As the new year starts, resolutions start rolling in. Most New Year resolutions are aimed at sleeping better, fixing eating habits, or finding ways to improve mental health.
Buying some facial scrubs and watching a YouTube video to start your new facial routine is one thing, but how do you better your mental health?
Start by figuring out what you wanted to leave behind in 2021. For Jessica Holmes, Canadian comedy star and advocate for Bell Let’s Talk, it was leaving the word ‘helplessness’ behind.
Blue Monday marks the start of Bell Let’s Talk, a month-long event that tries to lessen the stigma behind having mental health and guiding people to start talking about their mental health to others or how to talk to people who are suffering from mental health.
Through her own experiences with postpartum depression and ‘run-of-the-mill garden depression’, she was able to make small, sustainable changes, to abandon the word. For Blue Monday this year, she decided to share her findings with the world.
1. Learn that languishing [a type of pandemic burnout] is only temporary.
That tired feeling can be lifted with quick bursts of mental or physical energy. For example, taking a walk or doing a round of sudoku, or, in Jessica’s case, getting yourself a therapist-prescribed sad dog.
“My sad dog would look up at me all sad, and I’d look at her all sad. Then we’d go for a walk, come back, and she would look at me all sad again. We’d do that until the sadness went away,” Jessica laughs.
2. Stop living life defensively and start using humour to destress.
“I always say that tragedy plus time equals comedy. So I try to always see the comedy of life and treat my life as a sitcom,” Jessica explains. “My kids used to say things that hurt me, but I tweeted about it, laughed about it with others who had the same experience and then moved on.”
Laughter is proven to help relieve stress. According to Mayo Clinic, a worldwide leader in providing expert care for everyone who needs healing, laughter helps stimulate the amount of rich oxygen in your heart, lungs, and muscles and increases the number of endorphins, or happy, tingly feelings, in your brain. It’s also known to reduce/relieve stress.
An example that Jessica had provided was that she started a funny journal. It’s a journal filled with funny things that had happened in her life and that she kept looking at whenever she felt down.
3. Set a timer on social media.
Social media is like going down the little rabbit hole. You believe you’re going to be on it for a bit while you wait for your next class or pause from studying, but then you look at the time, and it’s been a whole two or three hours while your page is still blank, craving your words.
Jessica suggests putting a timer on your social media ingestion to set a cap on the negativity and hard news that swirls on the internet, saying, “Treat [going on social media] like getting into a hot tub; get in, relax and then get out before you get/attract something.”
4. Present evidence once.
Why not treat the argument like a courtroom, instead of holding all the anger inside when you’re arguing? Present evidence once and, if there’s no other evidence that can be presented at the time, stop arguing about it.
Letting the argument sit on your chest while you continue on about your life isn’t going to help you. It’ll only keep your mind in the cloud.
5. Approach things positively
When things happen in life, or your plans for yourself have gone downhill, remember that you’re human and getting to your finish line won’t be a straight shot. Everything that matters to you and your dreams, will take time.
6. Relaxation is key.
This solution is simple and has been recommended by everyone whenever stress rises, or anxiety attacks start creeping at the back of your head: breathing exercises and doing something relaxing. While in panic/stress mode, the breathing exercises you do could return your body to rest and digest mode.
7. Create Boundaries.
All of us have a small part of our mind, or a small part of our house, that we consider our ‘safe space’ – a place where only we are allowed, which should always be off-limits to others.
To protect that safe space, try to create boundaries or, according to an Oprah magazine that Jessica took, have an emotional divorce with people who aren’t worth your time. Talk to these people minimally and stop putting so much energy into them. You may feel lighter and even realize that this change you created hasn’t affected much for them at all. We can’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
8. Create a wheel of life.
The wheel of life is supposed to show you which of the triangular areas are helping you, where to put more time, which regions are depleting you, and what you want to step away from. It’s a more visual way of figuring out what you want to change in your life.
Fixing your mental health doesn’t take just these steps, but it will help manage your little cloud better and guide you to rework your brain into mending itself.