Written By Dr. Christine Cauffield
2023 is officially upon us. As we approach midnight and bid farewell to 2022, you may be feeling the pressure to set resolutions for the new year while struggling with thoughts of past disappointments or failure to follow through shortly after you embarked on your new intentions. What can you do to maintain a positive mindset as you close out 2022 and begin the new year? How can you maintain your enthusiasm and energy throughout the year and stay committed to your goals?
- Before you begin, take some time to reflect on all your wins in 2022. No matter how seemingly small or minor these milestones may seem, you overcame hurdles to achieve them and to get to where you are today. Celebrate these wins and feel gratitude for how far you have come. Remember that daily gratitude and compassion for where you are right now will help you stay encouraged and committed as you tackle your goals for the New Year.
- Rather than setting resolutions, experts suggest that you set aside some quiet time to reflect on what you want and why. How do you want to feel? What is most important to you? How do you want to spend your time and with whom? Being clear on what matters most will keep you energized and get you on your way to your most meaningful year yet.
- Take the time to write down (or type up) your intentions for the year. Imagine what it will feel like to have achieved them. Spend time each day revisiting them and committing to small actions you can take daily to get you there.
We know that obstacles will get in the way and that the stress of day to day demands on your time may be overwhelming at times and derail your best efforts. So what can you do to retain the enthusiasm and energy you felt when you first articulated your intentions? If you’ve adopted healthy coping and self-care tips to get you through the holidays, the good news is those habits will serve you all year long and keep you focused on hard days. If you haven’t yet adopted practices and habits that enhance your mental as well as overall health, don’t be discouraged. Where you are right now is the perfect place to start. Below, we’ve curated a list of tips to help you reduce stress, maintain positive energy and feel good about where you’re headed all year through. Check it out below, let us know what has worked for you, and do not forget to treat yourself with kindness and compassion every step of the way.
15 Ways to Reduce Stress and Stay Committed to Your Intentions in 2023*
- Talk It Out. The holidays can bring up a lot of emotions, baggage, and discomfort. Maybe you’re stressed about money. Maybe you’re missing a departed loved one. Maybe you’re drained from spending time with difficult family members. Maybe you’re just a few weeks into the new year and feeling discouraged by a never-ending to do list or other caretaking responsibilities. The worst thing you can do is keep everything in, so talk to someone—a coach, a friend, or someone you trust to provide you with a safe space to share and be your sounding board.If you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis, dial or text 988 or click to chat with a trained counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress in the US. 988 is confidential and free.If you are a first responder, we have specialized resources for you and your family. Call 211 to get connected to a First Responder Peer or visit our First Responder Support program to learn more.
- Make Healthy Choices (Most of the Time). If you enjoyed a few too many holiday cookies, that is okay! We don’t believe in a life of constant restriction, and it’s ok to make small allowances and treat yourself from time to time. Just watch your portion sizes and make sure to get back to the foods that make you feel your best as soon as possible. As a rule of thumb, try to make healthy choices most of the time. And remember, too much sugar, salt, fat, etc. can impact your motivation, mood and energy—another great reason to indulge in moderation.
- Carve Out Time for Self-Care. We can’t overstate the importance of self-care every day of the year. But I’ve got too much to do, you may be thinking. How am I supposed to make time for self-care? Our answer: when you are super busy is when you need self-care most. So, make sure to schedule time for you. Even ten minutes can positively impact your mental health, and it’s enough time to get outside for a breath of fresh air, a quick meditation, fit in a quick workout, or chat with a loved one to help you reset.
- Meditate. Mindfulness practice is a fantastic tool for helping you stay focused on the present and self-aware. There are many apps that offer short, guided meditations on a range of subjects to help you center yourself and keep calm through the new year.
- Recite Affirmations. Affirmations are another great way to center yourself and align with your intention for how you want to feel and show up for yourself and others. Try reciting and/or writing the following affirmation over and over when you need a reset: “I breathe in calmness and positivity”. Or pick some other positive statement that aligns with your desired goals.
- Be Active. Fitting in some movement can help you relieve stress and anxiety, boost energy, and just feel better all around. Try to fit in physical activity where you can. It doesn’t have to be very intense or take a lot of time. Even five-minute walks around the block and taking the stairs instead of the elevator add up and can help increase your overall stamina.
- Say No. It’s easy to stretch ourselves too thin in the new year by saying yes to everything. While we encourage you to say yes to the things that are most important to you and align with your goals, we also want to remind you to be kind to yourself, guard your time, and to politely decline anything that drains you or feels stressful.
- Get Enough Sleep. It may be tempting to clock some late nights, but adequate sleep is critical for us to feel our best in mind, body, and spirit and help keep our immune system strong, because no one likes to get sick. Aim to catch between seven and eight hours of zzz’s a night.
- Stay Hydrated. We tend to underestimate the importance of adequate water intake and forget to hydrate altogether when we’re busy, but dehydration can often take a toll on the body and make you feel downright crummy. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces a day and always keep a reusable water bottle on you so you’re never left high and dry. Water helps boost energy and flushes toxins from your system, among other things.
- Limit Alcohol. It’s tempting to indulge this time of year, but as we know, alcohol can impair thinking, cause mood swings, raise blood pressure, lead to poor social judgment, lower inhibitions, decrease concentration, and lots more. Sure, you can enjoy a cocktail, but we suggest following the one-to-one rule—for every alcoholic drink you have, follow it with a glass of water. And during the last hour or so of a party, switch to water completely. Your head will thank you in the morning! If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or other substance misuse, call LSF Health Systems’ 24/7 Access to Care Line at (877) 229-9098 to speak with a mental health professional, obtain a brief screening and get connected to licensed treatment centers and other supports in the 23-county region we serve. Click here to learn more about the resources we offer.
- Breath…and Smile. If the length of your to-do list or other worries are bringing you down, try two things: Take some slow, deep breaths in and out. Studies have shown that this simple act can increase positivity, decrease emotional reactivity, improve brain health, and promote feelings of calmness. Smile (even if you don’t feel like it). Just the act of smiling can uplift you and snap you out of a funk.
- Ask for Support. If you’ve got too much on your plate or you’re feeling overwhelmed, the best thing you can do is speak up and ask for help. People want to help, so reach out and be clear about what kind of support you need most.
- Take a Break From Social. The new year can be stressful enough without falling prey to the comparison game, which social media tends to fuel. So do yourself a favor and give yourself a break from social media as often as you can. We suggest adjusting your phone settings to limit your screen time, instituting social media-free weekends, leaving your phone out of your bedroom at night, and vowing to keep it out of sight during activities that deserve your focused attention.
- Make a Gratitude List. Instead of getting carried away by all the things you need to do, spend some time acknowledging, celebrating, and expressing gratitude for all you have to be grateful. Every night, do a brain dump onto a piece of paper of everything big and small you have to be grateful for. Gratitude has been shown to improve physical and mental health, sleep, self-esteem, increase mental strength, and lots more.
- Ditch the Perfection Mentality. We all want the new year to be the best year yet, but if you’re striving for perfect, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of stress and disappointment. Perfection doesn’t exist and chasing it will only make you hopeless. Let go of having the “perfect” year and be okay with having an authentic, “good enough” one. We guarantee you’ll end up having a happier and more successful year.
We hope these tips help you start the new year with greater focus and priority on minding your mental health. In turn, your overall health will improve and you’ll experience more energy, joy, and motivation as you serve others.