My Mental Health Declaration to Myself

My Mental Health Declaration to Myself

At the end of 2020, I want to feel more in control of my situation, my work-life balance and my body.

As my dad always used to say, “We all have s… we have to deal with.” Unfortunately, he was right: Over the last 10 years, I have certainly had my share of “s…,” including mental health and physical health challenges, and challenges that seem to mix the two so that my chronic illness undercuts my mental health, or mental health issues like stress and anxiety inflame my chronic illness.

I have determined for myself that this must change.

Of course, I cannot just decide for my chronic illness to be over. Nor can I change what is happening in the world and to my friends and family. I can’t prevent the situations that cause these challenges. But I can have an influence on how I deal with these things, and I can work on both my physical and mental health to build my resilience so that I’m better able to deal with future challenges.

For me, I’m setting short-term mental health goals for the rest of 2020. But let’s start with the end-state. Here is my declaration to myself:

At the end of 2020, I want to feel more in control of my situation, my work-life balance and my body. I want to feel more empowered to be creative again and less perpetually tired.

Sounds like a plan, right? (I would not be me without a plan.) So, here is what I am going to do to help get from where I am now to the desired end state.

  1. I will be more active on a daily basis. I already play tennis twice a week, but I want to make sure I do something for at least 30 minutes every day (outside of walking my dog at snail’s speed).
  2. I want to sleep more regular hours. This is a tricky one, because both my dog Douglas and I have chronic conditions that regularly wake us up at least once if not more times per night. So, I am going to have to become better at falling asleep and see if there is something that we haven’t thought of for both of our treatments that will get us through the night.
  3. Since a great source of calm is my dog Douglas, I will set aside 1 hour of quality dog time every evening before going to bed, instead of going straight from work to bed because I work late.
  4. Caring for my emotional health is not just physical. I feel happier, more serene and generally more optimistic about life if I have time to write. Journaling helps me channel emotions and it is a habit that I keep even through the toughest times.
  5. Creative writing is a source of imagination, of refreshing my mind, but has been a hard habit to keep up with travel and 16- to 18-hour workdays. It is a double-edged sword, since creative writing also gives me impulses to bring more creativity back into work. Therefore, something has got to change. Starting in July, I will set aside some time every morning to write and will write at least a few consecutive hours on the weekend. Every weekend, until I get back into the habit.

To help me accomplish these goals, I got myself a smart watch that can measure all kinds of stuff, including sleep cycles (I am still a techie after all). I hope that by becoming aware of how I spend my time, I will be better able to prioritize activities that focus on both mental and physical health. That’s my 2020 plan for resilience – that activities promoting mental health will feed back into activities supporting physical health, maybe even positively impacting my chronic condition. Another thing about goals is it helps to have someone holding you accountable, so I hope you’ll check back with me at the end of 2020 to see how I’ve done!