Self-care – and learning how to make it a part of your daily life – plays a key role in maintaining good mental health, and that’s essential to your overall health and quality of life, according to Rachel Rohaidy, M.D., a board certified psychiatrist with Baptist Health Primary Care. “The good news is that, for many people, good mental health is attainable.”
According to Dr. Rohaidy, who also serves as medical director of The Recovery Village at Baptist Health, mental health is more than just the absence of a mental illness. “It’s made up of many things, including your emotional and mental wellness,” she says, adding that it’s important to give some thought to your mental health every day. “Take an opportunity to review what you’re looking forward to this year, with an eye to improving your relationships, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and achieving your goals.”
People make New Year’s Resolutions every year, Dr. Rohaidy notes. Most of the time, however, they make the same resolutions year after year and never reach any of their goals. She suggests rephrasing our resolutions from broad, declarative statements to thoughtful, introspective questions.
“Instead of telling yourself, ‘I want to lose weight,’ or ‘I want to be healthier,’ try asking yourself, ‘How do I get to a place where I feel like taking better care of myself?’ or ‘Where can I have more energy, better health and more satisfaction, and celebrate my accomplishments?’” Dr. Rohaidy suggests. “Your answers to questions like these can help guide you toward what is important to you – this year and beyond.”
Embracing the “3 A’s of Change”
Practiced by mental health professionals to help patients achieve their goals with sobriety and addiction issues, the “3 A’s of Change” – awareness, acceptance and action, always executed in that order – are the mantra for healthy changes and growth to occur in all of us, according to Dr. Rohaidy. “Only when we are aware of and accept the fact that something in our life needs changing are we able to take the actions necessary to make those changes.”
Creating successful resolutions
- Think about what you want the year to be and what that looks like to you.
- Make your resolutions normal goals and things that you feel you can attain. You may have to make changes, but change acknowledges that you are engaged.
- Set boundaries on your work-life balance, which is a huge piece to achieving your goals. Set limits and learn how to say “No.” Try to avoid the negative outcomes that come with trying to do too much.
- Review your resolutions.
- Accept the fact that you’re going to fall short on your New Year resolutions. It’s not a failure, it’s a given.
- Take steps every day toward achieving your resolutions.
- If you haven’t reached your goals after five years, rethink them.
Reducing stress, increasing happiness
Because it robs us of our ability to see things objectively, stress can be an impediment to making progress toward our goals and achieving personal growth, says Dr. Rohaidy. Instead of wasting time worrying about things that you can’t control, she recommends doing things that make you happy. “When you do little things that improve your mood, you start feeling better,” she says.
Dr. Rohaidy offers these ideas on you can decrease your stress and increase your happiness:
- Read a good book.
- Listen to music.
- Exercise 30 minutes a day.
- Try to sleep 7 to 9 hours a day.
- Engage your brain by learning a new language – it’s fun and offers an escape from your stress.
- Try cooking, meditation and other activities that can help break up your day and counter stressful feelings.
- Find a daily routine that works for you.
- Eat comfort foods that make you feel happy.
- Sing in the car.
- Put down your digital devices and get out of the house.
- Pay it forward and focus on others – volunteer, do good deeds, offer to help a friend.
- Spend time with people who make you happy – as humans and social beings, we need to be able to connect with others
Even things that are good and positive can still be stressful, cautions Dr. Rohaidy. “Getting married, starting a new job, welcoming a new pet into your home – things like this typically bring positive stress,” she says. “But it’s still stress, and you should be aware of how it’s affecting you.”
Most important to being happy, productive and stress-free, says Dr. Rohaidy, is maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and that starts with knowing what works best for you. “Finding that sweet spot isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight,” she says. “Focus on staying positive and creating your work-life balance and then go from there,” she suggests. “Everything else becomes easier from that.”