Making resolutions in the New Year can be difficult when you are battling mental health. Whether it’s a getting fitter, taking on a new job or vowing to travel more, resolutions can be overwhelming.
For me, 2017 was about battling through postnatal depression and anxiety. It all came to a head in December when I found a lump in my breast. I went to my doctor who discovered some thickening of the breast tissue and I was immediately referred to the breast clinic.
It was a terrifying two-week wait, and thankfully everything was fine, however, it was a stark reminder that your mental and physical health should be a high priority.
Here are a few reasons why self-care should be at the top of your list in 2018.
Relaxing to Avoid Burnout
The phrase ‘self-care’ may sound a little self-indulgent but it’s an important habit we need maintain to keep ourselves functioning. With work piling up, children to look after, a house to run, we often forget how to stop, live in the moment or relax.
I know I feel like I’m slacking if I take a moment to sit on the sofa and enjoy a cup of tea. I often push through deadlines and only reward myself with lunch if I meet them. This is counter-productive because all it does is make me hungry, less focused for the rest of the day and stressed.
Studies have found that relaxing and taking a break helps you perform better. A refreshed brain helps you see problems differently and you are more likely to find a solution.
Walking Fuels Creativity
It comes as no surprise that acclaimed novelists and poets such as William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens and Virginia Wolf were keen walkers.
Taking a break refreshes the mind and helps you become more creative, as found in a study by Stanford University. It found that when people did mental tasks that required imagination, walking led to more creative thinking.
Writing to Deal with Emotions
A study in the Advances in Psychiatric Treatment found that 15-20 minutes of writing in a journal helped cope with traumatic, stressful or emotional events. It resulted in improvements in both psychological and physical health.
Protect Your Time by Saying No
Everything is being thrown your way and before you know it, you’ve said yes to a bunch of things that will intrude on your time and leave no room for yourself. This can lead to feelings of being stressed and tired, to great impairment to the quality of your life.
Learning to say no can be hard to do, but rather than feeling compelled to agree to every request, it might be time to put your foot down.
Start by scheduling pockets of ‘empty’ time into your day and guard them carefully. If you are asked to do something you can’t do then keep your response simple, polite, but direct. For example, say, “Thanks for asking but I’m sorry I can’t do that tomorrow”. If you aren’t sure then buy yourself some time by saying ‘I’ll get back to you.’ This will give you some space to consider your options.
You Cannot Pour From an Empty Cup
To me, the most important reason for self-care is that I need to be able to look after my children and be present as their parent.
When I am absorbed with stress and anxiety, I am not in the moment. I am somewhere else in my mind and always thinking about what needs to be done next. Before I know it, I am running on empty and have nothing left to give.
Life pressures come from all sides and the to-do lists may seem endless. Prioritise things that are worth your energy and time, think about what has to be done today and what can wait. Create a list of activities that make you happy, whether it’s painting, reading, listening to music or going for a walk; sometimes the little things are all that’s needed to replenish the tank.