A new year can be a time of hope and new possibilities.
And yet … the Israel-Hamas war has continued, with increasing deaths and injuries each day. Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and bias-motivated crimes in the United States all have risen significantly in recent months. The American public has deep political and philosophical divides. Inflation is slowing, but finances are tight for many.
Any of the above may impact individuals in vastly different ways – but they also may only be a glimpse into what is impacting you right now. Illness, grief, domestic violence, isolation, addiction, family conflict, depression, stress, and other challenges may be at the forefront of your mind, even if they are not so prominent in the headlines and daily cultural discourse.
How do we take care of ourselves amid the challenges we are facing? With busy lives, it’s important to make time to check-in with ourselves and try to take care of our emotional needs and well-being.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to life, nor to self-care (shmirat hanefesh). But there are things that both research and generations of experience suggest can be helpful. I am sharing some of them here, with the hope that these ideas will support you in supporting yourself in 2024. I suggest starting with one or two of them.
1. Assess your relationship with technology – and consider whether you want to make any changes. How often do you check the news, and how does that impact your mood or stress level? Is your phone the first thing you see each morning, and is that how you want to start your day? Are there ways you’d like to limit how often or how long you look at your phone? Whatever your goals, awareness and intentionality will likely be first steps on the path forward.
2. Engage your creative side – and strive to enjoy the process. You don’t need to be “good at” something to enjoy doing it. If you haven’t recently, take a step back from an outcome- oriented “productivity mindset” to consider: What sounds fun to you? Cooking, dancing, playing music, painting, sculpting, knitting, woodworking, writing, acting, and gardening are some of the many possibilities. Whether solo, with a friend or partner, in a class, or another context, creating can be a refreshing change of pace from other aspects of life.
3. Spend more time outdoors. Many of us “hibernate” for the winter to a degree. While mobility, health, or weather may limit outdoor time for some, if you are able to spend time outside at least a few days a week, year-round, you may well experience positive impacts on your mood, sleep, energy level, motivation, and more.
4. Connect with other people. Isolation impacts both mental health and physical health. Keeping in touch through texts and emails can be great (and personally, I’m a big fan of cards and letters!) – but these are not substitutes for seeing and hearing each other, whether in-person, by phone, or on FaceTime or Zoom. Humans have historically led much more socially- and communally-oriented lives than many of us presently do. What social connections or settings are meaningful to you? What groups or communities are you a part of? Who can you reach out to?
5. Create moments of mindfulness throughout your day. Even brief pauses to intentionally be in the present can be very impactful. A few times a day, for less than a minute, you might choose to take a few deep breaths, or close your eyes, or tune in to one of your senses. Longer practices can be wonderful, too – but they’re not the only way to experience some of the benefits of mindfulness.
6. Get enough sleep every night. Seven to nine hours per night is recommended for most adults. When we don’t get enough sleep, everything can feel harder and more stressful, from work to interpersonal relationships to relatively minor tasks. Are there routines, logistics, or stressors that could be improved in order to improve your sleep?
7. Reflect on your priorities and your life. It’s easy to fall into “auto-pilot” mode, but that’s not necessarily a recipe for satisfaction. I encourage you to ask yourself: Am I spending my time how I want to? Are there things that are important to me that I’m not doing? Are there changes I want to make? Exploring such questions may open pathways to greater enjoyment and meaning in your life.
8. Reach out for support if you think it could be helpful. A trusted friend or family member, rabbi or cantor, therapist, support group, or doctor may be options. Additionally, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available by call or text at 988, and I list many more free, 24/7 hotlines on my website at centeredperspectives.com/resources.
I wish you a year of health, happiness, and fulfillment! Θ
Eric Eid-Reiner is a therapist in private practice. He meets by video with clients from across Massachusetts. You can reach Eric at email@example.com or 857-353-6133, or find him online at centeredperspectives.com.