Mental Health NY Resolutions
Written by Ricki Greene
With the passing of the beloved Carrie Fisher, I've been rethinking my New Year's Resolution strategy. Every year, I try to pick a project that will enhance either my body, mind, or spirit--in 2016, my resolution was learning how to play an instrument, and it enriched my social and inner life in ways I never expected. In 2015, I pursued learning my family history and doing DNA testing, which tickled my researcher-brain and also unlocked family stories I never knew. This year, in the wake of a pretty exhausting 12 months, I'd been dreading what I would try to focus on next year. And then Fisher passed away.
One of the things I most admired about her was her commitment to normalizing mental illness. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, Fisher's Postcards From the Edge was life changing for me. The way she casually, humorously, and truthfully spoke about living with mental illness confirmed my suspicions that, while mental illness should be taken seriously, society takes it the wrong kind of seriously. Part of her legacy that I commit to picking up is de-stigmatizing mental illness and encouraging myself, and others, to take care of our hearts and minds. Society is so focused on telling us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, not show emotional, be strong, strong, strong--but you know what? That doesn't work for everyone, and the more we drive that message of dismissing feelings and fears, the larger the gap between mental illness and total health becomes.
With that, here are the ways I am committing to taking care of my mental health in 2017. I hope the Force is with me.
1. Move Around More
There have been days where my anxiety has been so bad, that my only exercise is walking to the bathroom to fill another tub to escape into. While that may soothe me in the moment, it's not truly helping me in a consistent, ongoing way. There are tons of studies linking improved mental state to activity, so I want to move around MORE. I'm not going to put limits on what type of movement, how long I'll move around, or under what conditions--mostly I want to encourage myself to do MORE. If some days this means going on an hour long hike, fantastic. If other days it means simply parking at the far end of the parking lot, I'm going to consider it a win. The important thing here is to burn off excess energy, enjoy being in my body, and connecting to the world around me. If you are differently abled, this might mean moving up and down your street a few times, or doing free weights with your arms, or getting into a pool, whatever works best for your body and your capabilities--just try for MORE.
2. Read More Books
Reading is one of my ultimate coping mechanisms, but in the past few years I've noticed that I'm spending more time reading Twitter, Facebook, and news sites than actual books. And frankly, while current events are important, the surrounding conversations on social media tend to wear down my mental stamina. So instead of spending an hour scrolling through my feed, I'll check for twenty minutes and then pick up one of the books I've already placed on my bedside table. I picked a cookbook, a previously read and beloved YA novel, an autobiography, and a couple of graphic novels. I wanted a diverse selection to stimulate all different parts of my brain, and the cookbook will help remind me to spend more time doing something else I love--getting dirty in the kitchen! Which leads me to my next mental health commitment.
3. Entertain More
I love cooking, serving, and nourishing my friends, but it's something I got away from in 2016 due to a busy travel schedule. I feel safe and relaxed in my home, and I know my friends do as well. So to preserve my mental health, make sure I'm spending time with loved ones, and as motivation to keep my home an inviting place, I'm going to host chosen family dinners every Friday the 13th. I picked that date because it's never on a work night, it happens somewhat often but not too often, and it's easy to remember. It's regular enough to have people over and to keep my cooking skills sharp, but not so often that it feels like a chore. More fun, more good food, and more amazing people--a great recipe for staying sane and happy.
4. Sleep More
I'm terrible about prioritizing my sleep. I'll stay awake for any number of chores, some far less important than others. The message I end up sending myself is: trivial things are more important than resting and restoring your body. In 2017, I commit to sleeping MORE. That doesn't mean in bed by a certain time every night, but it means maybe shutting things down early a few nights a week, or forgoing getting up at 6am to work in bed. Small ways, big results. My 2017 motto.