Resolutions for a (Mentally) Healthier New Year

2 Jan

TW: talk of suicide, body size, dieting

It’s the beginning of a new year, which means that I’ve been seeing lots of posts on social media about resolutions for 2015 and, as always, one of the dominant themes is health. I’ve seen a lot of promises to bike to work, to eat healthier, to get a gym membership, and so on and so forth. I used to make resolutions like these, although mine were almost always unhealthy and centred around weight loss. I would frame them as “feeling better in my body,” but really what I meant was, “exercise and withhold foods I love until my body is a size that makes me feel good about myself.” Turns out that magical just-beyond-the-horizon body size doesn’t actually exist, and the methods I used to try to get there were dangerous, unsustainable, and made me feel like garbage.

I’m not saying that making resolutions about your own body is wrong; I’m just saying that they aren’t positive for me, personally. So this year instead of having goals for my physical health, I’m going to make goals for my mental health. After all, that aspect of my well-being needs more attention these days than my body itself; I’m also hoping that focussing more on my mental state will help me to be kinder to my body. Hopefully it’ll be a win for all the players of Team Thériault!

So here are my resolutions for 2015:

1. Take my medication every day, no excuses

I take what sometimes seems like a lot of meds – prescription iron pills for my buzz-kill anemia, Zoloft for anxiety, a tiny dose of Seroquel as an adjunct mood booster and Imovane, the tiny blue angel that floats me off to dream country every night. Now, naturally I’m GREAT at remembering to take my sleepy time pills at the end of the day because a) they make me feel good and b) I’m a hot insomniac mess without them. I’m less amazing when it comes to consistently taking the rest of my drugs. I really have no excuse NOT to be amazing about the Zoloft and the iron pills, because I own at least two fancy pill boxes: an elegant-lady-who-takes-Xanax-with-her-tea style box from my friend Audra, and a box with a Russian cosmonaut theme from my friend CJ. In 2015, I will travel with these boxes fully stocked at all times. I will also remember to use my full spectrum lamp every day – again, I have no good excuse not to use it, since I can set it up anywhere and get some work done while it beams sunshine deep into my cold, briny soul.

2. Be more consistent about therapy

I mean, I always go to my therapist’s office, but I don’t always go to therapy, if that makes sense. I phone it in a lot of the time – as someone who can talk forever about the most unimportant subjects, I’m really good at making my therapy sessions all filler and no killer, and often when we start to edge into scary feelings territory, I bail hard. This makes me feel like I’m doing this tepid sort of I’m-working-through-my-stuff-but-not-really dance, one where I spend more time balking and shying away than actually confronting my shit. This year I want to learn to how to better work through the balking so that I can get to the stuff that matters.

3. Check in more often with the people I love (and who love me)

I need to be better about checking with my friends and family – even if it’s just sending little text messages telling them that I love them and value them. When things start to go sideways mental health-wise, one of the first things I do is sequester myself from the people around me, which of course only amplifies the misery I’m feeling. It’s a vicious cycle – I feel awful and think I’m a terrible person, and I don’t want to subject others to my terribleness so I stop talking to them, and then this social isolation just confirms everything bad I believe about myself. This year I’m going to make more of a conscious effort to check in with the people I care about, both because it will make me a more awesome friend and also because it’s a healthier way for me to be.

4. Ask for help when I need it

Whenever my depression is bad, and especially once i’ve hit the slippery slope of suicidal ideation, I get to a place where I just can’t do it on my own anymore. Which is a very human thing, because humans are social creatures, and there’s a reason cave men lived in packs or whatever – we’ve evolved to need each other and rely on each other. The problem is that I really, really hate asking for help – not because I’m a noble solitary warrior or anything like that, but because I’m afraid that no one will care enough about me to help, or else that I’ll be taking advantage of my friends, or, worst of all, that people will help and I’ll still feel just as bad as ever. I know that none of it is rational, but when I get to a state of bone-gnawing sadness all reason goes out the window. Which is why I need to make plans and change my behaviour now, while I’m feeling relatively stable, instead of waiting until things are the Absolute Worst before trying to fix my life.

One thing on this front that I’ve found really useful has been asking for specific types of help – help with childcare, help with cleaning, help with food preparation, or even just help in the form of pep talks or hugs to keep me going when the going gets tough. I’ve also learned that it helps to be clear about what I want/need when I’m feeling down about something – sometimes I’m not in a place to process advice, and clarifying for my friends that I’m looking for comfort and commiseration only means that we all avoid frustrating interactions.

5. Learn to say no

See also: learn to budget my time better, learn to better estimate how long a given task will take, learn to set firm interpersonal and professional boundaries, and learn not to take on every writing gig that comes my way.

I seem to have this weird belief that Corey Mason‘s dad was right and there are, in fact, 24 usable hours in ever day (even though when Corey tried to follow this advice she wound up becoming a speed addict, but I digress), so I stupidly keep adding stuff to my calendar until I barely have time to breathe. I think I’m worried that if I start turning down opportunities, then no one will ever ask me to do anything ever again, but that’s just not true. I’m going to practice saying no in the politest, firmest, most I’m-incredibly-flattered-you-asked-me-but-I’m-super-busy, let’s-do-this-another-month-instead-of-tomorrow sort of way.

In a similar vein, I’m going to try to only take on paid writing gigs this year. I’m not going to write for “exposure” anymore, and if I do something for free it will be because it’s a cause I believe in, and to which I really want to lend my voice. My time is valuable, my thoughts are valuable, and my landlord won’t accept “exposure” in lieu of a rent cheque.

6. Be more consistent about applying skills I learned in cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy was the SHIT. I took away more concrete skills from the handful of months I spent in the CBT program at CAMH than probably any other therapy I’ve ever had in my life. When I can manage to breathe deeply, evaluate what I’m thinking/feeling and ask myself if it’s a logical reflection of what I’m actually experiencing, it becomes much easier to  squelch an oncoming meltdown. Of course, I don’t always remember/feel capable of using my CBT skills when I’m mid panic-attack. What I need to do is start practicing these mind-tricks when things are less critical, so that implementing them becomes a habit and feels less like a mental workout.

7. Learn to better live in my body and not just with my body

I have this habit of treating my body like a mostly useless bipedal meat vehicle for my brain, by which I mean there’s a part of me that honestly believes that my body only exists to transport my beautiful mind from place to place. This can lead to me feeling like I’m not so much living in my body as I am grimly tolerating my body. This year I’m going to try to actually love my body – the way it looks, how it moves, the rad things it does – rather than treating it as if its only value lies in its utility. Because not only is that view pretty unkind to myself, it’s also very ableist. Bodies aren’t just good because they can do things – they’re good because they exist, and they’re us, and we have value as people.

8. Become better at identifying my mental state

Identifying my breathless, sobbing, oh-god-the-world-is-ending meltdowns as actually being panic attacks was a huge turning point for me in 2014. I went from thinking that I am just this bad person who can’t control their emotions to recognizing that this is an actual thing that is happening, a thing that has a name and has been described by other people and is generally recognized by doctors and lay-folk alike. This gave my panicked weeping on public transit a sort of validity that it had been lacking, and made it seem more like a solvable problem and less like a huge personal flaw. I’m not saying that this is something that will help everybody, and I don’t mean to imply that there’s anything wrong having meltdowns on buses that aren’t panic attacks, but for me, personally, this has been really useful.

I also think that in general I need to be better at identifying what I’m feeling and, if applicable, why. Sometimes even just naming things makes them easier to handle, you know?

9. Practice self-care

I pay a lot of lip service to self-care, but I’m not always the greatest at practicing it myself. This year I’m going to make sure I have more downtime, more comforting rituals, and more ways of recharging. My friend Audra has a self-care chalkboard that reminds her to do things she enjoys and that are good for her specific body – stuff like swimming, hula hooping, and drinking tea – and I think I’m going to steal her idea. I need to remember to use my me-time for stuff that I love and that rejuvenates me, rather than wasting it refreshing my Facebook page 50,000 times in a row.

10. Be kinder to myself

This is definitely the hardest one, because my natural inclination is to treat myself like garbage. I’m the type of person who’s always ready with a laundry list of all my worst qualities, and my ability for negative self-talk is unparalleled. I don’t just sell myself short – I’ll argue with you about why and how I’m a complete waste of money, time and space. But this year, that’s going to start changing.

My goal for 2015 is to give myself as much love, patience and understanding as I would lavish on the folks I care about. If I can treat other people decently, then surely I can do the same thing to myself? This is going to be the year of giving myself the benefit of the doubt, going easy on myself when I fuck up, and giving myself more space to breathe.

Happy 2015, y’all

Looking forward to the new year with a cool head and a clear eye

Looking forward to the new year with a cool head and a clear eye

46 Responses to “Resolutions for a (Mentally) Healthier New Year”

  1. disconcerted72 January 2, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    I so love your list of resolutions. I have similar ones this year, because I can’t help but think that I need to address my mental health before the other resolutions are reachable for me!

    Thanks for sharing and thanks for the read:)

    • FreshUF January 11, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

      Hi disconcerted72, I was struck by your comment, you’ve set down some words here that I’ve not been able to nail before. I loved reading the resolutions list too but you’ve said “address your mental health BEFORE the other resolutions are reachable (for you).” This is the sort of thing I do and don’t know that it’s a good idea. Your comment has given me the idea that I need to focus more on this. Thank you.

      • janetisserlis January 13, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

        Hi disconcerted72, I was struck by your comment, you’ve set down some words here that I’ve not been able to nail before. I loved reading the resolutions list too but you’ve said “address your mental health BEFORE the other resolutions are reachable (for you).” This is the sort of thing I do and don’t know that it’s a good idea. Your comment has given me the idea that I need to focus more on this. Thank you.

        to the notion of working on something before something else — I also think about the notion of living beside (reference below) – but the notion of working on one thing while also being as present as possible to others. to not “waiting til” – but working towards.

        as one is able.

        (see Lewis, Tanya. (1999). Living beside: Performing normal after incest memories return. Toronto: McGilligan Books.
        [Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-9698064-7-7 : $19.95 1. Incest victims–Mental health 2. Lewis, Tanya– Mental health 3. Psychotherapy 4. Recovered memory] available by mail order through Toronto Women’s Book Store at 416-922-8744, or McGilligan Books in Canada at 416-538-0945. Important analysis / contesting of survival and ‘normal.’)

  2. theduckandtheowl January 2, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    I’m also trying to have a healthier mental year. We can do it!!!
    -Kaitlyn:)

  3. Mario Savioni January 2, 2015 at 7:59 pm #

    That’s a hell of a lot of stuff to remember. Please know that your blog has been my favorite. You’ve gotten me to think. I love how and what you think about. Thank you for being in the world! You matter! You actually define what life is about.

  4. Andie January 2, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    I’m inclined to print this post off and stick it to my fridge with a magnet. 1000 times better than any picture from my ‘skinny’ days. This stuff is so, so important.

  5. Natalie Cotterill January 2, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

    I just want to say good luck – I’m sure there are a lot more people than you think who will stand by you!:) x

  6. ItalianHurricane January 2, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

    Gosh, I see so much of myself in this post! While I was writing I was thinking “Ok in my comment I’ll mention number 1 for sure… Uh and number 2… Number 3 is just me…” and so on. For number 7 I want to suggest yoga to you. I felt just as you do (and I still do sometimes), but yoga (with a very good teacher) helped me see my body as something very precious. Number 8, so true, I think recognizing what happening to you as a thing that’s happening is the key to get through it all. And number 10, I’m learning that too, finally, very slowly, after one year of therapy… Sorry for my long comment, I couldn’t help it!!!

  7. Rebecca Meyer January 2, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    I absolutely love this list. I think that it’s so important for us to love ourselves and work towards being mentally healthy. I know I’ve struggled with this in recent years, but I’d like to become more confident in who I am.

  8. Justine Froelker January 2, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    This is a great post with amazing intensions for the year! Thank you so much for sharing!

  9. Susan P January 2, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    You, girl. I’m rooting for you.

  10. Danika Maia January 2, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    I’ve never been to a therapist but it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the past year, just to have someone to listen to me if nothing else. Good luck with this year, have really enjoyed your posts in 2014!

    http://www.danikamaia.com

  11. mothererased January 3, 2015 at 12:46 am #

    Best wishes for a healthy New Year! You deserve it.

  12. StrawberryCat January 3, 2015 at 1:01 am #

    Wonderful list. I think I need to add to my resolutions:)

  13. Audra January 3, 2015 at 1:26 am #

    This is a great list! I can relate to a lot of the things you’ve talked about here, especially the capacity for grinding yourself into the ground while simultaneously hoping others will treat themselves with kindness.

    So, from a different Audra (how awesome you have a friend with that name too): I hope you do your best to take care of yourself this year, and be nice to yourself if you have a setback. It’s the long game that matters! Hugs to you!

  14. Amber Autumn January 3, 2015 at 2:50 am #

    Fantastic goals! I wish more people set goals for mental and not just physical well-being. Happy New Year!

  15. Jillian Theriault January 3, 2015 at 5:15 am #

    Bravo, Anne.
    If you manage to do all these, your first piece of 2016 has to be a book on how.

    As I re-read that, it sounds like I’m doubting that you can do it. That’s not the case at all. I’m simply coming from my own place where all of those things are exactly what I have to do, and it feels pretty overwhelming. I think I’ve got to force myself to take a day by day approach. Sometimes, I even have to do minute by minute. “I will not cry right now.” “I will say something positive about myself in my mind today.” “I will breathe.” “I will go outside right now.”

    Ya know? I know you know.

  16. ainsobriety January 3, 2015 at 5:51 am #

    I love your list.
    I, too, suffered from panic attacks and anxiety for years, never recognizing this was a potentially treatable condition. I jist thought something was wrong with me.
    This has been life changing.

  17. Stephanie January 3, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    Great list! I love the self-care chalkboard idea.

  18. saymber January 3, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

    Your list is a great reminder and refresher of what I need to do also. You can do it girl!:-)

  19. MarinaSofia January 3, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

    Good luck with all your resolutions and hope this year will be kind to you, as well as you being kind to yourself! Much for me to take to heart as well here.

  20. msmaliha January 3, 2015 at 6:43 pm #

    This is a great step! Putting it in writing holds not only you accountable, but your readers as well! Good for you for making a list that is about what really matters in life, self-love. It’s so easy to dismissed your needs and prioritize others, but putting your needs first is what really matters. A friend once told me, “how can you take care of your family if you don’t take care of yourself?” Best wishes to you on your journey and I hope to hear about your successes in the coming months! Xo

  21. lynwilderdean January 3, 2015 at 8:19 pm #

    Thank you for being willing to put these goals out there for strangers to look at, contemplate, come to their own conclusions about, and maybe comment on. I am glad you shared this with all of us “crazy space voices”, as someone I once knew in an online community dubbed the bombardment of responses he would get when he posted things. Turns out we’re people too.

  22. katherinejlegry January 3, 2015 at 8:44 pm #

    Your list is entirely important so don’t get me wrong, but pace yourself. That’s an overwhelming list and although the structure and routine are the health you seek, keep in mind it’s okay if you if you don’t “accomplish” everything. Basic self care is important and you can build on it for sure, but a list like that can also make you feel bad when you’re failing to check things off. A good therapist doesn’t push you into territory you’re not ready for as that can trigger more harm and setbacks than good and usually recognizes when they are receiving “filler”. Since it’s an ongoing relationship, you have time. It’s for you not the therapist so you’re not wasting time. You are in your process. Sometimes maybe you learn something helpful and you don’t even have to report to that to your therapist. Your being honest with yourself, and your boundaries are ok even in and maybe especially in therapy as open as you are being, if that makes sense.

    In terms of depression and body image and exercise… walk. Walking is known to alleviate depression and is a gentle form of exercise that maintains physical and mental fitness. An hour a day if possible… is best for so many benefits. It doesn’t have to be fast walking. You probably know this already.

    I know you don’t know me and you don’t need my “advice” in particular, but you do matter and I I’ve liked your blog… so I offer this for your consideration.

    As hard as it sounds like it can get, you are okay where you are in your learning and understanding. You aren’t doing anything wrong. The only biggest thing I’ve sensed about you from your writing, is kindness. An active seeking of and desire to be kind. That’s entirely beautiful. Happy New Year.

  23. Bowrag January 3, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

    Great list of goals… Good luck and have a great 2015!

  24. balletandboxing January 3, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

    Great post!!! Most, if not all, apply to me too. Well said and more importantly – kindly said!

    Have a great 2015.

  25. Monika Tillsley January 4, 2015 at 12:05 am #

    Great post – I think you need to think about number 5 and taking too much on in terms of making 10 big resolutions to change but all the items are awesome. So maybe I would suggest number 11 = “Any progress on any of these 10 resolutions is a major achievement for the year to come!” I guess that come in under being kind to yourself.

  26. contemporarycontempt January 4, 2015 at 2:17 am #

    Love this line: “…my landlord won’t accept “exposure” in lieu of a rent cheque.” Would that we lived in a barter economy that valued art… Anyway, your goals sound practical and doable. Go get ’em! And a healthy, balanced 2015 to all:)

  27. derikitz January 4, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

    Great list and quite accurate to be exact… Good luck to all of us and that may we have a great year this 2015!:)

  28. M.J.Neely January 5, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    These are really good resolutions youve set yourself a lot of hard worl with the,, but you can definitely do it. Theyre definitely worth your time and effort, i can see myself and part of my mental health journey in these resolutions, and it can definitely be done. X

  29. janetisserlis January 5, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

    thank you for this. I’ve come back to it several times after an especially challenging weekend, and am sharing your 6th point (with attribution, of course) with my CBT person. wishing you all well and good. thank you.

  30. Cyn Kerbs January 8, 2015 at 6:46 am #

    Of all the newsletters I’ve gotten over the holidays, and New Year, this one of yours is most likely to be the most honest, forthright, and insightful. Thank You. Blessings on your year.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  31. violetta86 January 8, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    Beautiful ! your number four ( not only asking for help but also asking for a specific kind of help ) is something that I also learned in therapy and really helped me a lot ! your list is amazing, good luck with it 😊 !

  32. AmidstScience January 10, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    I linked to your blog post on my blog (here: http://amidstscience.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/resolutions-reminders-goals.html), I hope that’s ok. Those are great resolutions – good luck!

    • bellejarblog January 10, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

      Totally ok! I’m flattered, thank you:)

  33. Carlie January 11, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    I can relate to so much of this, especially being clear about what I want/need when I’m struggling, practicing self care, and being kinder to myself. #2 and #7 apply as well. This is a great list and I hope you have a great year.

  34. peggyricewi January 15, 2015 at 2:24 am #

    What a fantastic list! Each one! And as someone who fights depression (it’s in remission right now), I can see this list coming in very handy.
    Thanks for sharing. Wishing you great mental health – one day at a time!

  35. izzy82 January 22, 2015 at 12:05 am #

    Yay, love this! It makes me feel good about my decision to put down a heavy, social justice book and instead spend my morning commute reading “The mindful path to self-compassion.” My gut said it was a good choice but my negative thoughts have a way of creeping in and telling me, “Must keep up with heavy, depressing book… must keep learning more to better fight the good fight…mustn’t stop because I may *never* start again and may only care for myself, and no one else, from this point forward, forever.” But psssshhhh, that’s a bunch of bologna! As Audre Lorde said, “…Caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” Word.
    Thank you for this affirming post!

  36. Ali Trotta January 22, 2015 at 12:40 am #

    Love this, chica. All beautifully said.❤

  37. lenasclove February 7, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

    This is great! Thanks especially for the reminder about actually using CBT skills. I haven’t had a CBT therapist in years so it’s easy to slip up but it really can help when I remember to do it. This was a wonderful post, glad I found your blog!

  38. joannegiacomini February 18, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    Great post! I enjoy your blog very much. As a fellow sufferer of anxiety and having had two burnouts and depressions, I have my own list of things I do as well that are keeping me strong, healthy and balanced in my life. I also blog about these on my blog. As women, I think we naturally gravitate to helping others who struggle.

    • Julianne March 7, 2015 at 2:42 am #

      I know how you feel concerning anxiety. It saddens me to know that so many people suffer from it and don’t know how to control it. I am just coming out of a SEVERE bout myself– BELIEVE me, I have been there–panic attacks, negative self talk, the works. You have my sympathy especially because I see you have a child. I can’t even imagine how difficult the responsibility must be if you have anxiety as well! I just discovered your blog and it occurs to me you might want to check out the Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, or hsp-person.com. It’s really helpful for sufferers of anxiety, and has a lot of resources. Also more advice:if you suffer from anxiety, I’ve found it essential to practice self care. I see you like yoga–please do it as much as possible!

      • joannegiacomini March 8, 2015 at 4:01 am #

        Yes, thanks so much for your suggestions! I’m MUCH much better since I started practicing yoga and meditation as well as taking care of myself. I realize that that is the key to staying balanced and enjoying life.

        I’m glad to hear that you are coming out of your severe anxiety and panic attacks as well. I hope you too continue to practice self care. Thank you for reading my blog!

  39. The Front Door Project May 6, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

    Love this post! I suffer from depression and battle it daily in different shapes and forms – some days are harder than others but all of your comments are on point, whether its New Years or not! Thanks for speaking out about mental health – you help others every day by putting it out there!

  40. unicornland101 May 14, 2015 at 10:06 pm #

    i love your posts they are amazing

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