The past two years have been full of adjustments. And while we’re looking forward to a brighter 2022, continuing COVID-19-related worries (from new variants like Omicron) can make traditional New Year’s resolutions stressful to stick to. But who says you need to take a traditional approach to self-improvement?
“The problem with resolutions is that they can create an internal struggle, says Anne Klein, psychotherapist. “One where you debate between what you think you should do and what you want to do.”
Instead, make 2022 the year of mental health. This gentler approach can both:
- give you space to think about what you want to change to feel better, and
- help you stop creating unrealistic goals that make you feel worse.
1. Create a new morning routine
If the chaos of COVID-19 upended your day-to-day life, create some structure with a 2-minute morning routine.
“Start by reflecting on your first thoughts after you wake up. Then replace stressed or negative thoughts with positive affirmations,” suggests Klein. “It sounds trite, but it can make such a difference in how you start your day.”
A simple mantra like “I’m good enough. I can handle anything that happens today” can shift your thinking. It can help you feel primed and ready to take on the challenges of the day. In fact, practicing optimism has benefits for both your health and your finances.
“You can also take a minute to make your bed for added structure,” advises Klein. “You’ll instantly feel more at ease.”
2. Avoid watching or reading too much news
Politics, climate change and the ongoing pandemic create a steady stream of negative news. One from which it can be tough to turn away.
“It’s almost like when you’re on a highway and you pass the scene of a car crash. Our instinct is to look,” says Klein. “But it can become overwhelming to focus on issues outside your control.”
Of course, you want to remain aware of what’s going on in the world. But if the 24/7 news cycle stresses you out, pare down your news-watching to an hour or two.
Instead, focus on issues within your sphere of influence, or areas of interest. For example, you can:
- Write your MP about an issue that concerns you.
- Find a way to donate or give back to an important cause.
- Spend time pursuing intellectual goals, like reading or learning a new language.
3. Find a fitness routine that works for you
Getting active is one of the simplest ways to boost your mental health. But you don’t have to reach a certain weight or physique to make you feel like you’ve achieved something. You’ll get added mental health benefits by simply being more active.
By treating exercise as a goal, you’re more likely to succeed. And feel great about yourself in the process. When it comes to exercise, any activity you enjoy works. Whether that’s walking, weightlifting, dancing, skiing or something else entirely.
Did you cancel your gym membership during the pandemic? You’re not alone. According to a survey by RunRepeat.com, almost 70% of Canadian gym members aren’t returning to the gym. If you’ve switched to working out at home and crave group exercise, try an online fitness challenge.
4. Stay socially connected this winter
For many, winter can be miserable. Especially January when the holidays are over, bills are coming in, and dark nights makes you want to stay home. However, staying inside can have a negative impact on your mental health. It’s no secret that the pandemic and social distancing led to more social isolation.
Try looking for ways to get yourself out there in the New Year by joining a group or club. For example, you could join a book club, or try volunteering. This way, you get out of the house and tackle the “January Blues.” You may end up making new friends, increasing your confidence and finding a year-round hobby. This can all help to improve your mental health and wellbeing.
“It can feel all-too-easy to fall into a rut,” says Klein. “But try to make sure you’re making personal connections.”
5. Get mental health help when you need it
You’ve got a lot on your plate, including the:
It’s no wonder the New Year can be tough. Talking to a counsellor or therapist for support can help. The empathy, care and support you’ll get from a professional can help you reduce stress and live brighter in the New Year.
Here are a few ways to get some help:
- Do you have employee benefits at work? Check to see if your benefits include an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This program offers free virtual counselling or therapy sessions for employees and their families.
- Lumino Health’s provider search can help you find mental health-care providers in your community, including psychologists. Many health-care professionals even offer virtual appointments or e-therapy sessions.
Do you have benefits with Sun Life?
Sign in to mysunlife.ca to get your coverage details.