If there ever was a New Year to be mindful of our mental health, it’s 2021. Many of our therapy clients at Good Therapy SF have expressed gratitude that despite feeling overwhelmed at times, they have developed skills to help manage these moments through their sessions with our therapists. The following are some tips and skills we suggest to our clients to help improve their mental health over the new year.
Don’t set yourself up for failure with unrealistic goals
This is a common “New Year” conversation that we have with our talk therapy clients. People have the best intentions, but they set themselves up for failure by creating a goal that is too big or unrealistic. An example of these goals includes “I just want to be happy all the time” or “I’m never going to do X again.”
The problem with large, all-or-nothing goals is they do not provide direction. We need goals that specifically tell us what to do. Instead of saying, “I’m going to be happy all the time” change it to “I’m going to focus on a regular bedtime routine that puts me in bed by 10 pm.”
By focusing on the specific steps that provide direction, you are more likely to follow through on a regular basis.
Ride the Wave
Riding the emotional wave, or “Urge Surfing” is a common therapy skill. The goal of the skill is that through the support of their therapist, clients can learn that they do not have to act or behave in their typical ways when they feel certain emotions.
To ride the emotional wave or urge surf, we recommend to our therapy clients that they look inward, and identify the emotion or urge that they are experiencing at that moment. Then rank the intensity of that emotion from 1 – 10. Continue to do this mental exercise every few seconds until you observe the emotion, or your urge starts to go down.
Doing this exercise teaches that just because you feel a certain emotion or urge, it does not mean you have to act on that emotion or urge.
For example, after the holidays some talk therapy clients choose to have a dry month (no alcohol). To help clients “stay dry” we focus on urge surfing to help with the moments where the urge to have a drink appears.
Developing a more accepting mindset will always help with mental health. It’s important to clarify that acceptance does not mean approval. And it does not mean you cannot act to change the situation. But day-to-day struggles do occur and this is where acceptance is useful. It keeps us from getting stuck in what should have happened and focuses on what we can do moving forward.
There are two steps to help improve an acceptance mentality.
- The first step is to remind yourself to “take what is offered” in a situation. Don’t make the situation worse by wishing something else happened.
- The second step is to ask yourself “what do I want to do about it.” Doing this is a reminder you always have control of your response to any situation.
Like any new skill, acceptance takes time to practice and develop. This two-step approach can help improve that process.
Developing tips and skills for the New Year is a process we go through with most of our therapy clients at Good Therapy SF. If you’re interested in speaking with a psychologist, engaging in talk therapy, or learning more about how to improve your mental health in the New Year reach out at email@example.com.