Throughout my teens I religiously made New Year’s resolutions that were always around my appearance, losing weight and not snacking. At the time I thought nothing of them. Each year I would try and lose weight because I thought that it would definitely make me feel better… all until 2007 when I was admitted to a mental health hospital. I was seriously ill from anorexia. My New Year’s resolutions had gone too far.
Ten years on, I manage my recovery and now use my resolutions each year to focus on my tips for staying mentally and physically well. I have realised that this is far more important than following this year’s dieting. This year, these are my tips and I encourage you to do the same. Ignore the voices in your head that tell you that you don’t deserve to look after yourself or feel valued.
Tip 1: Self-care, and lots of it!
Self-care is everywhere at the moment (if I hear one more thing about the importance of self-care…!) I am excellent at telling people to take days out for self-care activities, but the reality is I am terrible at doing this for myself. I spend far too much time focusing on other things in my life. So my plan this year is to do one self-care activity every week. For me, this is having a coffee in one of my favourite cafes, getting my nails done, watching a girly movie. Will you join me in this? There are so many amazing ideas online if you need ideas for things to do. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just things we do for ourselves. And YES you do deserve to do this!
Tip 2: Know what motivates you
When I was in hospital and in the depth of my anorexia I wrote down what motivated me to get well on prompt cards. I would carry them around in my pocket so that if things got tough I could pull them out to remind myself. It meant I didn’t have to think when I was having a bad day and it helped me keep on track when life seemed so tough. Whilst I now don’t need to carry these cards around in my pocket, I have them in my recovery box under my bed just in case. This New Year, spend some time making a list of why you want to get well or stay fighting and use this to help you fight.
Tip 3: Don’t let the bad days win
Don't let one bad day throw you. I have days when I don’t get up and days when I try on my entire wardrobe feeling completely trapped. But I now know that if you have a bad day the best thing to do is let it finish and then write it off. The next morning, however hard it is to wake up, start afresh and give it a go again. Recovery isn’t a straight line and can be hard work, but it is definitely achievable. It’s well worth fighting to get to a point where you can manage it.
Tip 4: Be built up by people around you
Have people around you who build you up and make you feel good. This is a tricky one, but you need those people. You need people who you trust and who understand you, or at least try to. You need people who don’t get fed with you if you’re going through a bad patch and who will take the time to learn how to respond. This New Year, look at those around you. Are they good for your mental health? Are they building you up? Are they on your team or are they knocking you down?
Tip 5: Keep talking
Talk. Probably the most important of all my tips, and one that I do struggle with from time to time. When I first left hospital I had become excellent at sharing how I felt. However, nine years later after my Grandma passed away, I didn’t feel able to express myself. I hated feeling all this emotion so I shut myself off from those around me and resorted to my old ways of living. After nearly taking my own life I knew I had a choice to make: either I gave up or I talked about how I felt and I fought back. And so I talked. This relapse taught me that no, I wasn’t weak, but I must keep talking. Opening up is scary but it really helps!
So here’s to the New Year!
By Hope Virgo, Author of 'Stand Tall Little Girl'