New year, new mindset

Laureen Horan

It’s finally January and the ever-so-eventful year of 2018 has come to a close. This is generally the time of year where most people in our nation focus on self-improvement and making big changes. Some people want to lose 30 pounds, some people want to finish their degree and some want to save up for a new car or take a long vacation. 

All of these things can contribute to a better quality of life, but oftentimes people don’t think about reinventing their mental health as much as they think about improving other, more visible aspects of their lives. This year, I encourage all of you who are coming into 2019 with the “new year, new me” attitude to put forth the effort to enhance your mental wellness as a means to make your other goals more attainable. 

Your mental health really is everything. Your state of mental wellness at any given time affects your mood, your relationships, your productivity and the decisions you make. If your emotions are triggered by one small thing in the morning, that one small thing can have a domino effect that can make everything else you do the rest of the day frustrating, disappointing and exhausting. For people who struggle with severe depression and anxiety, bad days can lead to bad weeks, bad months and bad years. Continuous poor decisions being made due to a poor mental state. It’s one thing to set goals, it’s another thing to actually be able to get out of bed in the morning and go out and accomplish those goals. 

When it comes to taking your mental health seriously, start by talking to professionals. Talk to your doctor, ask about mental health professionals in your area who accept your insurance and can help you determine whether counseling, holistic therapy or medications could help you improve your overall mental wellness. 

If you don’t have insurance or you already know that your insurance won’t fully cover behavioral health visits, you still have pathways to bettering your mental wellness. First and foremost, you can talk to the fine folks at the Grand Valley State University counseling center. If you are a current student or staff/faculty member, free one-on-one and group counseling sessions are available to you. Beyond this, any resident of Kent County can contact Network180, a local organization that helps people without insurance get the help they need to take control of their mental health, overcome substance abuse issues and access resources for developmental disabilities.

Beyond therapy, medications and other forms of outside help, there are so many steps that we can all take on a daily basis to enhance mental wellness on our own. Get more sleep, fuel your body with whole foods, stay active, take breaks from social media, pick up a new hobby or learn a new skill, use planners and calendars to stay organized, practice self-care, speak your mind, be helpful to others and remember to count your blessings. 

Whatever goals you’ve set out for 2019, remember that the first step to take in achieving these goals is strengthening your mental and emotional health.