Navigating your way into the new year doesn't require a complete road map... but knowing a few directions, tips, and things to look out for on your way, can help your journey go a little smoother.
Personally, we've weathered ALOT of challenges throughout 2022, things like finances, health, family and relationships, as many of us do. Add in multiple, non definitive MH diagnoses, self-employment, eviction, navigation of MH support and obstacles around obtaining medication, plus various instances of what can only be described as police brutality, and that about sums up our year of '22.
It's been a tough one, but from those challenges, I can honestly and genuinely present to you:
5 New Year Goals We All Need
1. "The Drive"
Regular movement has more to offer than just the physical benefits that many of us are often focused on.
Exercise not only creates dopamine (one of our happy chemicals), but it also creates new dopamine receptors. This hormone and it's receptors affect movement, emotions, and the reward system in the brain (Bhatia, Lenchner and Saadabadi, 2022).
"In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression." Health Harvard.edu (2021)
You're maybe thinking, that's great, but how do you get yourself to exercise when you're experiencing low mood, low energy, already feeling defeated before you've tried, or totally just not in the mood?
When you’re tired, depressed, or stressed, your thoughts will tell you that exercise will make you feel worse. But we're not talking laps of the 'ring here... When you're struggling, try to negotiate a quick, 5-minute walk with yourself.
Lots of sources suggest, that if you begin thinking of physical activity as a priority - as a necessity for your mental wellbeing - then it becomes easier to create time and motivation for it (Robinson, Segal, and Smith, 2022).
"Life is not a race. Sometimes you've got to lift 'n coast till you're able to refuel." JDMClare (2022)
It's a guideline I've set for myself because when I do it, I feel better. Setting a goal that also makes me feel good, is something small I can maintain when my MH gets low. This means that I can achieve at least part of it, even with low energy, and I know it's going to have a positive impact.
Find something small that you enjoy - make it a priority for your mental wellbeing 💚
2. "The Fuel"
Sometimes we can't always fuel ourselves, either... The food supplies are low, the food shop hasn't yet been done, or the energy / mental capacity to produce a nutritious feed for our body just isn't there. I hear you. But here's some reasons that fuelling your body is going to benefit your mental health 💚...
"Our digestive system produces over 90% of all serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone) in our body" - Nicholls (2020).
We Need Carbohydrates to Focus
Concentrate and focus requires brain power - 20% of all energy needed by the body is used to power the brain. We get this energy from blood glucose via carbohydrates.
When the brain doesn't have access to enough fuel, we feel tired, weak, and experience brain fog.
Regular refuels containing some carbohydrates will both help prevent and relieve this.
Food and Low Mood
Low mood, irritability, and even anxiety can be contributed to by rapid changes in blood glucose levels. Fuelling up on foods that release energy slowly (like oats, cereals, nuts and seeds), and aiming to eat smaller portions throughout the day, is a good way to maintain steady blood glucose levels (Nicholls, 2020); a base foundation for a more stable mood.
Our brains also require amino acids from food (obtained through proteins), used to help regulate our thoughts and feelings. A variety of vitamins and minerals are also a key player when it comes down to our MH performance. It sounds like a lot, maybe too much effort at times, but begin small, even if it's consciously adding to your water intake!
"What is one small change I could put in place today that would improve my nutritional intake? Then repeat this every day". Dr Julie Smith (p.60-61)
It helps me to have some basic items that are low effort to prepare, and healthy snacks in the fridge to get/ keep me going. This is where shopping lists are key. I also find it really useful to have some low maintenance recipes, though I have to write these down, 'else they're lost to brain fog when I need them!
I try to consciously enjoy preparing each meal "with love" because it helps motivate me to eat/ cook in the future, recalling those positive vibes and remembering what food is about 💚
3. "The Maintenance"
Getting good quality sleep is a skill, but it's also a built-in biological mechanism. Our "circadian rhythms" work in regulating our wake and sleep patterns. Our body-clocks control most of our circadian rhythms, which influence various factors, such as daily wakefulness, when we start to feel sleepy, body temperature, and direct the release of sleepy hormone, melatonin (NIH.gov, 2022).
Listening for when your body regularly lets you know - it's time for bed - and respecting that, is a good place to begin for better sleep.
🤍 Establish a Sleep Routine - Aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same time, give your body a sleep schedule where you are able to... The amount of sleep we need varies by individual, but as a guide, The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (2022) recommend that the adult body needs 7 hours of quality sleep.
🤍 Wind Down for Bed - avoid going to bed full, hungry, or thirsty, reduce screen activity and brightness, prep your alarms (etc.), put your phone aside, TV off, giving your body and mind time to adjust, ready to relax. Mind (2022) very helpfully suggest various relaxation, meditation, and visualisation techniques focused on preparing for sleep (see resources and reference links at the end of this article).
🤍 Keep a Pen and Paper Nearby - Sometimes the best ideas and the worst of thoughts can come to us as we get into bed. When we get the signal to sleep, we can become anxious about all the things we need to do, or have forgotten to get done. It can be useful to keep a sleep diary for the things that keep you awake. Some sticky notes nearby are also useful for things you'd like to get out of your mind before bed, or just reminders for the next day.
If you are struggling with your sleep or connected issues, it's time to seek some support. Make it a priority for your well-being to speak with a professional. Resources found at the end of the post 💚
4. "The Enjoyment"
During episodes of low mood (diagnosed by my MH Facilitator as 'extreme depression'), I would often question what value I had to offer the world, what I would do without cars, along with asking myself why I was so persistent in maintaining this relationship of 10 years with rusty MX5s. Reflecting in a positive way, appreciating years of unforgettable and irreplaceable memories through the community, would eventually challenge that negative spiral of thoughts, and one day, that question for me changed.
"What would I be doing with my weekends if I wasn't so interested and involved with the automotive scene?"
After revisiting evolutions of this questioning thought more often, it's actually become a motivating process, a way of identifying my core needs. Take away cars and their influence, and I endlessly appreciate nature, am intrigued by all things colourful, and fascinated by the happenings in the wild. Identifying these values has helped me recognise the need to plan in time for activities, exploring other avenues, and connecting with things that bring me joy.
"The more time you spend making real connections with other people, the more you will start to improve your mental health"
Make it a goal of '23 to attend more social activities, beginning with small scale social events if that's what you need.
PITSTOP.Social was founded as a core source of support within the automotive community.
Join us at an event sometime 💚
5. "The Journey"
A phrase that I think many of us can appreciate a version of, is "It's in the journey, not the destination", and the more you think about it, the more that message offers a great and valuable lesson.
For me, it comes down to focusing on core values, living life with enjoyment, being true to myself, and working on finding a little piece of happiness and gratitude in every day.
Being kind, patient, and expressing empathy - being compassionate with yourself and others - is part of the journey, and comes with some additional benefits...
Science supports that connecting with ourselves and others through compassion helps us enjoy better mental health via increasing a sense of connection, lowering the risk of anxiety and depression, lowering stress levels, raising self-esteem, and enhancing a more positive outlook on life (Mental Health Foundation, 2022).
Compassion and Core Values
I'm actively balancing so many thoughts, tasks, responsibilities, feelings and emotions, that my needs can often feel unmet. I'm slowly learning that I need to take the time to listen to myself in a healthy way, with a positive tone, and find out what will bring me inline with my values. This requires talking to myself with compassion, and prevents me from reaching burnout (a phrase I learned far too well, far too often throughout '22!)
The Great Journey of 2023
Whether you joined us during '22, or are discovering us in '23, thank you for being part of the journey. A special thank you to my partner, Ricky at Carfectionery for fuelling the movement with us, and Tom at TopDownMedia for snapping the positive action throughout the year!
Some final thoughts I'd like to share with you...
You can join in with the PITSTOP.Social Automotive X Online Community Network
You're invited to attend PITSTOP.Social Events, Trips, and Gatherings
You can join the PITSTOP.Social Ambassador Project to help us Fuel Mental Health Awareness
If you're able to work on one thing, make this a year of making the mental health conversation, a common conversation.
With premium vibes,
Pacheco and Wright (2022) The Best Temperature for Sleep.
Smithson (2022) What is Social Prescribing?
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (2022) Sleep and Sleep Disorders.