Setting mental health goals is just as important as setting career goals
If someone were to ask me what my goals were for the future, I would say what job I wanted, where I wanted to live or what my family would look like. However, I likely would not mention any mental health goals. College places a big emphasis on career goals, whether it be a dream internship, salary, graduate school or employer. While those are great goals to have, mental health goals are equally as important for our future well-being.
Lanise Singh, who is a therapist at the APU counseling center, points out that people see career, family or financial goals as long term while mental health goals as short term ones with temporary benefits. However, this is not the case.
“Our mental health and wellness, what we do in the present, and what we cultivate daily, emotionally and mentally, helps create the foundation for what we would like to see for ourselves in our future. Pursuing a long term goal includes focusing on the short term steps to get there.”
Mental health is not just a phrase that is used to refer to a disorder such as anxiety or depression. Rather, it is your psychological well-being, which consists of the way you feel about yourself and how you manage your feelings. Completing these goals will boost your mood and feelings of self-worth, even if it is just a small goal.
These goals should be, “practicing and exercising what is within our control,” according to Singh.
Many of the things that we worry about — current events, medical problems, natural disasters or the actions of others— are completely out of our control. Therefore, worrying about these things or making goals about them is pointless.
Singh explains that the things that we have control over and can set goals for are our awareness of our feelings and needs, self-talk, prioritizing self-care, exercising self-compassion, practicing mindfulness, grounding ourselves and who we surround ourselves with.
So where do you start? Licensed therapist Mary Nambu suggests for students to start by determining which area of their life to make goals in. This can be done by completing a personality test such as the Myers Briggs, the enneagram or a wellness self-assessment. By asking questions about yourself, the quiz determines which areas one should focus on between emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social or spiritual wellness. Once you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, goals can be tailored to challenge your weaknesses or build on your strengths.
These goals are so much more than a vague hope to be happier. These are goals that are specific and can be tracked to see your progress.
For many, being alone for long periods of time can be strenuous on their mental health. Clarissa Johnson, a freshman business major, recently started going to a new church alone, and said it has been especially hard not knowing anyone there.
“I set the goal for myself that I would sit alone or by someone I did not know to challenge myself, and I have found that since I started to do that, I have found it easier to be alone in any situation,” Clarissa said.
A goal could also be something a little less challenging, such as saying one nice thing to yourself every morning, journaling or getting a little more sleep. These may seem too trivial to make a difference, but even small goals can be impactful.
In fact, it has been proven that there are many benefits to goal-setting. They can help individuals to self-evaluate themselves and determine what their values are. In the long run, this can boost one’s self-confidence and increase motivation.
“Various research has proven that these strategies [and] goals, along with other good mental health strategies, not only improve mental health across the lifespan, but physical health as well,” Nambu said.
Making these goals into habits will have holistic lifelong benefits comparable to the benefits of accomplishing one’s career goals.