Written by: Brianna Pawlowicz

Looking after our mental health in the new year

The new year can often be a very exciting and joyful time, However it can simultaneously be a daunting, sad, lonely time for a lot of us. We have created a list of tips we think are important to remember at this time.

1. Reflect!

Think back to 2023, what brought you joy? what challenged you? What were you proud of? Reflecting on the year that was, can help us to set goals that are meaningful and in line with our personal values. Let’s ditch the basic, broad and unattainable resolutions. It is important if you wish to set goals that you make them specific, important to you, measurable and have a concrete plan on how you can achieve these goals.

2. Movement!

Whether you are a Pilates princess/prince, a swimming star, nature walk novelist or even a dance party delight, getting our bodies moving is important. Exercise in any form can help improve our mental health and also promote improved sleep. 20-30 minutes is recommended but getting going can be often difficult. You could try to break it up into 5-minute blocks over your day, make a pact with a friend or set yourself an appointment to help motivate you and carve out dedicated time. Make sure the movement you engage in is something that sparks joy, the last thing we want to do is to resent exercise. Find something that fits your lifestyle and works with your brain. Don’t feel pressured to copy others.

3. Find Joy!

Occupying ourselves with activities that spark joy can help improve your feel-good endorphins, help us feel accomplished and will foster positive experiences! When we interact with activities we love and enjoy it can help to reduce stress, improve our mood and wellbeing overall! Hobbies can be anything you love, some examples are cooking meals you enjoy, baking, completing crosswords, sewing, singing, nature scavenger hunts, reading, graphic design, colouring books the opportunities are endless. Get creative and enjoy yourself!

4. Stay Connected!

Connection in any form is so powerful, especially in a time people can feel alone. Reach out to friends and family to say hello even! Sometimes it can be scary to be the first one to message. But it’s likely others are also being held back by this same fear. Reach out and invest in those you have a connection with.

5. Be kind!

It is important to remember to be kind to others always but to be extra kind to ourselves in the holiday and new year season. Let go of the guilt and speak kindly to yourself. The media can often be full of toxic diet, hustle, and new year new me messaging. Take your time to be present and try to quiet the external noise and pressures. Turn your phone off if you need, mute notifications, set those boundaries with people subscribing to these in your life! Remember to practice self-care and prioritise your health also.

6. Control your thoughts!

Our negative thoughts can be overwhelming at this time of the year. The new year can be stressful, lonely and a time of changes and lack of routine. Try and challenge those negative thoughts. Work hard to replace those with neutral or positive thoughts. Remember we are in control of our thoughts and just because we have thoughts doesn’t automatically = truth.

7. Manage expectations!

We can often have unattainable or unrealistic expectations of this time of year. We have come off the back of the festive season for a lot of people and some expectations may have fallen short and contributed to disappointment, frustration and other uncomfortable feelings. It may be attractive to try and overcompensate if we did experience disappointment or were left feeling as thought our past year or festive season didn’t go or feel as we had hoped. It is important to manage these expectations and perfectionistic wishes to ensure that we are not left always falling short and disheartened. Let go of the ‘must’ and ‘should’ traps. A flexible mindset will always be beneficial to help manage setbacks.

8. Give yourself space!

It is important to allow yourself space to feel your emotions. Have patience and grace in knowing our feelings fluctuate. It may be easier to try to ignore or suppress the uncomfortable feelings such as sadness and anger, however allowing yourself to feel the full range of emotions and getting comfortable being uncomfortable for a short time can help us to move past things and emotionally regulate. Notice them, name them, see where you feel them in your body, understand the why and then let them exist without judgment.

9. Its ok to not be ok!!

Remember that it is ok to not be ok and that you are not alone! If you are struggling remember to please reach out for support. The new year is often a time where typical support systems may be not readily available as usual.

Below are support services you can get in touch with:

Crisis Support Services

For police, fire and ambulance services

Emergency Services: 000

24/7 Crisis counselling for all ages

LifeLine: 13 11 14

Free, confidential 24/7 counselling phone service (young people)

Kids HelpLine: 1800 55 1800

Call or chat online with a mental health professional any time of the day or night.

BeyondBlue: 1300 22 4636

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/getsupport/get-immediate-support

Online and telephone support service for young people.

Headspace: 1800 650 890

https://headspace.org.au/eheadspace/

There are also a range of professionally reviewed apps and tools to help your mental health and wellbeing. They are detailed here:

https://au.reachout.com/tools-and-apps

About the author
Brianna Pawlowicz
Brianna is a provisionally registered psychologist, who has completed her Master of Professional Psychology at Cairnmillar Institute and is undertaking her sixth year in supervised practice. Brianna emphasises the importance of having a whole person centered approach to sessions. She is passionate about ensuring clients feel comfortable, relaxed and heard within sessions. Brianna feels a solid therapeutic relationship, collaborative approach and modifying her approach to suit clients needs are all crucial to achieving positive outcomes.
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