Colette Sheridan: In this our year of hope, be sure to look after your mental health

Colette Sheridan talks about the importance of minding your mental health during these times, in her weekly column
Colette Sheridan: In this our year of hope, be sure to look after your mental health

TESTING TIMES: Increased isolation and loneliness can have an impact on people’s mental health. Picture posed by model.

HAVE you broken your New Year’s resolution already?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Apparently 63% of us break our earnest promises to ourselves after a month or less.

Given that we are living in extraordinarily difficult times, it’s important not to be too hard on ourselves. Because metaphorically beating ourselves up over our perceived weaknesses is a losing game.

You’re just going to be in a permanent state of dissatisfaction, never feeling good about yourself, if you buy into that feeling of inadequacy.

Which is why I’m surprised at one of the findings in a new survey carried out by Motivation Weight Management on New Year’s resolutions. It found that of those questioned, 77% feel positive.

Really? The economy is in freefall, people are losing their jobs, many are becoming unwell with Covid-19 and some tragically are dying from it.

Whatever positivity that is out there is no doubt due to the vaccine effect. Ryanair’s latest slogan is ‘vax and go’, which I’d certainly like to do on one level. But on another level, my suspicion is that it will be a long time before the vaccine is fully rolled out — and then we have to see what length of time the vaccine actually works for and just how prevalent Covid is going to be in this, our year of hope.

The daily figures are horrendous. When are we going to see this damned virus obliterated?

As someone on medication for depression, I live in a certain amount of trepidation about falling prey to the Black Dog. But so far, so good.

I’ll keep taking the tablets and will continue going for walks in the bracing cold, wrapped up against the elements.

I try to do the mindful thing, focusing on my breath, being fully present as I walk (well, kind of) and, most importantly of all, keeping in touch with friends and family on the phone.

Where would you be without human contact, even if it’s not face-to-face?

Last year, I wrote about having had a ‘good Covid’ after the first lockdown. The slower pace of life was welcome, there was the novelty value of the spin-off effects of this virus which saw us hunkering down at home, watching a lot of telly and comfort eating. We were all in this together. (We weren’t really, of course. Frontline workers risked their lives every day in their jobs. I am lucky to be able to work from home. Many people are trying to get by on pandemic payments.)

I no longer experience anything positive arising from Covid-19.

Granted, I haven’t been sick with it and nor has my family, for which I am grateful. But I have friends with vulnerable elderly parents in nursing homes which is heartbreaking for all concerned, given the restrictions.

This year has got off to an awful start with unprecedented numbers of people diagnosed with Covid-19. We really are paying for those who partied at Christmas.

Yet, despite the misery that prevails, 85% of people surveyed said they’d make New Year’s resolutions. The number one resolution is to lose weight (59%). Some 25% promise to drink less alcohol.

My resolution is quite simple (in theory) but may prove to be a bit of a challenge.

As a result of dumping the detritus of my life and packing up only what I need for the big move to a new house this week, I am going to live in a more minimalist fashion. Because accumulating stuff is a waste of time (and space). I’ll be living in a smaller home than what I’m used to. So being tidier is my main goal.

It’s not a very dramatic resolution. I will probably continue eating too many crisps. I take my comfort where I can! And that includes looking after my mental health.

This month, the annual First Fortnight Festival takes place. Ireland’s mental health, arts and culture festival is celebrating ten years. As part of it, the public is invited to partake in a virtual event taking place from 6pm to 7.30pm tonight and it’s free.

It’s called ‘Dear Diary, My mental health during the pandemic... (email your thoughts to info@mentalhealthreform.ie).

Organised by Mental Health Reform, the idea is to tell one’s own mental health story in response to the pandemic in a 300 word diary entry.

The event will display and explore some of the themes raised in the diary entries — both good and bad. The idea is to look at how our mental health system will need to change to support those who need it.

Some people who may have never experienced a mental health challenge before may have felt the emotional impact of public health restrictions — the increased loneliness and isolation. Everyone has their own mental health story to tell. Get writing!

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