Studies have shown a rise in mental health concerns since the onset of COVID-19. This past fall, CDC findings revealed more than two in five U.S. residents report struggling with mental or behavioral health issues associated with the pandemic.
We’re all looking forward to the fresh start each new year promises and hoping the world can start to heal. However, the realities of our daily life now won’t magically change on Jan. 1. While the beginning of 2021 may not feel all that different much of 2020, there are ways we can continue to cope and adapt.
The pandemic has given us all new perspectives on life. Now is an apt time for a serious “level set” both professionally and personally. As you think about your new year’s resolutions and goals, here are some ways to keep mental health at the forefront:
Set realistic and manageable goals that have space for flexibility so you can regain some control. Think about what’s brought you joy this past year. Are there little ways you can increase what’s helped you stay positive?
If you want to make more time for family and friends, consider a routine of scheduling one phone call, writing one letter or having one video chat with family or friends each month. If you want to work on your career and professional skill set, explore simple ways to expand your knowledge. It could be finding a new podcast related to your field and listening once a week or following along with a video tutorial once a month.
Schedule it out
To be your best self in both your work and personal life, you need to take care of yourself. Allowing yourself to occasionally step away from your email or stop “doomscrolling” can be easier said than done. It may help to actually schedule time on your calendar to do a mental scan of how you’re feeling, take a stretch break or get some fresh air.
Incorporating mindfulness practices into each day can boost both your mental health and productivity. You may have heard of Headspace, which is focused on reducing stress through science-backed meditation and mindfulness exercises. A version of the service is currently free to all Michiganders at headspace.com/mi.
If you’d rather opt for something offline, consider taking up journaling. There are lots of different types and templates out there. Bullet journaling has gained popularity for being a “mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.” Another option is a gratitude journal, which helps you cultivate happiness by slowing down to really take note of the good in the world.
Shrink unnecessary screen time
Many of us are spending more time sedentary and glued to screens for both work and leisure. Be intentional about small ways you can trade extra screen time for something more active for your body and brain. Maybe it’s avoiding checking your phone for notifications one last time before you turn out the light at night.
If you have trouble unplugging, consider using a “detox” app to block you from scrolling in the late hours of the night. It can also notify you when you’ve surpassed an allotted time on certain platforms on your phone.
Show compassion and grace
We’ve all come a long way in being more understanding of life’s interruptions. Whether it’s a child or a pet interrupting your Zoom meeting or random internet connectivity troubles, this is just the reality of having a more remote workforce and schooling situation.
I think we all need to emphasize compassion and remember to extend grace to others as we continue connecting through virtual means. In times of increased stress, let’s be gentle in what we say and how we interact with others. One focus for the new year could be to try to show one person kindnesses through a simple action each day. Be a listening ear and, likewise, reach out to others if you’re struggling. By supporting each other, we can continue to get through this odd time in our lives together.
Planning for a better year that supports your mental health starts now. Like Brian shared in his last blog post, while we’re all facing the next year with uncertainty, “having a guide – even a loose one – will help us tackle goals and stay on track.” Let the same mentality apply to your personal resolutions and safeguard your mental health into the new year.
Sending good vibes to all our clients, family and friends!