So, you’ve resolved to do something for yourself. Good for you! I hope it’s going well so far. Unfortunately, if you’re like a lot of people, you’ve found that it’s really hard to stick with a New Year’s resolution. Then, instead of feeling motivated and excited and better, you feel disappointed and potentially down on yourself for not being able to follow through.
If you’re finding it hard to stick with your plan, read on. I’m going to offer some tips for how to actually follow through with a resolution.
I saw a cartoon a while back that said, “My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.” Oh man, did that resonate with me. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a difference in my baseline level of anxiety over the past two years. I can tell it’s related to politics and all the upsetting things I read about on the news every day. So many feelings arise in response to all of this: anger, helplessness, confusion, guilt, fear, indignation…It’s hard to know what to do next sometimes.
I will say that the intensity of these feelings has decreased over the past six months. I think that’s due to some changes I’ve made in my daily routine and strategies I’ve been using to cope. I’m going to share several of them with you here.
Maybe you’re a student about to go away to college. Maybe you’re a parent about to send your kid to college. Congratulations!! Going away to college can bring up a lot of emotions, ranging from excitement and pride to anxiety or some sadness. While I hope that you or your child love(s) college, it doesn’t hurt to think about a few things in advance. This is especially important if the person attending college has a history of mental health concerns. Here are a few things to know:
“That gave me a panic attack!”
“I was having an anxiety attack!”
Do these phrases sound familiar? Maybe you’ve said them yourself in reference to a situation you found very distressing or anxiety provoking. If yes, what did you mean by it (aside from the obvious, which is that you felt very anxious)? Did you know that a panic attack is actually a defined set of symptoms? When someone says casually that they had a panic attack, they may or may not be talking about the actual clinical definition of a panic attack. If you are wondering what a “panic attack” entails, read on.
We learn so much in school while growing up. I learned math, science, reading, how to speak Spanish, music theory, history, etc. What I DIDN’T ever get, unfortunately, were lessons on how to take care of myself and regulate my emotions. And guess what? I really could have used some of those when I was in my teens and early 20’s.
Unfortunately, in school and in many professions, neglecting your needs is normalized and praised by others if it means taking on more activities, getting better grades, increased productivity, more income, etc., even when it is at the expense of health. Many people become very practiced in mastering academic or job-related tasks, but haven’t had much experience in how to combat negative thoughts, or soothe themselves when they are very anxious, or structure their lives in a way that promotes well-being. Furthermore, many of us don’t give ourselves permission to prioritize our health over achievement and productivity and buy into the idea that we are “weak” if we can’t handle the stress.
Consistently ignoring self-care and mental health in favor of productivity can eventually lead to burnout, anxiety, depression, decreased productivity, and host of other negative outcomes. Of course, some people work really hard at self-care and still struggle with anxiety and mood, and that’s ok too. Oftentimes, I work with people who experience overwhelming anxiety and depression and have trouble handling the intensity of these emotions. So, one of the first things I do with a lot of clients is to create a coping plan. This is a practical task that can be useful for people who struggle with intense emotions that feel frightening, intolerable, or unmanageable.