Achieving Balance in 2024
The start of a New Year brings about new beginnings, resolutions, renewed hope and a clean slate to many. However, to the millions that suffer with mental health struggles, the new year could be daunting, overwhelming, and scary. Some individuals with mental health problems see the new year as another opportunity to fail or disappoint and it can bring about a sense of dread. It is common for people with mental health issues to struggle from a lack of motivation or focus. This, many times, results in procrastination, an inability to follow through on even simple tasks. It can cause sleep issues, withdrawal, isolation, and avoidance. There are often feelings of guilt and shame for feelings and behavior. We might have the best intentions of making positive changes in the year to come as we look at January 1st on the calendar. However, due to the wars waged in our minds and the negative emotions we experience, it may be impossible to find long lasting success. This can increase adverse feelings such as hopelessness, worthlessness, shame, depression, and anxiety, which can be detrimental to overall mental wellness. It can also bring about a lack of balance in our daily lives. That lack of balance only exacerbates the negative emotions we may feel.
January is Mental Wellness Awareness Month. What better time to recalibrate our minds than a time when all is new? It is a time to highlight the need to prioritize our mental health and attend to our overall emotional wellness. When you write that statement out, it seems so easy – like, “All I have to do is follow a script!” However, the practicality of making oneself a priority and engaging in simple steps to improve mental health can be a hurdle we struggle to achieve. Let’s talk about some practical ways to bring balance to our overall mental wellness in 2024. Small steps can bring about substantial improvements and start to build upon small successes. For it is the smaller battles in life that prepare you for the more significant ones.
What does it mean to “be intentional”? The definition of intentional is “to be done on purpose; deliberate”. This is one of the most important steps when we are trying to heal, whether emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Deliberate and purposeful small tasks and actions can lead to long lasting and transformative results when done regularly. Practically, this can look like checking in on your own mental health and becoming more in tune with your own needs. Being intentional can also be making it a habit to take care of oneself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually in some way every single day. Caring enough about yourself to be purposeful in your mindset of healing can bring huge rewards.
Ask for help and lend help to others.
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a weakness. Oftentimes, people hesitate to seek treatment or help because they feel they are weak if they need help. However, we are all human and each and every one of us needs help sometimes. In today’s modern world there are so many options for help from counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, online support groups, books, podcasts, apps, churches, and social media forums. Help is easier to access than ever so do not hesitate to utilize it. It can also be very healing to help others. You can volunteer or reach out to a friend or family member and offer to help them or be a shoulder for them. Research shows that helping others or volunteering can improve overall mental well-being.
Look for reasons to be grateful.
Gratitude changes perspective which can increase feel good neurotransmitters and impact your mental health in a positive way. Keeping a gratitude journal or doing a making a list of 3-5 things daily that you are thankful for can bring about significant changes in your mental health.
Achieve present mindedness with mindfulness/meditation.
Being present minded…what a concept. Most of us spend our lives thinking about our past or worrying about our futures which leaves us in a spiral of depression and/or anxiety. The reason is because we cannot change our pasts and our futures are still uncertain, which increases fear. Learning to be more present minded is crucial to maintain balance and wholeness in our lives. Taking even 5 minutes a day to engage in a mindfulness practice (which can be made easy with tons of apps available or exercises on YouTube) can reduce age related brain degeneration, improve mood, sleep, and cognitive functions, and has an impact on the grey matter in our brain and the hippocampus. Mindfulness seems daunting at first as our minds tend to wander but be patient and consistent and over time the practice becomes easier.
Nourish yourself in mind, body, and spirit.
One key element to achieving overall mental wellness and balance is to make sure you are engaging in activities that nourish your mind, body, and spirit daily. We tend to neglect ourselves due to the busyness of life, and our mental health is what suffers the most. Taking baby steps every day to increase your self care can lead to feelings of contentment and rest. People can feel guilty or overwhelmed by self care, however it is essential to our well being. Just like they tell you when you are on an airplane to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you try to help anyone else. One needs to tend to their own mental, physical, and spiritual needs first so that they can be better equipped to be there for their loved ones.
Carve out time for family and friends.
Isolation can be common among those struggling with depression, anxiety, etc. and it can be very dangerous. Isolation can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair. Studies show that spending time with loved ones that uplift and encourage you can combat these feelings of hopelessness and despair. Engaging in activities that bring you joy and laughter with your support system are medicine for the soul.
Explore ways to build resilience and cope with stress.
Having a “coping skills toolbox” on hand and ready for the days when you are lacking motivation or a desire to feel better can be very beneficial. You can fill it with reminders or lists of healthy coping skills or items such as word finds, adult coloring books, journals, fidget toys, positive affirmations or scriptures, devotional books, breathing exercises, grounding exercises, thought stopping techniques, essential oils, peppermints, etc. Get creative and use items and activities that can help you cope mentally, emotionally, and spiritually so that if one does not help you have others to try. You can also look into vagus nerve exercises to help reduce stress levels and help your body learn to be in its rest and digest state on more of a regular basis. Learning to build resilience and cope with stress is similar to building a muscle. It takes time, consistency, and patience however it can become stronger over time which can help your overall outlook and mental health.
As 2024 begins and we put 2023 behind us, I hope that this article can serve as a guide to begin focus on becoming more aware of your overall mental well-being and engaging in baby steps daily to establish more BALANCE in your life. As the tortoise and the hare taught us, slow and steady wins the race so start small and build upon your successes. At The Center we are here to help you on your journey so please do not hesitate to reach out.