New Year's resolutions can be a lot of pressure, especially if you're struggling with your mental health. Getting fit, learning a language, being top of your class... It might look very good on paper, but it won't necessarily bring you peace. It can also be very discouraging to start the year with a massive to-do list and expect immediate results.
Prioritizing your mental health is something nourishing that you can do for yourself this new year. The last few years have been tough. Taking steps to improve your mental health and build resilience is a great way to set yourself up for the new year.
We’ve rounded up some top tips for looking after your mental health in 2023.
Do things that bring you joy
Sometimes, life can just get away from us. We might be busy with work, study, kids, or any number of other things, and forget to do things for ourselves. Try to do something each day that genuinely brings you a sense of joy.
It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Whether that's curling up on the sofa with a book, having your favorite hot chocolate, or training to run a marathon, you’ll get no judgment from us!
Set realistic goals
Try to aim for goals that are achievable and realistic so you don’t fall into the perfectionism trap. Setting excessively high standards gives someone a lot to live up to and can lead to stress and anxiety. Who wants that?
That doesn’t mean goals shouldn’t be challenging. Just check in that they’re also reasonable and get you excited and motivated rather than stressed out and under pressure.
Take breaks and recognize when to stop
Sometimes we feel the need to keep pushing ourselves, which can lead to burnout. Taking regular breaks can help to reduce stress and recharge. This could be a short walk in the day, a trip abroad or a few days away from a difficult paper to get a fresh perspective.
It can also be helpful to reevaluate why we are pushing ourselves so hard. For some people, their self esteem is very much tied up in how well they are able to achieve the standards they set for themselves. If that sounds like you, it can help to think about other areas in your life where you can get a healthy sense of fulfillment, for example by investing in your relationships or a hobby you do just for fun.
Challenge unhelpful patterns of thinking
Do you always compare yourself with others? Do you believe you know what others are thinking about you (and it isn’t good)? Are you prone to predicting the worst possible outcome of a situation?
Learn how to recognize these unhelpful patterns of thinking and take a step back. What would you say to a friend in a similar situation? Will it matter in 6 months' time? Is it really so important? Try and get a more objective perspective rather than just reacting to how you feel.
Let go of “What if?” worries
You know the ones: “What if I lose my job?”, “What if I fail my course?”, “What if I never make anything of myself?”. These are the kinds of worries about things that may or may not happen in the future, and most of the time, there’s nothing we can do about them.
Try to recognize whether you’re prone to this type of worrying… and let it go.
Tackle any problems you might have been ignoring
Avoiding things that make us feel stressed or anxious is something we all do. Unfortunately, this way of dealing with things can let problems spiral. Try to make a list of the things you need to deal with and make a step-by-step plan for how you're going to tackle each of them.
It might also help to give yourself a bit of a timeframe, so you don’t find yourself putting them off again. 2023 is the year we deal with procrastination!
If you’re able to, doing any kind of exercise can help improve mood and reduce anxiety, not to mention the numerous physical health benefits.
That doesn’t have to mean slogging away in the gym or running a marathon – unless that’s what you like! Exercise can be going for a walk, gardening, swimming, or an online yoga class in the comfort of your own home.
Connect with others
Human beings are social creatures and connecting with others is an essential part of our wellbeing. Try to schedule in some quality time this year with the people you care about.
If you live away from friends and family or find that you can count your friends on one hand, try to get out there and meet new people.
You could join a local sports club, do an adult learning course, volunteer or get involved with anything that’s going on in your area. Sometimes taking the first step can be the hardest part. Try to be brave. You will likely meet people you don’t have much in common with, but also some that you do!
Joining TalkLife can also be a step in the right direction. We’re a supportive, like-minded community where you can share and be yourself.
Stay off the rumination train
Do you often find yourself thinking about things from the past and feeling bad about yourself? Ruminating can sometimes be helpful if we are re-evaluating a situation, thinking about it more objectively and learning something new. However, when we ruminate, we are often turning over a situation or a negative thought in our mind and criticizing ourselves. “Why did I do that? Why did that happen to me? They must have thought I was awful!” This type of rumination can lead to anxiety and low mood, and it’s definitely not helpful to us.
If you notice yourself ruminating in this way, try to distract yourself and do something else. Take a walk around the block or make yourself something nice to eat. While we can’t stop negative thoughts from popping into our minds, we can choose how we respond to them.
Improve your sleeping habits
A lack of sleep can really impact someone's mood. Poor sleep is actually a risk factor for relapse in depression. Pledge to improve your sleeping habits to protect your mental health in 2023.
It can help to set healthy bedtime routines such as going to bed and waking at the same time each day. Try to take some time to unwind before bed, and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine later in the day. If you find yourself worrying at night, you could write the worry down and tell yourself you can think about that tomorrow. If you really can’t sleep, get up and try to do something relaxing like reading or listening to some chill-out music.
Ready to start the year off right? Download TalkLife to share your mental health journey.