Reboot your Mental Health: Forming New Habits in 2021
2020 was a difficult year for everyone in many aspects, but especially in the field of mental health. More people developed mental health disorders than ever before, and those who already struggled with their mental health, struggled more than ever before. The normal things that keep us ‘up’, distracted, or occupied and away from or overwhelming inner thoughts and feelings suddenly were not there. Being locked inside without being able to see your close friends, extended family, or be able to do things which are socially stimulating and enjoyable was always going to be tricky. But I do not think anyone realised quite how hard it was going to be. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders soared in 2020, with a saddening spike in suicide rates as well. As we move into 2021 and life post-pandemic, let us have a look at ways to re-start and kick your mental health up a gear. Here are some quick and easy tips before we dive into the heavy stuff:
- Have a solid (and consistent) routine
- Keep in constant social contact with positive people
- Connect in low-stress environments
- Take a look at your ‘relationship inventory’
- Mix up your days with fun activities
- Exercise! Being out in the sunshine is ideal
- Try out mindfulness and meditation
- Track your mental health in an app that works for you
- Work on your sleep schedule
- Watch your diet (in a healthy way!)
- Talk to your Doctor
- Reach out for help as soon as you need it
- Tackle substance abuse
- Be grateful constantly
- Be kind to you!
- Just hold on, we are almost there
Many studies have shown that the pandemic has simply brought to light issues and pre-existing vulnerabilities that were already there. The pandemic has not prioritised new mental health issues, but rather highlighted that the ones we were most concerned about are in fact the most widespread; and need to be addressed swiftly. Now, let us take a deep dive into the quick and easy tips I mentioned earlier, and see how they can be practically applied in day-to-day life.
1: Have a solid (and consistent) routine
For many of us, the pandemic has thrown off our sense of normality. Where our usual routine has been an 8am start, go to work, and dinner at 6; the pandemic has thrown us for a loop. The first few weeks were fun, like an extended vacation! However, it becomes extremely easy to build bad habits. In place of settling into a lifestyle of pop chips and video games, I would suggest putting in some routine controls. Whether that happens to be a yoga session before bed, a morning run three times a week, or an established time for each of your meals; make a routine. Life without routine becomes very prone to the highs and lows of bipolar and lets mental health fall apart easily without you being aware. Anchor your day and lifestyle with a consistent routine
2: Keep in constant social contact with positive people
Now, this can be a tricky one for people who already struggle with issues like depression or anxiety; but it is nevertheless important to keep in mind. Being around and in social contact with positive, happy people is a great way to keep yourself up. Some people just exude positive energy and having these kinds of people in your lives makes it a lot harder to feel down. It is important to not just wait until people get in touch with you, but to make a conscious effort every day to keep in touch with the people in your life.
3: Connect in low-stress environments
This is an important one, especially if you are already pre-disposed to mental health disorders. Ensure that your social interaction is low stress. No matter how important social interaction is, a negative social interaction is worse than having none at all. For example, studies have shown that connecting on social media can have a significantly bad effect on mental health, so a phone call might be a better choice. Keep this in mind next time you are interacting socially; if it is not a positive experience, it is probably not the best place to be.
4: Try out mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are being recommended by more doctors and psychologists when it comes to improving and stabilising overall mental state. Although it is not a solution or miracle cure, it helps a person centre themself, and stop focusing on negative things like worry and anxiety. There are many apps and websites which give an easy and no-pressure introduction to the world of mindfulness.
5: Track your mental health in an app that works for you
Mental health apps can sometimes be overwhelming, and it is hard to know which ones will work for you, and which are just a waste of time. Apps like these can help people with pre-existing conditions track their progress and recovery; but they are even a good idea for people who do not have diagnosed mental health issues. As Jess Tread, a health writer at Write my X and 1 Day 2 write, commented, “Apps like these can help you understand if you have a few days where you are down, and why that may have been happening, keep you grounded in your routine, and it can also raise red flags of when you should go to see a doctor.” It is important to get an app that works well for you, so make sure you pick and choose. Ask your GP, ask your friends, see what has worked well for them!
6: Take a look at your ‘relationship inventory’
For me, this is a two-pronged approach. First of all, take a look at any romantic relationship in your life. The pandemic has had one of two effects on couples; it has either eventually brought them closer or eventually tore them apart; but everybody has experienced difficulties. Too much time with any one person was bond to get too much. However, if the relationship has taken that extra step and become toxic, it may be time to re-examine if the relationship is positive or not, and whether it is a detractor from your mental health.
The other side of this ‘relationship inventory’ is with other relationships such as friendships, familial relationships, and other relations. These relationships can have just as much of an effect on your mental health as a romantic partnership. It is important to understand which relationships are adding to your life, and which are detracting.
7: Mix up your days with fun activities
This one seems like a no-brainer, right? However, it is something that people often forget. One great way to help yourself when handling personal mental health is just to have fun. Smiling, laughing, and doing things you love is a great way to keep yourself up and your mental health level and positive. Try a new hobby like painting or playing an instrument, read a book, go on a walk. Find what makes you happy.
8: Watch your diet (in a healthy way!)
As Richard Bronwyn, a lifestyle writer at Origin Writings and Brit Student, noted, “It is extremely easy to fall into bad dietary habits during isolation and lockdown. Many people have turned to food as the only way to make them happy or satisfy other cravings, and it is unhealthy in many ways!” Although the occasional treat is great, eating loads of foods that are bad for you will make your body feel lax and unwell, and will make you feel guilty and unhappy in the long run. Both of these will have adverse effects on your mental health. Eat food which gives your body energy and strength, and makes you want to get up and get out for a walk in the sunshine. But treating yourself every now and then is definitely required!
9: Exercise! Being out in the sunshine is ideal
Exercising regularly is a key component of having stable and positive mental health. People who do not exercise are more likely to be in depressed and lazy moods, as they lack the serotonin and endorphins needed to be ‘up’. Although exercise in any form is good for you, being outside is the best if you are able to do it. Getting fresh air (considering how much we are having to be inside our homes at the moment) and being in the sun will lift your mood and improve both your physical and mental health considerably.
10: Work on your sleep schedule
If you used to have a bad sleep schedule due to overworking or over-partying, here is your chance to make up for lost time! Although catching up on sleep is great, building a consistent and reliable sleep schedule of 6-8 hours is ideal. Keep an eye on your routine, and work on building a good one.
11: Be grateful constantly
It might be hard to find things to be thankful for at the moment, and it might seem a tad cliché and childish to say it has a major effect on personal mental health; but it really does. Be intentional about your gratitude, and make sure that even the little positives in every day are appreciated. Gratitude is the key to happiness; appreciate the little things in every day.
12: Talk to your Doctor
It is crucial to know that talking to your doctor about mental health is not a sign of weakness. It is important to reach out for help as soon as you feel you need it. Whether this is straight away, or when you feel it affecting your ability to function and be productive is entirely up to you. My advice would be not to wait too long.
13: Reach out for help as soon as you need it
As soon as you realise that you need help, go and ask for it. As soon as y have thoughts of hurting yourself or others or feel like you struggle to get out of bed in the morning. The same applies for bullying, domestic violence, anxiety, and potential other mental health disorders and difficult situations. As soon as you realise that you need help with either your personal mental health, or a situation which could be potentially damaging and dangerous to either your physical or mental health; reach out.
14: Tackle substance abuse
The lockdown has incredibly hard for everyone, but especially for those who struggle or have struggled in the past with substance abuse. For a recovering addict, the communities and safeguards which are put in place to help them in their recovery were either dissolved or made less accessible when the pandemic hit. This has been hard on not only those dealing with substance abuse, but the people closest to them as well. If you are struggling, research ways to connect and help yourself online.
15: Just hold on, we are almost there
The vaccine is starting to come on the scene, and we are seeing a decrease in the R rate and overall cases and deaths. It seems like we are coming to end of this horror movie, and it is important to remember this light at the end of the tunnel and just hold on. We are almost there.
16: Be kind to you!
It is important to be kind to yourself at the moment. If you forget to go out and exercise or eat a bit too much junk food one week; forgive yourself. If you have a down day, make yourself a hot chocolate and sit down with a cosy blanket and a movie. Be kind to yourself, these are unprecedented times we are experiencing.
These 16 detailed measures to safeguard and even maybe improve your overall mental health in 2021 are just tips. Every person and their mental health is different, and should be handled differently. However, these steps are great ways to start stabilising and caring for your mental wellbeing in these difficult times.
About the Author:
George J. Newton is an online article writer and business development manager for Write my assignment and Dissertation writing service. He has a long-suffering wife of ten years and three boisterous children. He also contributes his work to Next Coursework.