When it comes to wanting to improve your mental and physical health, it can be difficult to determine where to start. There’s no “right way” to begin this journey of self-awareness and self-care—everyone is different. However, across the board, it seems like the first common variable is your mindset.
One of the most annoying and, honestly, discouraging parts of trying to improve your mind, body and soul is the idea that you just have to get up and do it. For some of us, it’s not as simple as that, and it’s easier said than done. Popular media and society jam it into our heads that if you can’t just get up and get it done, then you’re lazy and invaluable—that’s simply not true. As someone who can relate to that narrative, I have some tips that have helped me begin to shift my mindset, at least for the majority of the time.
Many small influencers, particularly on TikTok, have talked about this idea of being more general in your goals. Which is crazy, right? SMART goals and literally everything you’ve ever learned about productivity say to have specific, measurable goals. I completely agree! I think when you have the skills to keep those routines and stick to those goals, you should make them as specific as possible. However, when you’re trying to start from scratch in learning how to acquire these skills, keeping your goals reasonable is just as important. An example is the general goal of adding movement to your daily life. Movement sounds pretty broad, but it all depends on your energy levels for the day. For example, a high-energy day may include waking up super early, going to the gym, fixing a high-protein breakfast and being as productive as possible. A low-energy day may look like sleeping in, maybe grabbing a granola bar on the way out and taking a short walk to get some type of movement in. All of this is perfectly okay and can help you form routines that fit you and your lifestyle.
Being able to decompress and give yourself grace is important to improving your well-being. The University of Kentucky has so many free resources that we have access to. Group journaling, group and individual counseling and Koru are prime examples of these. resources. Koru is “an evidence-based program specifically designed with college students in mind to help in the reduction of stress and anxiety while also increasing one's sleep and self compassion,” according to the UK Campus Recreation site, and it’s a great practice one can adapt. To be transparent, I haven’t utilized every one of these sources aside from individual counseling, but I do have friends who have and love them.
On the subject of transparency, it’s important to take into account the setbacks and plateaus of trying to improve any area of your health. Using myself as an example, when beginning my mental health “journey,” if you will, I started out really strong. The first five or six days were great. I walked every day, ate better and more often (being a broke college student is hard out here) and drank a lot more water. The momentum was there. Then, day eight hit, and boy, did it hit hard. It was very discouraging; it was the moment when I normally give up and revert back to my unhealthy habits. However, it made me realize the importance of giving yourself grace. Your energy level one day may be vastly different than the next as previously mentioned. It’s okay to honor that; life gets in the way occasionally. Beating yourself up over every mistake or slip-up won’t help your results. For me, I’ve found it’s best to take one day at a time. Progress and healing are not entirely linear.
I am no expert, but I’m trying all these methods in an attempt to shift my mindset even in the slightest. In 2023, we’re bettering minds and bodies for no one but ourselves, one tiny but valuable step at a time.