2020 was one heck of a year. I had high hopes for 2020 after some devastating losses and realizations in 2019, but clearly, my expectations were a bit too high.
This year, I want to be conscious of my mental health and my self-care routine. I’m not trying to use buzzwords here: I mean I need to do the hard things that I know are good for me.
If you’ve ever been depressed, you know that everything suddenly becomes a struggle. So this year, I’m prioritizing getting dressed every morning despite not leaving my house, washing my face morning and night, and setting aside time to move my body. These are all things that I have been known to push aside from my daily routine in favor of being sedentary and sad (which is a very good slogan for being depressed: sedentary and sad). However, things like having good hygiene or starting off my day with stretching pretty much guarantee a happier, more productive day. So why have those things been so hard for me?
I had this realization in therapy recently. I often find myself in two states: Anxious or Depressed. Anxious Me operates at the risk of burnout but does in fact get things done. Depressed Me operates at the risk of digging myself a little depression hole: I essentially do nothing because that feels safer than doing something that could make me anxious, upset, frustrated, stressed, etc. When talking to my therapist about how I cycle through these states, she noted that I can choose the middle ground. I’ll put a disclaimer here and say that, obviously, mental illness is not a choice, but this was something I needed to hear. I operate in my own comfort zones. Depression is a comfort zone. Anxiety is a comfort zone. There come choices during my day where I pick either the anxiety-inducing option or the depression-spiraling one. Really, there’s often a third choice: a middle ground.
When making choices throughout the day, it is important to note not just what feels good and comfortable now, but what will feel good and comfortable later. For example, I know that moving my body makes me feel better, but I don’t often feel as though I have the energy to do so. However, setting aside time (especially in the morning) to do some light stretches is low-effort and leaves me feeling better about the day ahead. Committing to an entire workout regime puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself that often leaves me wanting to just do nothing at all. Ensuring I do some light stretches or unstructured yoga in the morning, however, makes me feel like I’ve done something good for my body without exerting a significant amount of energy. It also is an activity I consider to be productive. If the feeling of productivity continues, I could do some more intense workout moves, but if not, I have still moved my body that day. There is no judgment if I decide not to work out, but rather compassion for myself for doing something that benefits both my body and my mind.
Taking care of my health— mental, physical, and emotional —should be my priority. In 2021, I’m looking to find more middle ground, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming months of self-compassion and growth.