The New Year Can be a Clean Slate for the Mentally Ill, Tooby Natasha Tracy - January 11th, 2016
Natasha Tracey is a professional writer and author for Bipolar Burble. She currently worked as a freelancer for Canadian drugs online.
When you wake up in the New Year, you may look at everything like it’s fresh and new. It’s why people make New Year’s resolutions – because the New Year can be an opportunity for us to turn the page and start anew.
However, if you wake up on New Year’s Day and you have the same mental illness as last year, thinking of January 1st as a clean slate can be much more difficult.
What Is a Clean Slate, Anyway?
When people say that the New Year is a clean slate, what do they mean? People mean that they can leave much of what they don’t like about themselves behind while looking to improve their selves in the New Year. A clean slate is just that: it’s a way of letting go of the past in order to take control of one’s life and create a future that one want for oneself.
But What about New Year with a Mental Illness?
The trouble is, people with mental illnesses can’t simply “let go" of them. It’s not possible to say “goodbye" to bipolar like it is to bad eating habits as bipolar just doesn’t go away; and if your mental illness has been affecting you daily all last year, it’s likely going to continue to do so.
Of course, for all of us there are things we can’t change, but there are still ways to consider the New Year a blank state in spite of mental illness.
What You Can Do to Create a Blank Slate in the New Year Even with a Mental Illness
Here are some tips on creating a blank slate in the New Year you can feel good about if you have a mental illness:
• Make amendsMany people with mental illnesses feel trapped in the past because they have hurt others due to their mental illness symptoms. You may have, for example, lashed out at loved ones unfairly on a repeated basis (maybe even over the holidays) and that can make you look back instead of looking to a positive future. To help this, make amends to those you have hurt – whether it was mental illness-related or not.
• Make a plan to undo the harmIf you’ve had a year where you’ve sent your life into a tailspin because of your mental illness, make a realistic plan on how to deal with it, now. For example, you may need to set up a financing plan in order to pay off debt or you may need to work on getting a new job. This plan should slow and steady. Tough problems like these won’t go away overnight and that’s okay. Whatever you need to do, make sure it’s positive and forward-looking.
• Take stock of your mental illness treatmentThe New Year is a perfect time to take stock of your mental illness treatment and ensure that it’s as effective as it can be with the fewest side effects possible. If you find that your treatment goals aren’t being met, talk to your treatment providers and try to tweak things to make them better. You could also consider changing treatment providers if the one or ones you have aren’t working for you.
• Try a new treatmentUnless your mental illness is in full remission, you can always do better in controlling your mental illness symptoms. To do this, try something new this year that offers promise for something better. It might be meditation practice, exercise or joining a group that teaches cognitive behavioral therapy. No matter what it is, it can help keep you focused on your positive future rather than your past.
• Stick to your treatment planIn addition to possibly adding to your treatment plan, make a promise to yourself that this year you will stick to it, especially if you haven’t in the past. Remember, you can’t move forward in a positive way unless you take care of your illness first.
• Make new social connectionsIt is an unfortunate fact that many people with mental illnesses do not have enough social connections as mental illnesses tend to be an isolating factor. Fight this by joining a support group or joining a club for something you enjoy. Social connections can keep you better, longer and help you if things do get worse.
• Avoid unrealistic resolutions and expectationsIt’s okay to make goals for the New Year, but make them SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable and time-bound. In other words, “eat better" is not a great goal whereas, “join a gym and work out every week for the next three months" is much better. The worst thing you can do is to create a goal that is not realistic as this just sets you up for failure and sets you up to feel bad about yourself.
While it may seem like every years is the same when you have a mental illness, this isn’t true and these tips can help you create a clean slate in the New Year and take control over your illness and your life.
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