Mental Illness Getting in the Way of Your Resolutions? You’re Not Alone

As someone who is straight up obsessed with self-reflection and growth, I unabashedly love New Year’s. This is a time when everyone is getting a little introspective about what they want out of life, as well as what they have accomplished so far. I love seeing people taking advantage of self-improvement being in the air.

That being said, setting New Year’s resolutions is easier than accomplishing them. Personally, I have started many a year with lofty ambitions, only for December to come with no little-to-no progress made. I have often found myself waging a battle against mental illness to be the best version of myself. Turns out, I’m not alone in this experience.

Anxiety and Depression as Obstacles to New Year’s Resolutions

A recent survey of 500 people by Body Nutrition revealed that mental health may be a significant reason why many people cannot consistently implement the changes they want to make in the new year. Of the respondents, 29 percent said anxiety and depression were the biggest obstacles to making their fitness or wellness resolutions regular habits.

Body Nutrition New Year's Resolutions

These mental health conditions were nearly the most common reason why people struggle to make progress toward their wellness goals. Anyone who has experienced mental illness can relate to this. You might resolve to make more meals at home, but summoning the energy to get out of bed to cook feels impossible. Soon, you’re stuck in a cycle of rumination, beating yourself for not being able to follow through, filling you with shame. This is a common experience for people with depression and/or anxiety, and it may make the new year a time of stress for you rather than optimism. The good news is, there are plenty of resources to help people with anxiety and depression to set goals and achieve them.

Tips for Making New Year’s Resolutions When You Have Anxiety and Depression

I was much more successful with my resolutions this year. While I didn’t accomplish all of them, I’m proud of my progress and what I managed to check off my list. Here are some of the tools that helped me.

Practice Self-Compassion

This is my number-one tip for literally every aspect of life, but particularly goal-setting. Living with anxiety and depression often means having a running monologue in your head of everything you’re doing wrong. With a constant critic whispering in your ear, it’s no wonder you struggle to summon the confidence needed to take risks and make necessary changes. Cutting yourself some slack allows you to approach your resolution with curiosity rather than fear of failure. Let’s say you have resolved to start running, but you end up skipping the second day. You might think something like, “I can’t do this. I can never stick with anything. I’ll never be able to change.” This line of thinking makes it that much more difficult to get back to running. Alternatively, a more compassionate response may be, “I feel the need to rest today, but that’s okay. I will run tomorrow instead.”

Self-compassion is not like flipping a switch. It takes time to adopt a new mindset, so when you have negative thoughts about yourself pop up, don’t be discouraged. Something that has helped me is to think of myself as a child I am taking care of. I would never speak to my adorable baby self the way I tend to now, so it helps me to approach my thoughts with more compassion and less judgment.

Be Realistic

One of the most frustrating parts of depression is feeling like you are capable of so much more than your condition allows. While being depressed doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish great things, it’s important to accommodate your symptoms instead of denying their real impact on your life. For example, let’s say you want to write a novel this year. That’s a great goal, but make sure to give yourself some freedom in this timeline to cope with any depressive symptoms that might pop up. Dedicating two hours every day to writing might not be realistic when some days, just waking up is a major undertaking. Instead, if you give yourself a flexible schedule with realistic expectations, you’re better able to cope when your mental illness decides to pop up and interrupt your plans.

Think Of Your Overall Wellness

Many wellness resolutions are appearance-based. The problem with these resolutions, such as losing weight, is that they focus on what you look like on the outside instead of how you feel inside. More often than not, you end up at war with your body, launching a grenade into your self-worth. Instead of putting your efforts behind aesthetics, I would encourage you to look at your wellness from a holistic perspective, with special attention to your mental health. How could you give yourself more space to heal old emotional wounds and learn new ways to manage your symptoms? How could you go through 2019 with more self-love? What are some things you could do for your health that have nothing to do with what you look like to the outside world? Reflect on these questions while writing your resolutions.

I hope that these tips help you with these common obstacles to sticking with your resolutions. Regardless of what you accomplished last year, I hope that you will give yourself credit for getting through 2018 and facing all the challenges that were thrown your way. Here’s to a great 2019!

XOXO,
Ginzo

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How to Write New Year’s Resolutions

I love New Year’s resolutions. People are quick to point out how often we fail to accomplish them, but I don’t think that fear of failure should hold you back from this helpful exercise (or doing anything, really). I have failed to achieve many resolutions, but at minimum, thinking about what I wanted to accomplish helped me to live a more intentional life and gain greater perspective on my life. This New Year’s Day, I hope you are taking some time to reflect on what you want to accomplish this year. If you are, I have put together this handy guide to making the most of your New Year’s resolutions.

Picking Your Resolutions

Pick realistic and specific goals

Making resolutions that are too lofty or vague guarantees that you aren’t going to accomplish them. Don’t resolve to exercise on a daily basis when you rarely do now; that isn’t realistic. Instead, work yourself up to that goal by exercising once a week, then adding more days as you go.

Additionally, if your resolutions are too general, it’s harder to stick to them because you don’t have a specific measure of success. If you want to read more, for example, pick exactly how often you will read and for how long. If you have overarching goals, such as becoming a better flutist, make more specific goals that contribute to it, like playing the flute for 15 minutes every day or joining a flute interest group (that’s a thing, right?).

Make a resolution a month

A year is a long time to keep focused on a goal, as evidenced by the fact that most people give up on their resolutions sometime in February. Instead of making your resolutions for the whole year, make a resolution for each month of the year. For example, if you want to become a better cook, you might resolve to make a new dish twice a week in January. At the end of the month, you will have eight new dishes in your repertoire, and you can focus on other things in February.

Research

Before committing to a resolution, research it as much as possible to find resources to help you. For example, if you want to start doing yoga, look into classes in the area, check out YouTube (Yoga by Adriene is awesome and accessible, by the way), and read some background information so you have a better understanding. Researching into your resolutions makes you more invested in them and keeps them at the forefront of your mind.

Reflect

When making your resolutions, think about your accomplishments over the past year, as well as things you would like to improve in your life and about yourself. Below are some questions to help you reflect on what you want out of your resolutions.

Questions for Self-Reflection

  • In what ways have you changed over the past year?
  • What 2016 accomplishments are you proud of?
  • This time next year, how you would like to answer the above questions?
  • What could you work on within yourself? What are your biggest obstacles to change?
  • What makes you feel fulfilled and happy?
  • How do you feel about your physical health? Your mental health? Your emotional health?
  • Who are the most important people in your life? How do you feel about your relationships with them? What could you do to improve them?
  • How could you deepen your spiritual life?
  • How could you improve your financial well-being?
  • What would you like to accomplish professionally this year?
  • What creative outlets do you have? How could you enrich your creativity?

Strategies For Sticking With It

Establish accountability

Accountability makes humans actually do things because we don’t want to let anyone down. Use the power of social pressure to keep yourself moving towards your goals. You can get a buddy to commit to the resolution with, or you could start a social media account or blog to track your progress. Anyway you can establish accountability, do it.

Embrace failure

Brace yourself for the first of many Brené Brown quotes that will be featured on this blog:

“Perfectionism is not the same thing has striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”

You aren’t going to be perfect with your resolutions. Making the choice to change doesn’t mean it is going to happen overnight, and you will stumble along the way. Forgive yourself your failures and get back up and try again.

Write them down

You are more likely to stick to your resolutions when you write them down because it makes them more tangible when you see them on paper. This also makes you more focused and committed to your goals, and makes it easier to remember them. Don’t try to just remember your resolutions; make them real and write them down.

Remind yourself

Just writing your resolutions on a piece of paper and sticking it in a drawer isn’t going to be enough to keep your goals on your mind. There are several ways you can keep reminding yourself of your resolutions. You could hang them next to your mirror as a daily nudge to keep at it, or schedule out specific tasks on your phone calendar so you are regularly getting automated reminders. Keep your resolutions at the forefront of your mind, and you will be more likely to achieve them.

Regardless of whether or not you succeed in your resolutions, I hope 2017 brings happiness, good health, and peace for you all. Happy New Year!

Ginzo