The new year is just around the corner, and most of us are probably more than ready to leave 2017 as far in the past as possible. These last twelve months have been jam-packed with a whirlwind of political turmoil and stressful events, but now, it’s time to unwind, take a deep breath, and set an intention for the new calendar year. One of the focuses for many of us will probably be self-care, and reducing stress in our lives in 2018.
Setting resolutions about self-care are super important, but you shouldn't stress about being 100 percent on top of your mental health. If you feel discouraged because you never seem to achieve the goals you set at the start of the new year, you’re not alone. According to a 2013 study from the University of Scranton, only 8 percent of people actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions. However, there are small steps you can take towards making resolutions last long term: Researchers at the University of Southern California and Harvard University discovered that the key to achieving big goals is by setting smaller ones, and rewarding yourself after taking small steps towards it. So, instead of expecting yourself to magically change in the next year, focus on the slow progress you are making in the moment. Here are 12 New Year’s resolutions to help you prioritize self-care and your mental health in 2018.
1Schedule calendar time for self-care
Sometimes, self-care is treated like an afterthought that only happens after everything else on your weekly checklist is complete. Make a resolution to actually schedule time for yourself this year, just as you would a meeting or event. Creating tangible reminders like calendar invites, or phone alerts may help you make moments for self-care a more regular part of your daily routine.
2. While you’re at it, date yourself
No, seriously. A 2015 study conducted at the University of Maryland showed that doing solo activities is actually good for your health. Self-care doesn't have to always mean staying home taking a luxe bath (although that counts), so take yourself out to dinner, or catch a movie alone every once in a while.
3Know your triggers or stressors
One of the best ways to prevent undue stress is by being aware of what causes you to become nervous, fatigued, or upset in the first place. Make a list of your specific triggers, and try to pay attention if one of them is happening. Self-care isn't just about calming yourself after the emotional storm, but preventing it if you can.
4Regularly detox from social media
A 2017 survey from the American Psychological Association found that people who consistently check their phones — whether their apps, texts, or email — report higher levels of stress. Make a resolution to take a day (or more realistically, a few hours) to disconnect from technology and chill out. This is especially important for people who need to consume a lot of news for their jobs. (Editor's note: it me.)
5Pay attention to the physical indicators of stress
6Set goals to try new coping skills
7Cut out toxic relationships or people
Your environment affects your mental health at every stage of life and development, so surrounding yourself with supportive or health friendships is key to keeping healthy. Cutting out toxic people does not just apply to people you know personally — it can mean unfollowing an Instagram or Twitter account that makes you feel bad. You should be your number one priority; try not to compromise your wellbeing for others.
8Engage your different senses in self-care
Everyone has default coping skills they go to for self-care, but try to expand your wheelhouse with self-soothing tools that intentionally engage your five senses. If you normally visualize, try to close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Or, try engaging scent with essential oils. You may discover a new way to center yourself that works even better than skills you've utilized before.
9Take care of your healthcare needs while you're not sick
When you have a surge of energy and feel like adulting, this is the perfect time to schedule your doctor's appointments — including therapy — ahead of time. Doing this helps ensure that when you don't have the energy for self-care, you don't go for prolong periods of time without any health care needs. Make it an achievable goal for January to schedule your checkup for this year in advance, finally find a therapist, or take care of other health needs.
10Reset your sleep hygiene
Sleep plays an essential role in maintaining physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life; basically, without a proper sleep schedule, everything else can begin to go a bit haywire. Set a resolution to reboot your sleep hygiene, and reset your internal clock if you have not had a decent night's sleep in a while. You can do this by simply sticking to a bed time, eating meals at regular hours, and making a few lifestyle adjustments to induce a normal sleep cycle.
11Practice mindfulness in a new area of your life
Mindfulness is a wide-ranging topic, but some habits of mindful people including listening to the cues from physical health, expressing gratitude, and being creative. Pick an area of your life, from romance to finance, that you neglected in 2017 and make awareness around it a priority. Self-care for you may be simply discovering what form of mindfulness you need in your life, and taking baby steps to achieve it.
12And don’t worry if you can’t or don’t want to do these things
Despite what some wellness gurus may lead you to believe, self-care is not a competition. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. Being patient with yourself, allow room for mistakes, and don't become to hung on succeeding at every single resolution you set at the beginning of the year, or heck, any of them. Mental health and self-care require ongoing, lifelong maintenance — there's no finish line, and no need to rush your progress.