The New Year: A Time to Focus on Mental Wellness

I cannot think of a better time to pay attention to your mental health than in the new year. Many create goals related to physical health for the new year, but as important is a focus on mental health. In fact, they go hand in hand; your mental health significantly influences your success in achieving the goals you set around your physical health. What many people don’t realize is January is a time mental health issues often become exacerbated.
Howard Olshansky, JFS Executive Director

While December and the holidays often result in increased anxiety, stress, and depression, the lull following the holiday season can also result in deepened depression. Post-holiday blues can make it more difficult to readjust from the change in routine that happens between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. In addition to the letdown after the holidays, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which corresponds with the darker, shorter days of winter, can have its greatest impact during the months of January and February.

Whether you struggle with post-holiday depression, SAD, or ongoing mental health issues, or just want to plan for “total wellness,” the new year is the perfect time to incorporate activities into your life to support mental wellness. “Proactively taking care of your mental wellness can prevent more serious problems from developing,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. “Everyone has unique circumstances that contribute to maintaining mental wellness. Take some time this January to focus on personal wellness. Simple, no-cost strategies can improve your quality of life and increase your years of life.”

According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are eight dimensions of wellness:

Emotional: coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships

Spiritual: expanding our sense of purpose and meaning in life

Intellectual: recognition of creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills

Physical: recognition of the need for physical activity, sleep, and nutrition

Environmental: good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being

Financial: satisfaction with current and future financial situations

Occupational: personal satisfaction and enrichment derived from one’s work

Social: a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system

Here are some tips to enhance your mental wellness:

Create a mental health wellness plan.

Create a guide of coping skills, people to talk to when you are in a stressful situation, and enjoyable activities to ensure that you maintain the balance between your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Practice self-acceptance. Use the new year as an opportunity to practice self-acceptance.

Put yourself first. Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s important to take time every day for yourself and your mental health. This might include enjoying a hot bath, treating yourself to a movie or, spending time with family or friends. Do what helps you relax and recharge, and seek out experiences that have a calming effect.

Engage in social activities. Join a club, social group, or volunteer group, or find a community with a spiritual outlook you share.

Be mindful of your resources. Be creative about budgeting and spending your time, ener- gy, and finances.

Exercise. Exercising for at least 30 minutes every day can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Go for a walk, take a fitness class, or play a sport with friends and family.

Be grateful. Practicing gratitude every day can invoke feelings of thankfulness and optimism that make managing challenges easier. Don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake —everyone makes them.

Eat well. A balanced diet contributes to both physical and mental health.

Get enough sleep. Most health authorities recommend that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each day.

Finally, if you find you are unable to counteract the post-holiday blues and you are having difficulty managing your daily functions, ask for help. Contact Jewish Family Services at (704) 364-6594, or for more information, visit