As the pandemic relentlessly drags on, many people are beginning to realize that their mental health is slipping. About 19% of Americans are currently battling a mental health condition, marking a 1.5 million increase from last year. Amid stay-at-home orders, mask mandates and high unemployment rates, many are struggling with severe bouts of anxiety, loneliness and depression.
If you’re one of the many Americans suffering from these conditions, you must prioritize self-care in the new year. Incorporate some of the healthy habits below to improve your mental health and embrace 2021 with a smile — however small.
1. Set Realistic Goals
Many people enter a new year with lofty resolutions. However, only 8% ever accomplish them. Don’t be part of this sad statistic. This year, create realistic, achievable goals. In doing so, you’ll avoid putting unrealistic expectations on yourself and prevent mental tailspins and burnout. Plus, you’ll enjoy a confidence boost and begin to feel like the hardworking, successful individual you are.
2. Start Journaling
If you have trouble expressing your thoughts and feelings, consider writing them down in a journal. Even five to 10 minutes of journaling can help you sift through your emotions and identify the source of your fears and concerns. Put pen to paper and let your thoughts flow freely onto the page. Eventually, you’ll be able to look back at your words and identify repetitive stressors so you can avoid them in the future.
3. Practice Meditation
After emptying your mind, find a comfortable place to sit down. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and remain there in the quiet for a few minutes. This simple exercise is a basic form of meditation, and it can help you decrease your heart rate and improve your state of mind. Practice this mindful habit at least once a day to create a calming habit and reap the benefits.
4. Maintain a Routine
One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to maintain a routine. Begin by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day to reset your circadian rhythm. Then, keep the same work schedule throughout the week, taking breaks at about the same time every day. Eventually, your brain and body will grow accustomed to your routine, and you won’t have to worry about what you have to accomplish next.
5. Just Say No
If you often worry about missing out on a good time, saying no to invites and outings may be challenging for you to do. However, keeping your responsibilities to a minimum and establishing alone time will help you prioritize self-care and, subsequently, your mental health. Learn the art of saying no by accepting only a few extra commitments each week. As your schedule becomes less cramped, you’ll notice your anxiety and stress levels naturally decrease.
6. Soak up the Sun
Feeling down? Get outside and soak up some sunshine. The sun’s rays will provide you with vitamin D, which plays an essential role in regulating mental health and cognitive function. Spending more time in the great outdoors can also relieve stress and boost your mood. Take a road trip out West and visit Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons. Breathe in the fresh air, bask in the sun and let your worries melt away for a while.
7. Move Your Body
While you’re out exploring Mother Nature, don’t forget to add plenty of movement to your day. Regular exercise can minimize stress, ward off anxiety and even diminish your perception of pain. So take a hike, sign up for a yoga class and knock a few chores off your to-do list. As you incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, you’ll enjoy a boost of endorphins, more energy and better sleep. Ultimately, these benefits will help you combat depression symptoms and improve your overall health.
8. Eat Clean
It may seem like common sense, but it’s worth noting. If you want to take care of your mental health, you must maintain a balanced diet. What you eat plays a major role in mood regulation and energy levels throughout the day. Lots of carbs will increase feelings of fatigue and irritability, while protein and fiber will boost concentration and regulate your bowels. Fuel your body with fresh fruits and vegetables to keep your body and mind in tip-top shape this year.
With fewer than four weeks of 2020 left, you may feel tempted to ditch routines, healthy diets and exercise plans until the new year. After all, your physical health can wait, and you deserve one last hurrah, right? While this may be one justification, you can’t afford to ignore your mental health for that long.
If you can’t find the motivation or willpower to help yourself, reach out to family and friends for support. Talk to a therapist or counselor and openly share your fears, concerns and struggles. You deserve to be happy and healthy, so start now.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.