Take Care of YOU in 2024

On the eve of their new year, the ancient Babylonians promised their gods that they would repay their debts and return things they had borrowed. The tradition found its way into subsequent cultures and eventually promising the gods evolved into promising yourself. Today, the tradition takes the form of New Year’s resolutions. The most popular resolutions are to lose weight, eat healthier, get more exercise, or drink less — and sometimes all four.

A Strange Mismatch

While New Year’s resolutions may be a rough measure of how people want to be in 2024, they hide a great deal about how people really are. The American Psychological Association surveyed over 3,000 people in 2023. Among other things, the survey found “more than four in five adults rated their physical health as good, very good or excellent (81%), yet 66% of adults said they have been told by a health care provider that they have a chronic illness.”
There is a bit of a mismatch there, but it’s not the only one. “Furthermore, 81% of adults reported their mental health as good, very good or excellent, while more than one-third (37%) said they have a diagnosed mental health condition.”
This mismatch suggests that many people either don’t understand or are refusing to acknowledge their health problems. I am only speculating here, but I think the mismatch comes from the same optimism that causes so many people to make New Year’s resolutions. While optimism itself is a healthier attitude than, say, pessimism, it may also lead people to ignore health problems that need attention.

Stress Management

Here’s my advice. To be your healthiest self in 2024, don’t ignore any health problems, and don’t just rely on a handful of resolutions to make yourself a better person. You already know how to be healthy. Eat mindfully, stay active, practice recovery (we may be able to help with that), and manage stress.
Stress is responsible for a lot of illness, both physical and mental. So make stress management part of your life. That means avoiding unnecessary stress (I’m looking at you, social media). It means taking control of the things that you can control. Don’t just worry about social problems, for example, volunteer with an organization working to ameliorate them. You’d be surprised at how empowered you feel serving clients in a food pantry or taking calls on a suicide prevention line.
Stress management also means getting as much rest as you need. Observe good sleep hygiene: turn in and get up at the same times every day, turn off electronic devices well before you go to sleep, and keep the temperature of your bedroom in the low sixties.
Finally, spend as much as you can in nature. It has extraordinary restorative power.

Stressors Beyond Your Control

As for the stressors you cannot control, put them in perspective. When it comes to climate change, war, random violence, and strange new diseases, do what you can as an individual. Write letters to Congress, care for your immune system, recycle everything you can recycle, vote wisely. Once you have done what you can, just remember that you’ve done your best to control the worst.
If you still find yourself struggling with anxiety and fear, consider taking a brief vacation from the uncontrollable. Book a float session, a massage, or an infrared sauna. Any of those can take your mind off the stressors for a little while, and even after the session — when the stressors make themselves felt again — you’re likely to feel healthier and better able to face them.
Photo: “Closeup Photo of Primate” by Andre Mouton via Pexels.

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