At the start of every year, it is common to go into it with a list of resolutions. Traveling, learning new skills, professional goals and/or going to the gym, are some of the most common examples. However, the year 2020 got in the way of most of these resolutions. This last year has negatively affected countless people, especially when it came to their mental and emotional health. It brought us not only a pandemic, but also a level of self-isolation that most of us had never experienced before. Research has shown that Americans’ mental health is the worst it has been in the past 20 years. This, combined with civil unrest, stress about finances and health, has made it almost impossible to prioritize our mental health.
Prioritizing mental and emotional health may not have been one of your new year’s resolutions but, identifying its importance can help increase your chances of achieving all the goals you set in place for yourself. Mental health plays a significant role in how we view and achieve these goals. The problem we often face with resolutions is that we set lofty goals that can become overwhelming. The key to building new habits is not to manage a set of large expectations, but to start with small, intentional, and tangible shifts that lead to even larger transformations. Although we are no longer in 2020, those issues that plagued the year are still very much a part of our lives. A new year will not magically fix all those issues, but it does present us with a new slate and opportunity to change and grow. As we enter 2021, we would like to provide some of these small shifts you can make to prioritize your mental health.
1. Practice self-care
The term self-care often gets used as a way to justify certain behaviors like taking a bubble bath or nights out, but there is so much more to it. While these things are great at providing some relaxation there are also other ways to care for yourself. One great way to practice self-care is to practice positive self-talk. Resolutions often derive from a negative place that you want change about yourself. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to change, when it comes from a self-hatred place it can be hard to achieve it. We would instead encourage that you get into the habit of practicing some self-love and remind yourself of the things you like about yourself.
2. Create a schedule
With the pandemic, many have lost their daily routines and schedules. The inability to go outside has strongly limited how we structure our everyday lives. This can cause us to be lazy as it is so much easier to just stay on your phone in bed then to have a disciplined routine. We recommend getting on a healthy sleep schedule, eating healthy at specific times and carving out time for yourself. Creating clear distinctions on your actions through your day can help create a sense of purpose throughout your day.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial to mental and emotional health. Inactivity heavily influences depression. 2020 promoted inactivity which makes it hard to get back into the swing of things. Exercise not only keeps your body healthy, but also releases endorphins that can make you happy overall. Regular exercise can help boost your mood, improve self-esteem, help sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety. Even just a 15 min walk can improve your mental health.
4. Set boundaries
We all have obligations and responsibilities we must meet on a day-to-day basis, but often we find ourselves feeling like we HAVE to say yes to everything that is asked of you, even when we do not have the time or ability to do so. By setting boundaries you are allowing yourself to say no to certain things. When you say yes to everything you end up stretching yourself too thin and that can lead to added stress and anxiety. Practice being more attentive to your personal responsibility before taking on something new. Be realistic with yourself and do not overcommit. Most people will understand if you need to say no, so do not be afraid of taking a break.
5. Find support
Like mentioned before, 2020 was a year of self-isolation. Many have lost a part of their support system or have much less access to it. However, keeping everything to yourself can do more harm to your mental health. A part of prioritizing mental health is allowing yourself to reach out. You can start by reaching out to one person who will listen, and you feel comfortable being open and honest with them. It does not have to be a group at first. You can start with one person and build from there.
6. Allow yourself to feel For 2021
Make an effort to address feelings head on. When we do not address what we are experiencing, it can build until you reach a breaking point. However, practicing allowing yourself to feel can help you to begin to understand yourself better and how certain things make you feel. It helps you identify what you are feeling, what is triggering it and how you are responding to it. 6. Get professional help One of the best ways to prioritize toy mental health is to seek the help of a professional. Therapy allows you to explore your feelings in depth. You do not need to be in a crisis to go to therapy, it can be helpful to just maintain and improve your health. Going to therapy is not a sign of weakness, it is a strength. While seeking therapy might make you feel anxious and intimidated, remember us therapists are here to help you navigate your mental health and help you prioritize yourself in 2021. Putting mental health first means you will be better equipped to care for others. While we encourage everyone to make mental health a priority no matter the time of year, the start of a new year is a great way to put it into action.