Putting Your Mental Health First in the New Year
Be gentle with yourself.
Turning the page on our calendars to a new year allows us to rē-flect on how we hope to grow, what we’d like to accomplish, and what we want to prioritize for the next 12 months. For many of us, rē-focusing on our mental health lands at the top of the list — especially coming off the holiday season, which tends to bring up feelings of isolation, heightened levels of burnout, and weighty expectations from family and loved ones.
Protecting and prioritizing our mental health is a year-round task, licensed psychotherapist Meghan Watson tells rē•spin. Learning to manage challenging moments — whether a family gathering or meeting an important deadline — empowers us to prepare for life’s curveballs without sacrificing our mental health.
Here, Watson, founder of Bloom Psychology and Wellness, offers rē•spin her tips for conquering stressful situations in 2023, all while keeping our emotions top of mind.
rē-building our mental health toolkit
Mental health can easily fall to the wayside when trying to power through overwhelming situations — even if we have a keen awareness of our physical health. So rather than putting our heads down and enduring the mental and emotional strain we may be experiencing, Watson suggests a series of tools and practices we can adopt and implement to help rē-prioritize our mental health while destressing and setting necessary boundaries.
Implementing — or maintaining — a daily wellness routine plays a role in supporting our mental well-being. Watson suggests practicing journaling, meditation, therapy, exercising, or even a ten-minute walk outside. What matters most is carving out your time to create a meaningful self-care experience. These practices tend to be thwarted at certain times of the year, but “keeping these practices alive even in small ways can be grounding and support your mental health,” says Watson.
Preparation and prevention
Setting boundaries becomes paramount during periods of elevated pressure, and Watson has two words to keep in mind for the process: preparation and prevention.
Whether it’s a wedding, a cousin’s graduation or an annual Fourth of July barbecue, family gatherings throughout the year are meant to be a time of enjoyment, but often result in conflict and tension — especially when they bring together people who have differing opinions and beliefs.
“Taking the time to identify what you need and how you’d like to communicate is key to getting everyone on the same page,” she says. “Setting limits with yourself and the important people in your life creates more space to rest and enjoy getting together without unnecessary worry. To find boundaries that need to be adjusted or set, see if you can identify areas of your life where you consistently feel frustrated or angry. That is a clear sign of a boundary limit being tested or pushed and a great place to start.”
Looking out for our mental health doesn’t always have to be costly or time-intensive. So take a deep breath, give yourself space, disconnect, and get fresh air. But perhaps above all, Watson says, “Be gentle with yourself.”