The Mendocino Beacon
Choose self-care over rigid resolutions
It seems we always start the new year with huge helpings of stress on our plates. Could our new year’s resolutions be a part of the problem? We tend to pressure ourselves into doing the things we think we should do — like losing unrealistic amounts of weight or starting an extreme exercise regimen — instead of investing in simple pleasures that boost our health, happiness, and well-being. This year, I encourage you to worry less about those pesky resolutions nagging at you. Instead, spend the year loving and caring for yourself.
Rather than making changes based on things you think you should do, concentrate on what you like doing and things that make you feel great! Resolving to lose 20 pounds, for example, is likely to become a stressful commitment, but eating more vegetables, maybe even exploring new varieties grown by local farmers here on the coast, is much more doable while still being healthy. Similarly, walking with your dog after work could make a lot more sense than incorporating an intense workout routine into your already busy schedule.
Remember that selfcare means spending more time doing what you enjoy, like being with family and friends. You may also like to incorporate activities that encourage good habits, but it doesn’t have to be in a stressful way that comes at the expense of well-being.
Walking is a wonderful example. Here on the Mendocino Coast, we’re blessed with an abundance of trails where you can choose a different adventure every day, depending on how you feel. Head down to Big River and hike up and down the Haul Road; prowl the sand dunes in search of shells and wildlife at MacKerricher State Park; or go for a walk on the Coastal Trail.
We have so many options that are a short drive away, especially if you already live in Fort Bragg or come into town to run errands. Just tack a half-hour onto the time you plan on being in town and walk through the Farmer’s Market or any of the oceanside trails we have at our disposal. You don’t have to set goals for things like miles walked or consecutive days on the trail. Go whenever you can and enjoy the benefits that come with walking, like breathing clean air, spending time outside, and exploring nature.
Mindfulness, which is the act of keeping your focus in the present moment, is another great way to take care of yourself while dealing with the new year and the overall frenzy of life. Meditation practices that take as little as a minute or two can do wonders to clear your head and reduce anxiety. We tend to feel better mentally and physically when we’re present rather than having our minds drift into the past or the future. There is nothing we can do to change the past, and we only borrow stress by worrying about the future. Concentrating on what we can control is vital to maintaining good mental health.
Journaling is a low-key way to decompress, explore your emotions, and get to know yourself better. Just sit with yourself for a few minutes each day and jot down whatever you happen to be thinking. It could be words; it could be a doodle or drawing. Who knows what hidden talent spending unstructured time with a pad and pen will reveal? In all likelihood, you will become more aware of your feelings and maybe formulate ideas about life goals or make decisions about pursuing dreams. There doesn’t have to be a timeline. There is no deadline. This is about you, and if it sounds fun, try it. If it sounds boring, do something different. Remember, bringing yourself joy and taking care of yourself is the goal. Any of these activities can result in clarity that empowers you to tackle life and its challenges with more confidence.
As we all know, there are apps for almost everything under the sun, including the activities above. Apps can set timers to remind us when to take some deep breaths, a short walk, or drink some water. Apps can guide us through meditation and mindfulness exercises or present us with inspirational quotes on a daily or weekly basis. I have an email that teaches me a new word every day. It is a great way to expand my mind in a tangible way without being overbearing and boring.
Whatever ideas you have about heading into 2023, I hope you keep selflove in mind. Rather than adding stress to your life, learn how to live life with more joy and be kinder to yourself. In turn, you will be more at peace and have a more positive outlook. The past three years have been hard on all of us. It is time to figure out what our new normal is. Each of us must come to terms with the world as it is today. What is your focus? Let’s make it one of thriving, not just surviving.
Lucresha Renteria is the executive director of Mendocino Coast Clinics, a non-profit, federally qualified health center serving as a patientcentered medical home for people on the Mendocino Coast. MCC provides a team-based approach to care, offering medical, dental, behavioral health services, and more. Learn more at mendocinocoastclinics. org.