I decided against New Year’s Resolutions this year. Mainly because I wanted to avoid all that ‘New Year, New You’ bullshit that makes people feel like crap and, quite frankly, is bad for my mental health.
Last year was far from my best. I spent most of it swinging wildly between feeling okay and feeling super depressed.
But it also wasn’t my worst. There were still a ton of positive things that happened.
I started CBT which really helped kick start my recovery from depression. I moved into an apartment that I love. I started socialising a little more and finally got back into exercising. My relationship with my boyfriend became stronger than ever. I started a new job; then I quit that job and started another, better one.
After last year’s progress, I feel optimistic about 2019 already; but I know that it will take a lot more hard work to get to where I want to be.
Here are just a few of the ways I plan to stay firmly on track with my recovery and become happier, healthier and stronger in 2019.
I absolutely love exercise. I never thought I’d hear myself say that because exercise was always a chore; a way to lose weight. But when I exercise for the sake of exercise and getting fit I really do enjoy it. And my head loves it too.
When I’m doing regular physical activity my depression is more manageable and I generally feel happier and more motivated.
I say this with caution however, because it has taken me a long time to get here.
I know full well how debilitating the effects of depression can be and after years of regular running and Muay Thai, my mental health struggles caused me to drop all forms of exercise for 18 months. It can be pretty difficult to drag yourself out for a run when you can barely get yourself out of bed.
It actually took months of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to get me back running. The me of two years ago would have just found that crazy. But now I’m getting there. Slowly but surely.
Work on my Self-Esteem and STOP DIETING
This is the real biggie for me. I’ve always had a difficult relationship with my weight and body image. And as a result, I’ve also had a pretty complicated relationship with food.
It wasn’t until this year, and with the help of a therapist, that I really started to understand just how disordered my eating habits and thoughts around self-image really were, and just how much they have impacted my mental health.
I’ve designated 2019 the year I finally start to tackle those issues once and for all. I’m declaring a ceasefire with my body. That means attending counselling for my body image issues and stopping dieting once and for all, in favour of a more intuitive approach to eating. Although I’m not entirely sure where to start with that second part yet. I have, after all, been on a diet for near enough 18 years by this point!
But I’ve come to realise that dieting really has done nothing for me. Nothing at all. It hasn’t actually achieved the weight loss I set out to achieve and it certainly hasn’t made me happy.
So here’s to a diet-free 2019.
Socialise, Socialise, Socialise
Of all the negative side effects of my depression, losing my ability and desire to socialise was one of the worst. I went from being a complete social butterfly to being a bit of a hermit.
I’m kind of okay with that though. It’s difficult to find the energy to go out socialising when I’m battling a whirlwind of thoughts in my mind. And I’m trying not to beat myself up over all the things I can’t quite manage yet.
However, spending time with friends and family does definitely lift my mood and help keep my depression at bay. So I plan to work towards doing much more of that in 2019.
Show Compassion to Others
A couple of weeks ago, someone gave me some unsolicited advice on what I should do to ‘help’ my metabolism and therefore my weight.
Given the aforementioned self-esteem issues, its perhaps no surprise that this was quite a damaging comment for me to hear. But even more damaging was the anger I felt towards this specific person afterwards. I was fuming! For weeks afterwards I was walking around infuriated at the audacity of it and almost unable to speak to said person.
But that is of course no good for my mental health.
So I came to a point where I just had to let it go. I tried to understand that this person’s comments were coming from a place of low self-esteem and more reflective of their own issues and feelings about themself than anything to do with me. By having compassion for this person I was able to feel less angry and consequently, in a much more mentally sound place myself.
Last year didn’t include anywhere near enough travel for my liking. After such a long period of living a transient lifestyle, I was simply enjoying being at home.
But now my travel bug is back in full force and it has some making up to do.
So for 2019 we plan to take a different trip each month, even if its just a small trip somewhere in the UK. So far we have plans to go to London, France and Italy. Any other suggestions are very much welcome!
Get More Sleep
I’m nowhere near as emotionally resilient as I used to be. My mental health is highly dependent upon maintaining a very careful balance in my life. When things go off-kilter; my head very quickly follows.
Too much alcohol, not enough exercise, too many working hours, not enough time spent outside. All can negatively impact my mental health. But by far the biggest contributor is sleep. Just a few days of poor sleep can seriously knock me off balance and cause my emotions to get all out of whack.
But I’m so terrible at setting and keeping a sleep schedule. Just one more episode of whatever Netflix show I am watching. One more chapter of my book. One more drink in the pub before heading home.
I’m not going to kid myself and say that those things won’t happen anymore. I absolutely know they will. But I can at least try to improve.
So there we have it. All the ways I plan to stay happy and healthy in 2019. A resolution of sorts. Not to change or ‘better’ myself but just to focus on my own self-care and self-esteem.
For anyone reading this who doesn’t suffer from depression, this all probably seems a bit bloody obvious. Like ‘Duh…of course you feel better when you’re exercising and getting enough sleep’. But for the depressed mind, sometimes things aren’t quite as obvious and looking after yourself can feel like the hardest thing in the World.
Happy 2019 Everyone! Here’s to making it your happiest and healthiest year yet!