With 2018 on the horizon, many of us across the country are preparing to start the new year on the right foot. With our New Year’s resolutions, we once again cement the physical and financially improvements we consider necessary to our growth and health. We may choose to eat cleaner, save money, or stick with the gym, but often our introspections don’t include our mental health.
2017 offered many watershed moments in the national conversation on women and mental health in ways we have never seen before. With this growing discussion comes a bevy of resources on understanding and improving female mental health. If you’re hoping to become healthier mentally and emotionally in 2018, there are plenty of opportunities to start. For many women, making the choice to address their mental health can seem like an overwhelming or arduous journey. However, better mental health can be as simple as making small, gradual changes to your personal and professional life for overall success.
Here are our three resolutions for women to try in 2018 to improve your mental health:
Resolution #1 - Prioritize your mental health whenever you can
Starting the year off right can be as easy as making the conscious decision to prioritize your mental health. You can do this by exploring what the current state of your mental health and how you might be able to improve, maintain, or avoid negatively impacting it. What habits, environments, people, and beliefs make you feel mentally stable or healthy? How might your schedule, loved ones, responsibilities or expectations make you feel anxious, depressed, paranoid or tired? Are there any changes you can make right now to move forward with your mental health at the forefront?
The possibilities for change are endless! For example, switch to afternoon classes if sleeping in makes you feel more alert and prepared for the day. Reevaluate your friends’ lists on social media for any relationships that don’t please or support you. Adopt a healthy new habit like meditation or exercise to combat stress or anger. For long-term or large-scale impact, consider seeing a therapist or mental health counselor in the year to tackle bigger or long-standing issues.
Resolution #2 - Don’t ignore the warning signs
Understanding and improving your mental health can take considerable time and resources. It’s always okay to move at your own pace and to pursue new techniques or get outside help when you’re ready. Due to societal or internalized stigma, it can be difficult to recognize or accept when your mental health may need a little extra work or when there’s a serious problem to be addressed. Women in particular may face considerable obstacles when discussing or seeking help. America’s history of understanding female mental health has often made it difficult for women to advocate for proper mental health care services.
It’s okay to need to help. It’s okay if something’s not okay. Whether you’re struggling with a major mental health issue or find yourself in need of a tune-up, the first step to seeking help is accepting that you need it. Don’t ignore the red flags of mental health, like increased anger or sadness, fatigue or significant changes in sleeping patterns, mood swings, and more. If you notice these changes in yourself or your closed loved ones, don’t hesitate to act by seeking resources or initiating an open, non-judgemental conversation.
Resolution #3: Create a self-care routine that supports mental health
In online spaces, “self care” refers to the list of practices, actions, and habits we maintain to meet our own mental health needs. It’s care designed for you and delivered by you. For women, self-care advocates for showing ourselves the kindness and patience we often show others.
Self care is important because it allows us to remain mentally healthy to take care of the things we need to do: go to work or school, take care of others, pursue our favorite hobbies, and more. Women in particular spend many of their waking hours in personal or professional “support” roles: as mothers or general caretakers. It can be easy to become stressed or worn out by the mental and emotional labor expended in these roles. Self care helps women “recharge” by designating a set time to attend to their own needs often as necessary. Forgoing or deprioritizing self-care can lead to resentment, stress, anxiety, and a sustained decrease in mental health.
Regardless of how it may appear, self care should be about creating and maintaining healthy habits that support your mental health. It’s not as simple as indulging in comfort foods or similar vices - these can be comforting, but not necessarily healthy! Though it is important to include as many senses as we can in our self care - from sight, smells, and tastes - we shouldn’t consider self care an opportunity to build damaging or inhibiting habits.
Self care can include:
- Going for a walk
- Connecting with friends outside of work or during the week
- Eating a well-balanced diet and exercising consistently
- Practicing yoga, tai chi, or breathing exercises
- Planting a garden
- Engaging in beloved hobbies or discovering new ones
- Napping when you’re tired (or sleeping an adequate amount of hours)
- Listening to music you enjoy
- Journaling or reading a book
These resolutions offer stepping stones to a great year of positive mental health, but it’s important to combine self-improvement with professional women’s mental health services when necessary. If you find that you need more help or would like to tackle your mental health with the guidance of a professional, finding and seeing a therapist or mental health counselor is the perfect next step. Your therapist or counselor can work with you to achieve your personal mental health goals by supporting your resolutions, suggesting new opportunities for improvement, and providing a safe, educational space to learn more about mental health.
If you’re currently struggling with your mental health, Chicago Lakeshore Hospital can offer a safe, supportive space with personalized mental health services. Our in- and outpatient services and mental health teams will aid your personal journey to better mental health. Contact us online or call our 24/7 hotline number at 877-692-7477 to learn more about our mental health services.