The recipe for a fresh start
February 10, 2024 8:32 AM   Subscribe

My (F, mid-thirties) current life is just...not great. I have the opportunity for a reset, but I don't really know how to make the reset stick. More details below.

My work life is stressful, I have multiple family members with health complications that require my extensive involvement (time/effort/expenses), and have had a long term relationship die in a protracted and and deeply hurtful manner, and both mental and physical health have taken a severe beating wherein I've regained all the weight I lost a couple of years back (and more besides), need medications to manage multiple lifestyle diseases, plus crippling anxiety is a constant, constant companion. I've also learnt that I must learn to remember self-care/shore up my self-worth because it's remarkably easy to keep putting my needs last in this morass of competing priorities.
Fortunately, I'm moving to a new city, a new workplace, away from the ex, and (literally) far away from some of the issues plaguing me. I want to make this count.
Folks who have made substantial changes for the better in their lives, how did you do it? Did you make one big change? Incremental changes? Was there a specific trigger event? How did you remain consistent? Did accountability help? I'm especially interested in changes in physical/mental health/drawing healthy boundaries with people, but all inputs very welcome. Thank you!
(I'm already scouting for a therapist in the new city, in case that's relevant.)
posted by Nieshka to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Daily exercise first thing in the morning, every morning. It’s been really hard to turn it from a hated chore into a habit that I enjoy, but something did finally click into place after years of struggle. Getting that into place makes everything else easier, mood, appetite, sleep, etc. Not perfect by any means, but easier.
posted by rikschell at 8:37 AM on February 10 [15 favorites]

Your changing situation (new job/new city) provides an excellent springboard for putting professional support (social workers/case managers/personal assistants/health aides/drivers/house cleaners/delivery services/etc.) in place for your family. You're helping several people with health issues -- they may not recognize how much work you're doing, and its toll on you. Moving to a new city and starting a new job are highly stressful, highly relatable milestones; you're doing both, so it follows that your new circumstances will require your full attention.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:04 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]

Muchelleb (a productivity youtuber) does a lot of reset videos that may inspire you.
posted by saturdaymornings at 9:21 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]

Seek out joy in your new city. Find places and activities you like, and look for chances to have fun.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:30 AM on February 10 [9 favorites]

I'm older than you (mid-50s) but recently moved to a small city under somewhat similar circumstances. My approach was to do everything in my new city that seemed even remotely interesting, especially if it had a community focus -- I joined a women's dining club, joined a social group at the LGBTQ+ center, started frequently dropping in to galleries and art council events, became a regular at two restaurants/bars, went to every free event or parade, walked around town and browsed shops, etc. It would be incorrect to say I acted like a tourist, because I think I did way more than tourists do!

At these events, I made a point of talking to people, especially people who I saw more than once. I tried to not be weird about it, but I am an introvert, so I really pushed myself to talk to people. It helps that my city is dog-friendly and my dog is an adorably unique-looking rescue, so he often breaks the ice for me.

After about 18 months, I've made a lot of acquaintances and 2 friends, and my mental and physical health are both improved. At the end of the first year I decided to focus my time on things that I enjoy the most, which for me is the arts community and the dining club. I still push myself to talk to people, but I've discovered it really does get easier with practice. And I feel confident doing interesting things by myself, and I have a reasonable expectation that if I go by myself, I'll probably see someone I vaguely know.

A fun bonus is that I have a new hobby as well, and that gives me joy in and of itself, while also opening up new community and social opportunities for me.

I have a pretty great life.
posted by OrangeDisk at 9:50 AM on February 10 [44 favorites]

I think this is very person-dependent. My personality is such that if I try to make multiple major changes at once I am unlikely to be successful. I do a lot better a) changing one or a couple small things at a time, b) taking a gentle vs. taskmaster-ish orientation towards myself and the change(s), and c) focusing more on moving towards what feels good/adding good things in rather than banning 'bad' things.

You've got major changes coming up and they sound great and promising. At the same time, it's a pretty big shakeup and moving and employment changes are well known to be major stressors. I mention that only to suggest that you take that into account as a factor in the bandwidth you might have for enacting other changes at the same time, especially because you sound really overdue for some major rest. So by all means try things out! And bring a lot of self-compassion to your renewal efforts. If you're too wiped out or not having a good time, listen to that. You want to build a life that is authentic to your interests and desires and makes you feel good, regardless of what anyone else's good-looking/-feeling life might be.
posted by wormtales at 10:58 AM on February 10 [10 favorites]

Good for you to start with a clean slate like this! Getting enough sleep and sun is probably the most important thing to keep you on a good track. Try to be in bed without a screen by 10pm and go outside for 20 mins every morning. If you do that, everything else will be way easier. Rooting for you!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 11:19 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]

Accountability helps, especially if you can find someone who can listen to all of these day to day decisions about where to set boundaries and gently help remind you of your own priorities. Could be a friend or a supportive family member or a therapist.
posted by metahawk at 11:35 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

I've found joining a sports team helpful in this situation. It provides a structure for regularly engaging with the same 5-30 people, depending on the sport, and having somewhere to be one or two nights a week is helpful. Are there any sports you've played before that you could pick up again?
posted by happyfrog at 12:48 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]

I'm especially interested in changes in physical/mental health/drawing healthy boundaries with people, but all inputs very welcome.

I quit a social media platform cold turkey for three years. This was specifically to avoid pandemic-related drama, but there were other elements involved, too. In particular, it helped me to think more about where I was located physically, and being more present here. Not tied in to people, networks, and problems based elsewhere. It had downsides, but it was like a faucet turned off. No more updates about mild acquaintance Beaux's thirteenth battle with cancer, no more random messages from colleague Timmy about how terrible Susie was, no more minute-by-minute following the problems Old Friend Huey was having. My life came to be more about where I was than where I used to be, and I've been the healthier for it.
posted by cupcakeninja at 1:55 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]

I was going to suggest personal therapy, but it looks like you're already on that. If you're going to try new ways of being and trying to leave the old ones behind there is nothing like having a witness. File it under "accountability" if you like.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:30 PM on February 10

Obviously this isn't for everyone, but for me, the big change was when I got a puppy (which also coincided with me moving to a new city for grad school). I had a lot of health problems, gained weight, and was severely deconditioned b/c of a back injury that had me mostly bedridden for a long time.

First of all, the love and companionship really seemed to boost my mood - oxytocin, probably. It got me out and talking to more people and meeting people. It helped me get more low intensity exercise, but in a natural way.

I barely explored the new city until I got the dog. All these parks and beaches and nature preserves that we go to.

But my dog has been the best thing for my physical and mental health. I was so lonely for such a long time, and the combination of this cute cuddly dog that always wants to be my side plus meeting people at our regular dog parks. I never spoke to a single person in my apartment building...until I got a dog.

Now, obviously do not get a dog unless you actually want a dog. It takes a lot of time and commitment and it can be stressful. But for me, it really helped. Honestly, I don't think I could have survived the last 1.5 years without him.
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:28 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]

“Daily exercise first thing in the morning, every morning.”

So I’m liking this but gonna expand and say, get up every morning and dance, with you tube videos or a Switch and Just Dance. Get up every morning and enjoy the day…because the new life is not going to be great all the time or immediately so you’re going to have to tell yourself it is until it actually is.
posted by ixipkcams at 9:45 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]

I've moved around a lot and one thing that helped me was a friend telling me that it can take a year to adjust to a new city. I moved to my favorite city in the world and even then it was tough - it was an international move, I got sick very quickly and had no idea how to access medical care, I had to figure out all new transport systems on the fly the same time as grad school. But I eventually made it through.

So give yourself some grace and space. Try different things, but don't despair if they don't work out. Things take time.
posted by creatrixtiara at 7:32 PM on February 12

Set goals. You want to meet people. make friends, feel re-energized, deal with crippling anxiety is a constant, constant companion. What does a fresh start mean? How will you know if it's working?
Exercise. Adult Ed., local fitness center/ gym, or other program is a great way to get exercise and meet some people. Dance groups - contradance or other social dance is really friendly and good exercise.

Meetup. the library, any higher education all have events. Go to lectures, museum and gallery shows, music performances. If you have social phobia, volunteer or work as an usher, ticket sales, etc.

Accountability? Be kind to yourself. Rewards work better than trying to give yourself a stern talking to. Set realistic goals for new things to do and when you do them, give yourself praise. It's not a terrible or silly idea to do a rewards chart with stars and stickers and tangible rewards. Build nutrition in to your goals, and whatever other self-care is measurable. I wish you the best.

Loneliness is a beast, and you may find yourslef feeling miserable at times. Reach out to old friends, go to a movie, wjatever will help you get beyond it. I think you're headed towards fun and growth, but accept that there may be setbacks. I hope you'll come back in a while and say how it's going.
posted by theora55 at 7:10 PM on February 19

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