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

Advertisements

How Do I Stop Being My Own Worst Enemy?

Dear Ginzo,

I’m really miserable. I know the things I SHOULD do to be happier/healthier/a better person but they are impossible. Or I do those things like try to lose weight or read more and I always fail. I just can’t seem to get my shit together and it feels like everyone around me is having no problem. I know it’s not true but it’s how it feels. I’m sick of feeling this way but everytime I try to change I end up sabotaging myself. I don’t even really know what the question is but help.

My Own Worst Enemy

Dear My Own Worst Enemy,

I have great news: the best enemy you can have is yourself. If your enemy was a fiendish sorcerer stalking your family, there would be little you could do to make him stop turning your loved ones into toads. When you’re your own worst enemy, you have the ultimate advantage over your nemesis—you have control.

That being said, changing is not as easy as simply deciding to. Every day you have to wake up and choose to do things differently, and after a lifetime of doing things one way, you’re not going to be able to completely change your habits overnight, nor should you. One of the quickest ways to set yourself up for failure in self-improvement is to throw yourself so wholy into it that you lose all of the coping mechanisms you used to know. Pretty soon, your new habits feel like a too-tight turtleneck that is slowly suffocating you. When you cut yourself free and return to those old behaviors, it feels like a sweet release, until that familiar misery creeps back up again.

So sometimes you skip the gym and forget to call your mom. You eat things that you know make you feel sick and you watch more TV than you want and you drink more than you should. It happens. You are human. You don’t have to think less of yourself because you aren’t sucking down kale smoothies and running 10 miles every day and reading classic literature and being the perfect partner/friend/employee/offspring. While self-improvement is something we should all strive for, that doesn’t mean you have to beat yourself up for not sticking to new healthy habits. What is does mean is that your current strategies aren’t working.

If you are going to make changes, they need to be realistic. It’s the difference between vowing to never eat junk food again and limiting your junk food intake to twice a week. If your daily breakfast is Cheetos right now, it’s not fair to expect yourself to never touch them again. It is more reasonable to begin by cutting this habit back by eating a healthy breakfast most days of the week and saving that cheesy indulgence for a once-in-a-while treat.

That being said, it’s hard to be reasonable and fair about your goals if you don’t love yourself. There may be aspects of who you are that you feel a lot of hatred for. Despite your instinct to dropkick these parts, to argue with them, or to shove them down and never let them see the light of day, I encourage you to do the opposite instead. Embrace them. Love them. Don’t judge them. Give them space to breathe and to tell you what they need you to hear.

“People need loving the most when they deserve it the least.” – John Harrigan

When you accept yourself for who you are without any conditions, your worth isn’t reliant on how successfully you are able to stick to your goals. Though change isn’t any easier, it’s worth it. When you love yourself, you want to do what is going to make your happier and healthier. You’re not changing because you think it is something you should do, you’re changing because you want the best for yourself.

It won’t be easy at first, especially if you have been mean to yourself for a long time. Something that helped me combat negative self-talk is seeing a counselor, and you might find it helpful as well. If you need help with finding one, check out my previous post about how to find a therapist.

That being said, you don’t need a therapist to begin being kinder to yourself today. Start by giving yourself a compliment right now to plant a seed of self-love. Do this daily and let it grow further. It might seem like a small and awkward gesture, but it is an easy step towards combating negative thoughts about yourself. As this gets easier, add a daily act of kindness for yourself to your routine. When your thoughts and actions show compassion and appreciation for yourself, real self-love grows, making it easier to take care of your body and mind, and pretty soon, you’re not your own worst enemy anymore: you’re your own best friend.

XOXO,
Ginzo

10 Self-Care Tips (That Don’t Involve A Bubble Bath)

Have you guys ever noticed how articles about self-care always tell you to take a bubble bath? Don’t get me wrong; I love baths. I pretty much always have bath bombs from Lush on deck, and when I don’t, I will drive an hour to buy one. I have also had several epiphanies about myself while sitting in baths, so I am not about to belittle the value of some good ole self-reflection in the tub. But self-care is about so much more than bubble baths, and the heavy emphasis on pampering yourself makes self-care seem like indulgence, which people use to justify either not taking care of themselves or participating in some unhealthy behaviors and calling it “self-care.”

Self-care is about CARING for yourself, the way you care for a child. Caring for a child is not all about taking them to the circus and giving them all of the ice cream their heart desires; it’s also about making sure that they are fed and clothed and brush their teeth and get to bed on time, plus loving them and giving them a safe space to develop and grow. Just the way you would care for a child, you need to care for yourself. So to help you in your self-care efforts, I have compiled a list of self-care tips that don’t involve a bubble bath (though tbh all this talk about baths is just making me want to take one when I’m done writing this).

Have a bedtime ritual

If you’re anything like me, you have nights when you just crawl right into bed without doing anything beforehand because why bother, we’re all going to die anyway, right? Existentialism aside, having a bedtime ritual is extremely beneficial to your sleep hygiene and ergo, your life. Rituals trigger our brains to release the hormones we associate with these particular actions; so for bedtime rituals, our brains release melatonin, the sleep hormone. Basically, having a bedtime ritual conditions you to be sleepy at bedtime, making it so much easier to fall asleep. Sleep is important for your mental and physical health, so you should prioritize it.

Apply to a new job

This tip applies specifically to y’all who hate their jobs, or feel complacent in their jobs, or just feel complacent in general. Even if it leads nowhere, applying to another job allows you to envision a different future. Don’t resign yourself to live in an existence you hate. This can apply even beyond your job. Imagine your life beyond what limits you, whether that’s your job, your apartment, your friends, or your relationship. In short, whatever it is that is making you unhappy, take steps to change it: apply for a new job, look for a new place, make new friends, and dump his ass.

Go to the dentist

I’m sure there are people out there who are extremely diligent about going to the dentist; congratulations on being responsible. I, on the other hand, will put off going to the dentist as long as humanly possible, and then endlessly worry about them judging my tartar build up and live in an anxious ball until my appointment. Maybe for you, this is not going to the dentist, but going to the eye doctor, gynecologist, or other medical appointment. Regardless of what type of doctor, just go. It’s better than living in fear of all of the terrible diseases you think you have but probably don’t, and if you do, you need to, you know, see a doctor.

Prioritize plans with yourself

If you’re anything like me, you are intimately familiar with this scenario: someone asks you to do something, and you don’t really want to do it because you had been planning to curl up in bed and eat grapes and watch reality television, but that doesn’t really count as plans so you say “yes” anyway. Eff that. It doesn’t matter if all you did was make plans with yourself, you already have plans. Don’t allow yourself to be guilted into going to your sister’s boyfriend’s poetry reading, either by your sister or by your own inner critic.

Clean and decorate

In moments when it felt like my life was completely out of my control, cleaning has been one of the most cathartic actions I have taken. When you can’t control your life, you can still control your environment. I especially like cleaning the kitchen. There is something about a clean kitchen that makes me feel so calm. I also love when my bedroom is all cozy and neat and Instagrammable (read: fairy lights, patterned quilts, and tapestries). Cleaning is not only good for your mood, but for your cognition. When I go into slob mode and make Clothes Mountain in my closet, it is so stressful getting dressed in the morning. In contrast, when I have hung and sorted all of my clothes according to style and color, I don’t start my day with any clothes-related anxiety (I will find something else to worry about instead).

Make yourself a meal

It’s so easy to fall into the same pattern of eating out, grabbing whatever is convenient, but there is something important in the act of cooking for yourself. Food is a way that many people choose to show love (i.e. me/my mom/my sister/probably your grandma/the coworker who always brings in baked goods). Why not show yourself that same kind of love? Make yourself a meal that nourishes you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sounds too lofty? Just make something that tastes delicious. Make grandma proud.

Play with an animal

At my college, they would have pet therapy day before finals to help stressed out students. This is because SCIENCE which tells us that animals have a calming effect on humans. Keep your blood pressure low by petting, playing with, or holding an animal, whether it is your pet, your friend’s, or some pups at the Humane Society.

Have a conversation with yourself

It might be hard for you to be kind to yourself. If it is, you are not alone. I have to actively combat negative and persistent thoughts of self-doubt on a daily basis, so I get it. Something that helps me sometimes when I am getting really down is to add some distance. I have a conversation with myself as though I am one of my close friends and I can approach the situation with far more kindness and love. When I have a feeling, I might say out loud, “I feel so ______ when _____ happens,” and I respond as though it was my friend who expressed this thought. Put a little distance between yourself and your feelings, and you may be surprised how much easier it is to accept them and move on.

Unplug

Have you ever felt like social media is a drug that is slowly sucking your time and soul so you close the Facebook app in disgust and swear you won’t check it till tomorrow but then you check it again almost immediately after because what if something has changed in the last 20 seconds? Whether your social media addiction is as persistent as mine or you have a better grip on it but still feel the effects of information overload, it’s healthy to unplug once and awhile. You might try charging your phone on the other side of the room when you sleep, deleting some apps off your phone so you can’t check them as regularly, or deactivating an account or two. Some people get nervous at the idea of leaving their phone at home for a few hours because what if this is the one time there is an emergency? I get that because I am also a worrier; that being said, it can be very refreshing to leave your phone at home for an hour or two while you go for a run or go spend some face-to-face time with a friend, and you will probably come home to only a few promotional emails or no notifications at all, making you wonder why you own a smartphone at all.

Invest in people who invest in you

When I was younger, I spent way too much time on people who gave little in return. Now, I spend more time nurturing relationships with people who want to nurture relationships with me. The people you invest in are the people who root for you, who ask how you are and want to know the answer, and who you unquestionably know care about you. Invest in them by returning the favor; support them, think about them, and let them know however you do that best, whether it is verbally, written, or through acts of kindness. On the flip side, let go of (or if you can’t, distance yourself from) people who only care about what you can give them, who never show any curiosity about you and your world, and who leave you feeling depleted and used. Care for yourself enough to know that you deserve better.

Happy Wellness Wednesday, y’all! Go out and care for yourselves!

Ginzo