New Year can be a challenging time, especially if you are living with depression or bipolar. You may feel motivated to work towards new goals or feel stuck in the winter blues. We gathered some tips from YAC on how they reinvigorate their wellness journey when the new year begins.
I love to set goals for myself, but I have never been someone who places special value on the New Year. I’ve always thought any day is a great day to make a new goal for myself and a positive change in my life. That being said, I have grown to appreciate grace. As someone who has perfectionist tendencies and has struggled with an eating disorder, I recognize that I can become obsessive and unforgiving with myself.
Right now, I am trying to get back into the habit of exercising. I played varsity and club soccer in high school. My college fitness center was well-stocked, and membership was included in my student fees. Now, as an individual with a full-time job and a part-time course load in graduate school, I’ve let my physical fitness slip. I could have set the same fitness goal I had in high school or undergrad; two hours of workouts six days a week or a five-mile run every day. However, that level of activity doesn’t fit into my life anymore. Instead, I want to exercise three to four days a week for at least 30 minutes each day. Still, there are weeks I don’t meet that goal; I may be sick or incredibly busy with work, school, or family. Or I may just need a few lazy days to handle depression symptoms. I’ve found that it is best to give myself grace. Rather than obsessing over “missing” my goal, I can recognize my life circumstances and try again next week. A realistic goal, paired with forgiveness, is my best strategy for any goal.
The new year can bring up a lot for me – from quiet reflectiveness to pensive sadness to renewed determination. Especially since my diagnosis of bipolar II disorder nearly 10 years ago, I have wrestled with sometimes feeling like I am “too much” and other times like I am worthless. As time has gone on, I have used the new year as both a wellness check-in and a gentle reminder to myself that I am enough. Towards these ends, I think about what I did practice (e.g. taking my medications regularly, staying connected with those who are important to me) and what would further nourish me (e.g. being more mindful of my body when it signals needing rest, actually enjoying my breaks rather than worrying about what is next). I also try to view the new year as an opportunity to set intentions, which I take on as more thematic mantras than a specific and measurable goal. For example, this year is to “stay in the moment” and be kind to myself. Lastly, I will say creating my own new year traditions has brought more joy and fulfillment, whether getting a massage or spending time with loved ones over a good meal (noodles are a favorite). The new year can absolutely still feel daunting for me, but it also presents possibilities for growth and exploration, which keep me moving forward.
Instead of creating super specific New Year’s resolutions this year, I actually have decided to try something different- gratitude and tenderness for last year. I feel like this puts my new year in perspective and helps me feel grateful and more upbeat about each new day that passes without too much pressure to meet deadlines or goals and then feel really bad about them. There are many things I did wrong last year, just like there are many things I will do wrong this year. But hey, I’m human and I’m learning and growing each day. When days get tough in the future, and they will, I have to remember to be grateful and kind to myself for getting me here. That same person who got me here now is the same one who will get me further if I allow her to exhibit the greatness she has stored. Last year, I was afraid of swimming due to a near-drowning incident as a child. I took swimming lessons last summer and now I swim weekly for fun because I love the water so much. Out of all the things I accomplished, that one specifically made me the proudest. There is something amazing you have done, even if it was getting out of bed and showering and brushing your teeth, you did it! Gratitude and gentleness.
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, it can be easy to set unyielding goals that don’t match our values. Going up against unrealistic or drastic change is hard and doesn’t support consistent and permanent changes and growth. Instead, try setting feasible goals to achieve your resolution by the end of the year. Use emotional measures of improvement instead of hard deadlines or numbers. Set resolutions that come from your purpose, passions, and what brings you joy. Create a tangible plan with small, detailed steps. It’s a marathon, not a race!
One year I set a resolution to enjoy life. I had been focused on surviving that I wasn’t even living. So, I took a good look at myself and what was important to me. What made me feel good? What made me feel bad? Part of my resolution plan was to ask these questions and answer them. My first steps were to change my mindset, do more fun activities, and be intentional with the people and activities I was creating space for. Even further, how do I make my resolution plan enjoyable? You can force yourself to go to the gym every day, cut out sugar, or read to spend less time on your phone. But how can you enjoy that? Where do you even start?
The answer is, of course, at the beginning: you! Identify what goals will support your purpose. Break down the objectives to meet those goals and work out the details. Approach it one step at a time, solidify the habit or process, and then move forward. Most of all, find a way to enjoy the process, whether you do it with friends and family, at your favorite locations, or while listening to your favorite songs. Celebrate each step you take and keep your goal in mind. Just remember progress is progress whether you meet your resolution or not.