Mental Health

Developing Mentally Healthy Goals

Developing Mentally Healthy Goals | Libero Magazine
It has taken me a lot of time to begin to fully rearrange my priorities to actually make recovery my goal. It has been the most rewarding, life-giving, worthwhile battles I have ever engaged in.

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I could get a perfect GPA. I could volunteer for four clubs, three teams, and two community service organizations. I could develop a perfect study, exercise, and eating regimen. But I don’t. Not because I am too lazy, too irresponsible or too foolish to pursue those goals, but because those are not my goals.

For many years, perfection was my goal.

If it could be done, it had to be done. If someone else did it, I had to do it as well. If I failed to be perfect, shame filled me with despair and dread.

When I began my recovery from depression and an eating disorder, I slowly realized recovery needed to become my new goal. It could not just be an additional goal. It could not become a subset of my perfectionism.

I also began to realize for me, recovery wasn’t just about freedom from mental illness. It was about recovering myself: my passions, my strengths, my ability to love well. It was about recovering the goals that bring life, both to me and to others.

It has taken me a lot of time to begin to fully rearrange my priorities to actually make recovery my goal. It has been the most rewarding, life-giving, worthwhile battles I have ever engaged in.

Through my life-recovery journey, I have formed a passionate goal to provide grace and hope to people. I have formed a passionate goal to pursue the things that fill me up with love and allow me to pour it out. I have formed a passionate goal to put love and relationships first and live in the here and now.

My new goals fill me with joy, fulfillment and hope.

They have helped me escape the habits that keep me entrenched in depression, and have helped me form new habits that keep me from falling as deep as I used to.

However, even though my life-recovery journey has been the best journey I have ever been on, it has also been the most difficult journey I have ever taken. There have been voices of shame, accusation and terror throughout my journey that have threatened to drown me.

There have been many, many days when I have longed to return to the “safety” of perfectionism. There have been many days when I longed for the “simplicity” of well-defined goals, those with no risks like the ones encountered in goals involving other people.

I began to pay attention, and found the most frequent trigger of such thoughts was being around people who seemed to share my pre-recovery goals.

When I saw people pursuing perfection or working harder than I was, I began to feel the familiar tug of the temptation to trying to be the best.

When someone told me they had stayed up late studying last night, I would feel guilty for sticking to my goal of prioritizing my body’s need for sleep. When someone told me they had not taken a break all week, I would feel ashamed of myself for taking a break each day to rest or invest in my relationships with those dear to me. When someone told me about their exercise or diet regime, I would regret my decision to eat and exercise intuitively.

I would face a strong temptation to return to my old goals and the habits, those that would surely pull me into a relapse. Although I am still on the journey to life-recovery, I have found a couple ways of fighting this trigger I hope may help those of you in the same position!

First, I found I have to write down my goals and post them on a prominent place.

For me, this is my desk and my agenda.

Living with the Triggers of Others | Libero Magazine

There are many ways of doing this. You may want to make a bullet-point list, write a mission-statement for your life, or like me, make a list of the quotes that sum up your life-goals. I have posted the quotes, “Your greatest success is whatever success you achieve when you are living the most excellent life you actually enjoy” and “I want to inspire people. I want people to look at me and say, ‘Because of you, I didn’t give up’” all over my belongings and dorm room.

Having your goals written down provides a clear-cut antidote of truth for the lies that will surely enter your mind when you are being triggered. When you are tempted to feel guilty for pursuing your life-recovery goals and to return to your old goals, seeing a concrete reminder of the decision you have made can be critical!

Especially at the beginning of your journey, writing goals can also serve as a gate-way between strict, perfectionist living which prioritize accomplishing, and a life of holistic health, which says you are worthy in and of yourself. It allows you to see healthy habits and non-perfectionist approaches to life as steps towards a goal until you are strong enough, to see them as things you a worthy of in general!

Secondly, it is important to remember everyone is unique.

Some people do best when they study all week, and take the weekends off. Others do best when they take small breaks throughout the week.

Some people are energized by certain volunteer opportunities or clubs, and others are depleted by those and energized by one-on-one time with a few close friends.

Some people feel best when they work out more than you, others feel better when they work out less than you.

For those of us with depression, a doable schedule for someone without this added battle may be completely unhealthy for us. For those of us with a tendency for perfectionism, a strategy to embrace one’s potential which works for someone else may become a conduit for unhealthy mindsets for us.

When the voices tell us to compare ourselves to others, we need to remember we are not them. We have unique strengths, weaknesses, struggles, personality characteristics and most importantly, goals. At these times, we have to return to our goal-lists and remind ourselves other’s goals do not change the value of our goals.

What are you goals? I encourage you to write them down.

What are some steps you can take today to pursue these goals and avoid allowing triggers, especially other people’s goals, to get you off track?

I encourage you to write down the unhealthy thoughts you have when you face a trigger, and then write down a rational argument against it!

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Elizabeth currently holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is planning to work towards becoming a licensed clinical social worker. Elizabeth feels blessed to have been surrounded with support during her journey with depression, and she is passionate about using her experiences and education to bless people in the same way she was blessed. She hopes that as a contributor to Libero, she will be able to provide very practical support.

SITE DISCLAIMER: The opinions and information shared in this article or any other Content on our site may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Libero does not provide emergency support. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433 or another helpline or 911.