2019 has been A Year. It’s the end of the decade, which, insert 200 mind-blowing emojis. The year was filled with highs (Baby Yoda! Anytime Lizzo does something!) and lows (a less enthusiastic list containing the further destruction of our planet, burnout, and the return of platform sneakers). “Is there an option to ctrl-z things IRL?” I have found myself asking pretty frequently. There is just a lot happening at all times, which puts a strain on our mental health.
That said, there were some good moments for mental health this year, as the stigma around it continues to disappear. We reflected on the past year to see the pieces of advice got us through the year. And while I personally believe there should be a moratorium on the word “reflect” during the month of December (see also: my notes about saying “Winter Is Coming), it does feel apt here. So without further ado, Well+Good editors share the best mental health advice they received all year.
1. Delete Instagram on the weekends
“Instagram is my one social media vice. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a must for work, but I’ve taken to deleting it on the weekends and filling my would-be social media moments with other things. Even if it just means staring at my shoes on the subway platform.” —Kells McPhillips, staff writer
2. Ask for help
“I am generally a very independent person who likes to solve problems ‘on my own.’ But after struggling with depression and anxiety for months (that’s still ongoing), and editing lots of pieces where editors emphasize the importance of asking for help, I finally said yes to therapy this fall. Just having someone to talk to and validate my feelings has been so helpful, and I’m frustrated that it took me this long to get in the door when I could have used my therapist months ago. It might feel super vulnerable opening yourself up to help from someone else, whatever form that may take, but I cannot recommend it enough.” —Jessie Van Amburg, senior food and health editor
3. Accept that you can’t fix people
“This sounds wildly obvious, and yet it’s a hard lesson I had to learn about a million times before it stuck at, oh, 28-years-old. I have caretaker tendencies and a heavy judgmental streak, so I always want to fix things. The problem is, that drains and frustrates me, especially if I take up difficult problems way above my emotional pay grade. There’s many poignant, poetic stories behind this realization, but to be brief I weirdly babysat a *lot* of drunk strangers in 2019.
“That doesn’t mean you forgo empathy and don’t help your friends. But be discerning about what problems are at your comprehension level, and be understanding that people have free will and they won’t always take your consul, however good you think it is. We’re on our own journey.
“The best sub-advice I got (via psychological astrologer Jennifer Freed) was to channel my caretaker tendencies through my work, not IRL. So if you’re a controlling, emotionally-decimated empath, become an advice writer.” —Mary Grace Garis, lifestyle writer
4. Utilize non-traditional solutions
“I was complaining to mental health warrior Jen Gotch that I can’t afford cognitive behavioral therapy, which is the only effective treatment for chronic insomnia, and she gave me some tough love. She was basically like, ‘Hello, it’s 2019, we have the internet and Amazon.’ In other words, if you can’t buy, DIY. I was talking about reforming health care so that mental health services become more accessible and she was like, ‘Okay, sure, but that’s not going to happen fast enough to help you.’ It was like being dunked in cold water, but ultimately I felt super empowered by this advice. I bought a workbook called Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks and while I’m sure it’s not quite as good as the real deal, it’s definitely better than nothing.” —Erin Bunch, contributor
5. Embrace loneliness
My therapist told me to try embracing the feelings of loneliness I had been experiencing instead of trying to solve them. At first, I was skeptical, but then decided to book a solo road trip through California to see if I could find peace in being alone. It worked. Her advice, and the subsequent adventure it got me to go on, taught me that there is true value in spending time with, and getting to know, yourself. I still have crappy, lonely days, but I’ve learned to try and reframe them as something empowering and worth growing from instead of wallowing in self-pity. Plus, it’s made me realize that I’m pretty dang fun to hang out with.” —Zoë Weiner, associate beauty and fitness editor
6. Be gentle with yourself
“There were times this year where I felt like I just wasn’t enough—in my career, in dating, in the gym…. you name the category, I probably felt like a failure in at at some point this year. (Anxiety and depression make for really nice, not at all judgemental and mean, companions.) One of the best mental health tips I received in 2019 was to be gentle with myself. Because apparently berating yourself over your perceived failures doesn’t really help and just makes you feel like shit. Who knew?
“I’ve been focusing on being kinder to myself, especially in my internal dialogue. I didn’t realize the deep impact my negative self-talk was having on my self-esteem and my mental health.” —Allie Flinn, contributor
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