changing the settings before bedtime.
- Limit screen time. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that people are sharing carefully chosen pieces of their lives on social media. Comparing your “average” events with others’ “best” isn’t good for your self-esteem or your mental health.
- Learn to say no. Decide what you have to do now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to focus on what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day, not what you haven’t been able to do.
- Disconnect from work. When the workday is done, find something that marks its end. Have a cup of tea, walk the dog, or turn off your computer instead of letting it go to sleep.
- Spread out New Year’s resolutions over the year. Instead of kicking off a bunch of resolutions at the beginning of the year (and giving them up almost as quickly), think about making changes more slowly throughout the year. You’ll be more likely to stick with your goals if you spread them out.
- Plan things to look forward to. We all have calendars full of “must dos” – why not schedule something you want to do? Plan to do something just because it makes you feel good, then enjoy looking forward to it.
- Practice gratitude. Remember how your mom told you to “count your blessings”? Well, she was right. Consider keeping a gratitude journal and writing down three positive things every day.
- Give to others. Contributing to your community does good things for your mental health. Volunteer, help your neighbor, be kind to strangers.
Your EAP can help
Struggling with your mental health? Your EAP can provide referrals to qualified therapists at no cost to you.