Orla Brady explains why it's okay if your January didn't get off to the best start
It’s 3 January 2019. I open my eyes and see 14:00 glaring back at me in the harsh red light of my digital clock. My New Year’s resolution to get up early and resist the temptation to sleep in or nap by exercising and spending time with family and friends has catastrophically failed only three days into 2019. I am furious at myself, but also perplexed as to why I have given up on a resolution that I had previously been so determined to succeed in.
As somebody who suffers from depression and anxiety, I know all too well the feeling of disappointment that comes along with failing to complete personal goals, both big and small. People who suffer from mental illnesses are always told that, in order to improve our condition, we must exercise, eat healthily, get out of the house and make time for social activities. Although it is true that doing each of these will help our conditions, the pressure of aiming to do these can become increasingly overwhelming during the hype of New Year and the expectation to create a resolution. It is also especially crushing when we see friends and family who do not suffer from a mental illness succeeding in their goals whilst we struggle to complete seemingly simple tasks.
In the midst of the gym membership offers and half price diet cookbook adverts that emerge every New Year, it is important for everybody, especially those with a mental health condition, to remember that the beginning of the year is really no different to any other time and New Year’s resolutions should ultimately be taken with a pinch of salt. Although they do work for certain people as a motivation to improve or change aspects of their lives that they were not happy with in the previous year, resolutions should not be created solely due to expectation. This will only lead to disappointment and frustration.
A few days on from that day, when I convinced myself that I had failed in my attempt to maintain a New Year’s resolution, I realised that is not the case at all. I was not in a good mindset at the end of 2018, with my depression impacting my daily life in many ways. I have always struggled with sleep as a means of escape from my condition and as much as I wanted it to, this was not going to dramatically change at the chime of the bells at midnight on New Year’s Eve. No New Year’s resolution was going to erase the daily problems that I experience due to depression and anxiety. This resolution to avoid sleeping during the day and live a more active lifestyle is a continuous goal in my life, made in order to tackle these conditions, and is not exclusive to New Year. Therefore, being considerably angrier at myself for failing at this than I have been when this has occurred in the past, simply because it is New Year, makes no sense at all and only fuels my depression.
Goals and resolutions are a large part of recovering from a mental illness. They can help to increase motivation and give purpose to days which usually seem empty and purposeless. However, it is important for those who suffer from a mental illness to refrain from comparing themselves to others, and this can prove very difficult when New Year’s resolutions are the topic of conversation throughout the entire month of January. Dealing with mental illness happens every single day - not just for New Year.