So I recently started reading “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” by Gretchen Rubin. The book is all about figuring out how to break bad habits and make good ones, in order to build happier, stronger, more productive lives. Sounds awesome, right? I’ve been struggling for months. I want to “eat healthier” but I can’t seem to make it stick. Same with exercising, budgeting, sleeping more and being more organized at work. I also would love to figure out concrete strategies that I can use to cope with my mental illness and deal with the daily symptoms that I experience.
The past few months have been pretty ridiculous, even by my standards. I had a urinary infection, food poisoning and a sprained ankle within the same three weeks. Then, I had a bit of a mental health breakdown, experiencing extreme anxiety symptoms such as derealization and depersonalization. I had to miss over a week of work. Then, just a few weeks later, I woke up with appendicitis and had to get emergency surgery, causing me to miss another week and a half of work. It really feels as if everything that could be going wrong, is. And I’m terrified that this streak will continue, with more awful shit being piled on, over and over again. I don’t feel anymore as if I am in control of my own life. It is overwhelming and scary and I feel like I am in a constant state of anxiety.
I’m inspired by the book, however, to try to take charge and make changes that will help me gain control of my life again. According to Gretchen Rubin, research suggests that people feel more in control and less anxious when engaged in habit behaviour. I don’t think it’s impossible. I know it will be a lot of hard work but I’m willing to do it and I think it’s worth it. I’m actually a little bit excited. I keep trying to imagine a life where I feel healthy and happy, and I have to say, it’s an appealing image. Gretchen says that for a happy life, it’s important to cultivate an atmosphere of growth. I’m ready to start growing.
Next Thursday is my last day of work before the holidays. I know people always make fun of those who make New Year’s Resolutions, but I really feel as if this winter break is a perfect time to relax, recharge and start off the New Year with a clean slate and a fresh start. I have so many dreams and goals for myself. It’s a bit ambitious and I need to start slow, but I hope that 2017 will be my year to turn my life around. I want to be a good employee, co-worker, friend, family member, partner, neighbour and community member. I want to make a difference. And the only way that I can have an impact on the world around me is if I make changes on a personal level first. What’s that saying? You can’t pour from an empty cup. I’m eager to move beyond engaging in self-care into changing the world. But it’s going to take baby steps.
So how exactly am I going to change my habits? And which habits am I going to change? According to Gretchen, there are seven areas in which most people want to improve their habits.
- Eating and drinking more healthily
- Exercising regularly
- Saving, spending, and earning wisely
- Resting, relaxing and enjoying life
- Accomplishing more and stopping to procrastinate
- Simplifying, clearing, cleaning and organizing
- Engaging more deeply in relationships
As someone who dives head first and tries to take on the world, all of that sounds good to me. I’m going to try to work on each area in some capacity, because I truly believe that all seven are truly important and life-changing.
What is the main habit I want to pick up? Going to therapy on a weekly/bi-weekly basis. I think this fits in with number seven, because you are engaging more deeply in a relationship with yourself when you go to therapy. I used to see a therapist weekly for over two years but then one day, I just decided to stop going. Sometimes it was really frustrating because I felt like I had nothing to talk about. So I don’t think weekly will necessarily work for me, unless I’m going through a bad patch and need a lot of work. But I think attending therapy in general is really important because it provides a safe space to talk about my problems and anxieties and figure out how to address them in a healthy way. Funnily enough, I don’t think I really clicked with my previous therapist, but it became a habit to see her. So I’m on the hunt now for someone who will truly help me, versus just someone who will listen to me and provide a few comforting words.
I also want to start doing yoga. I feel that it would help me with my flexibility and strength, of course, but I also think that it would help me be more mindful and help me focus better at work and even in personal activities like reading. I love to read but lately (the past few years) I spend much more time on Netflix. Why? It’s a lot more passive. I feel constantly that I do not have the mental energy to focus on a book. And that’s kind of depressing. So I need to find ways to improve my focus.
I also want to start meal planning and keeping a food journal. I am constantly saying that I need to eat “healthier” but then I make terrible choices, especially when I am at a restaurant. If I keep a journal and show it to my nutritionist, I will be more accountable because someone else will be reviewing what I ate. Why is it important to eat healthy, especially for mental health and mental illness? Well, there is a lot of research that suggests that eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and unsaturated fats will help improve your mental health. Research has shown that high-fat dairy, fried, refined and sugary foods increase risk of depression. I also personally feel that eating well makes me happier because I know that I am taking care of my body. Also, losing a bit of weight would have a huge impact on my self-esteem. Meal planning will help me take control of my diet. It will also help me save money.
So these are MY New Year’s Resolutions (well at least some of them). What are yours, if you have any? If you don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, what habits do you want to change in general? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments below.
Cross your fingers with me that the New Year will bring good things for me! Here’s hoping to a year that is not impacted by my mental illness.