As the calendar turns to a new year, many of us embrace the tradition of setting resolutions. It’s a time-honored practice, symbolizing a fresh start and the desire for personal betterment. Yet, amidst this quest for self-improvement, a critical aspect often remains in the shadows: the impact of these resolutions on our mental health.
The start of a new year, while filled with hope and ambition, can inadvertently usher in a wave of stress and anxiety. This emotional turbulence usually stems from the lofty expectations we set for ourselves and the societal pressure to achieve these personal goals.
In recognizing this, the importance of adopting a balanced mindset as we step into the new year becomes paramount. It’s about understanding the psychological weight of New Year’s resolutions and tailoring them to be both realistic and achievable. This approach is not just about setting ourselves up for success; it’s also about safeguarding our mental health and ensuring that our journey into the new year is as fulfilling as it is healthy.
The Mental Health Toll of New Year’s Resolutions
Despite their positive intentions, New Year’s resolutions can often lead to heightened stress and pressure. This is particularly true when we set goals that are too ambitious or are heavily influenced by societal norms. Whether it’s aiming for a radical change in our physical health, aspiring for career growth, or seeking to improve personal relationships, the burden of these aspirations can quickly become overwhelming.
The statistics are telling in this regard. Research by the American Psychological Association reveals that about 27% of U.S. adults experience increased stress around the new year, largely due to the pressures of managing resolutions.
Additionally, another paper I read indicated that about 40% of people setting New Year’s resolutions feel anxious about meeting the objective they’ve set for themselves. These tell you just how much the mental strain plays in what should ideally be a positive and motivational endeavor.
Furthermore, not meeting these self-imposed targets can spiral into feelings of inadequacy and diminished self-esteem, thereby compounding mental health issues. Thus, it’s vital to approach goal-setting with flexibility and self-compassion, ensuring our resolutions uplift rather than burden our mental well-being.
Embracing Natural Alternatives for Mental Health
In the realm of mental health, while traditional medications have their place, natural alternatives offer a complementary or sometimes a preferable approach. For instance, St. John’s Wort and B complex vitamins have shown promise in managing symptoms of depression. You may be interested in my other article, St. John’s Wort, Serotonin and Depression.
CBD oil and magnesium are gaining recognition for their calming effects, aiding in anxiety relief. Perhaps you’d like to read my article on that topic, The Crazy History of Medical Cannabis and 5 Potential Uses.
Another natural alternative is better known for its ability to support heart health, cholesterol and triglycerides: Omega-3 fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory properties, have also been linked to improved mood stabilization.
An often overlooked yet crucial aspect of mental health is the role of thyroid hormones. Imbalances in thyroid function can significantly impact mood and mental well-being, including symptoms of depression. Just look at this PAPER from 2022 that states, “Levothyroxine therapy is also used as adjunctive therapy to antidepressants in the management of depression, and it is known to improve the symptoms of depression rapidly when compared to antidepressants alone.”
Addressing thyroid health can be a game-changer in managing mental health. For more comprehensive insights into this, I invite you to explore my easy-to-read paper book “Thyroid Healthy” and also consider the natural supplement ‘Thyroid Script’, which is what I used to help myself. You may want to read my other article, The Top 11 Thyroid Supplements for Hypothyroidism: A Buyer’s Guide.
Regarding the efficacy of these natural alternatives, various studies support their benefits. For example, research published in the ‘Journal of Psychiatric Research’ has found St. John’s Wort to be effective in treating mild to moderate depression. Similarly, read this STUDY about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and mood disorders. It’s a good paper that discusses “Food for Mood.”
Incorporating these natural alternatives into your health regime offers a holistic approach to mental well-being. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, especially if you’re currently taking other medications.
Navigating Mental Health in the Post-COVID Landscape
The post-COVID era has ushered in a new set of challenges for mental health, marked by unique risk factors that demand our attention. The pandemic, with its unprecedented disruptions to daily life, has left a lasting imprint on the psychological well-being of many.
Studies have shown an increase in mental health issues post-COVID. For instance, a report by the World Health Organization noted a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. This spike is attributed to the myriad stresses brought on by the pandemic, including health fears, social isolation, and economic uncertainties.
Interestingly, research indicates that the mental health impact of the pandemic has not been uniform across all demographics. Certain races and ethnicities have faced disproportionate challenges. For example, a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders reported that minority groups, particularly Black and Hispanic populations, experienced higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression during the pandemic. These disparities are often exacerbated by factors like socioeconomic status, access to healthcare, and pre-existing health inequities.
Recognizing these risk factors is crucial in formulating targeted mental health interventions and support systems. It’s a reminder that our approach to mental health must be as diverse and multifaceted as the people it aims to serve.
Mental Health Conditions in the Spotlight
In recent years, we’ve seen a noticeable shift in the prevalence and public awareness of various mental health conditions. Conditions like schizophrenia, Tourette’s Syndrome, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety are increasingly coming into focus, necessitating a deeper understanding and more robust support systems.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted sleep patterns worldwide, leading to an increase in cases of insomnia. This phenomenon, sometimes referred to as “COVID-somnia” or “coronasomnia,” has been widely reported. Factors contributing to this increase include heightened anxiety, stress, disruptions in daily routines, and increased screen time due to remote work and lockdowns. According to several good studies, the prevalence of sleep disturbances was significantly higher during the pandemic, with reports indicating that about 40% of people experienced insomnia symptoms during this period.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):
Similarly, OCD has seen a rise in both the onset of new cases and the exacerbation of symptoms in those previously diagnosed. The pandemic created an environment of heightened fear and uncertainty, particularly around contamination and hygiene, which are common themes in OCD. This has led to increased anxiety and stress, triggering or worsening OCD symptoms. Research indicates that individuals with OCD, especially those with contamination and cleaning compulsions, have experienced more severe symptoms during the pandemic.
- Schizophrenia: Affecting about 1% of the population, schizophrenia is a complex mental health disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and cognitive challenges. Despite its relatively stable prevalence, advancements in treatment and understanding of the condition continue to evolve.
- Tourette’s Syndrome: Often misunderstood, Tourette’s impacts about 1 in 160 children aged 5-17 in the U.S. It’s characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations known as tics.
- Bipolar Disorder: This condition is marked by extreme mood swings, ranging from manic highs to depressive lows. It affects about 2.8% of U.S. adults, with new treatment approaches continually being explored.
- Depression: A common but serious mood disorder, depression has seen a significant increase in recent years. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that an estimated 7.1% of U.S. adults have experienced a major depressive episode.
- Anxiety Disorders: Including various forms like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder, anxiety affects about 19.1% of U.S. adults annually, with a notable increase in younger populations.
Understanding these conditions is not just about recognizing their symptoms, and heavily medicating but also about comprehending their impact on individuals’ lives so that more support can be provided (aside from pharma solutions). It involves acknowledging the importance of personalized treatment approaches, which may also include herbal remedies, psychiatric therapy, lifestyle changes, mindfulness practices, support groups, health apps on the phone, massage/chiropractic or a combination of these. It’s about empowering individuals with knowledge and lots of choices, which respecting their autonomy in managing their health.
Finding Support and Local Groups
Finding the right support for mental health can be a game-changer, at least for some people who are open to it. For those dealing with mental health conditions, connecting with support groups and communities can provide a sense of belonging, understanding, and practical advice from others in the group who have been where you are.
Local Support Groups: Many local hospitals and mental health clinics offer support groups for various conditions. These groups provide a space to share experiences and coping strategies under professional guidance.
Online Resources: Websites like Psychology Today and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer directories for local support groups where you can find a therapist in your area. Online forums and social media groups can also be valuable resources for connecting with others who share similar experiences.
National Organizations: Organizations like the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and the International OCD Foundation provide resources and tools for finding support groups, as well as a list of health apps you or your loved one can download. Click HERE for that. They often list local chapters and online support options.
Community Centers: Local community centers and religious organizations sometimes host support groups. They can be a great resource for finding local, accessible support.
What Can Be Done to Help?
Maintaining a balanced mindset is crucial when dealing with mental health challenges. Here are some tips to help foster mental well-being:
Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can significantly impact mental health. Small changes like incorporating more whole foods or establishing a regular sleep routine can make a big difference.
Mindfulness Practices: Techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety. Even a few minutes a day can be beneficial.
Community Involvement: Engaging in community activities or volunteering can provide a sense of purpose and connection, reducing feelings of isolation and boosting mood.
Professional Help: Seeking help from mental health professionals like therapists or counselors can provide personalized strategies for managing mental health challenges.
Conclusion: Embracing Mental Wellness in the New Year
As we navigate the complexities of mental health in the new year, it’s important to remember the power of a balanced approach. From understanding the impact of New Year’s resolutions to recognizing the increased challenges in the post-COVID era, we’ve explored various facets of mental well-being. We discussed the importance of finding supportive communities, be they local or online, and shared practical tips for maintaining mental health through lifestyle changes and mindfulness practices.
The journey to mental wellness is deeply personal, but it’s a path we don’t have to walk alone. By staying informed, seeking support, and being kind to ourselves, we can all strive for a healthier, more balanced new year.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.