New Year New Ways: Resilience is a muscle, so let’s build it

Thursday, January 20, 2022 5:57 PM

10 ways to start the new year by taking care of your mental health and responding better to stress

Now that 2022 is here, you might be thinking about your resolutions for this new year. Along with your resolutions, consider focusing on creating goals. Goals are more specific efforts involving planning and taking action to ensure that we can make positive changes for the new year and beyond.  While many people may think about goals focused on their careers or their finances, it is also good to make mental health goals. Health and emotional goals have the potential to make a significant improvement on all areas of our lives.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Factors in peoples lives, interpersonal connections, and physical factors can all contribute to mental health disruptions. Looking after mental health can preserve a persons ability to enjoy life. Doing this involves reaching a balance between life activities, responsibilities, and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.

Stress is unavoidable.  We all feel stress at different times and in different ways in daily life.  Much of this stress is caused, or is perceived to be caused, by external factors, thus making us feel helpless. This is why it is critical to learn and develop new ways to minimize the negative impacts of how we experience stress and its psychological and physiological impact in our lives. Developing these tools and techniques is a part of achieving psychological resilience. 

To succeed in meeting goals, you need to identify your Why”. What is the real reason behind your goals? Your goals should be personal to you and your unique needs; not just something that sounds good. They need to be rooted in your values and reflect what you truly want for yourself, especially when it comes to taking care of your own mental health.

10 ways to use good mental health goals to build resilience for 2022

1. Ditch those diet trends and eat nutritious balanced meals 

Take care of and be kind to your body. Focus on health basics and your bio-individuality. Figure out what food choices work for you. Eat nourishing meals filled with unprocessed foods, whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, whole grains, quality fats, protein and carbs. Stay hydrated. Cook fast and simple healthy meals.  Learn meal prep to alleviate stress. Get the right nutrients in your body first and optimize your supplements if needed. Your mind and body will get the fuel to handle what life throws your way.

2. Move more often

Movement is a form of self-care and has significant impact on mental health. Do whatever form of physical activity you enjoy. Your mind and body are connected, and movement affects the way you feel. Lift weights, do yoga, run, do Zumba, walk your dog, stretch in the afternoon, take frequent mini breaks when you’re sitting all day — every little thing will add up.

3. Sleep enough and well

Good-quality sleep is restorative, refreshing and essential. Taking steps to ensure you’re getting enough of it is a powerful way to prioritize your wellness. Fixing your sleep can change everything. Yet, it’s hard for us to realize that what we do throughout the day has such a profound effect on our sleep time. Learn about the ways you can optimize your sleep.

4. Make time for mindfulness and get out in nature

Spending two hours a week in nature can make you healthier and happier, according to a new study. Your body evolved feeling the cold, sweating in the sun, touching plants, seeing trees, and eating real food. Nature teaches us that there is nothing wrong with us.  In fact, studies show that people’s body image improves by focusing on nature. Time slows down. Ecosystems embody harmony and balance. Quietly witnessing this balance and harmony renews our appreciation. As we remove the chaotic noises of society and replace them with sounds of nature, we become calmer.  Get more of the natural world into your daily life. Go to your local park. Take a daily walk outdoors. Eat outside. Pay attention to the patterns in nature. Studies show that connecting with nature reduce stress, improve mood, and increase energy. And you may hit your daily recommended dose of sun exposure — it’s great for your vitamin D levels too.

5. Meditate and breathe

Meditation teaches you to be present and mindful, and it’s easy to do — even in the middle of a stressful day. Start with a simple guided meditation or deep belly breathing.  There are some great apps and videos to get you started. Whether it’s through yoga or meditative breathing, one way of calming body’s stress response is by building breathing exercises into your routine.

6. Connect with friends, family and community

Emotional self-care means finding ways to connect with other people in your life. Even if you have a tight schedule, schedule time to talk to friends who make you feel supported — strong social relationships are associated with stronger mental and physical health.

7.  Do a digital detox

If you cringe every time you hear an alert from your phone, take it as a sign technology is stressing you out. Mental self-care includes stepping away from your phone and notifications, whether it’s just for an hour or an entire day.

8. Set boundaries and establish when to say yes” and when to say no”

Pay attention to and respect your feelings. If you’re feeling stressed because of a full plate, it’s okay to turn things down. That’s how you build and enforce boundaries to protect your mental health, personal time and physical wellness.

9. Journal and write gratitudes 

Gratitude is a healthy journaling practice because it helps you focus on the positives, not linger on the negatives — and that shift has been shown to support your mental health.  Build it into your morning and/or night routine.

10. Keep things organized

Clutter is correlated with higher cortisol levels, according to a 2010 study. Piles of stuff around are a reminder that you have things that need work, and that’s just another reminder to add to your list of stressors. Take care of yourself and your space by cleaning up one room, one space, or even one drawer in your home at a time.

Healthy goals look different for everyone, and the actions you need to take today to achieve your goals might be different than those tomorrow. What matters is that you’re taking care of yourself, advocating for your health and finding what works for you and makes you feel good.