7 Tips to Improve Your Mental Health in 2021 and Beyond
Posted by Guest Contributor on
This year has been particularly hard on our mental health. For front-line health care workers. Students. Parents. Teachers. Friends. Family. And so many more.
Now more than ever, caring for our mental health is so integral to our overall well-being.
So in the spirit of helping our global Goal Digger community, we’re giving some actionable tips to help manage your mental health in 2021 and beyond.
1. Get enough sleep
This is something you can do immediately. It may sound simple, but it’s so important as sleep impacts so much of our daily lives. Without enough sleep, the more hypersensitive your emotions become. You’re easily irritable, more anxious, and exhausted during times you normally aren’t.
Of course, during these unprecedented times, getting enough sleep might prove to be harder than usual. Put in some extra effort and create little habits to achieve the recommended 8 hours of sleep. Some positive habits could be: shutting off technology at least an hour before bed, practicing mindful meditation, consuming natural ingredients that encourage sleep like lemon balm or passionflower, or even keeping a night time journal.
2. Feel your feelings and don’t beat yourself up
There are no “right” or “wrong” ways to feel during these uncertain times. It’s easy to beat yourself up and guilt yourself into invalidating your feelings. It’s a lot harder to accept these feelings as they come, welcoming them with open arms.
It’s okay to feel. It’s okay that you might react to certain situations - whether it be work-related or personal - in ways that you normally wouldn’t. After all, nothing about this entire situation (read: COVID-19) is normal! Instead of pressuring yourself to feel a particular way, be kind and cut yourself some slack.
A great way to do this is to ask yourself: would you treat your friend or loved one the same way as you’re treating yourself?
3. Avoid thinking about the worst-case scenario
There’s actually a term for this penned by therapists - it’s called Catastrophic Thinking. It’s when your brain automatically resorts to the worst case scenario, no matter how big or small that change in your life is. Indeed, there are common ways to manage it including tackling it head-on or doing a quick Google search to quell your theories, but those probably aren’t the best tactics given how everything in the world is so unpredictable right now.
Instead of attacking it directly, we recommend more of a side-stepping approach. If you feel yourself spiralling into catastrophic thinking, interrupt its flow by redirecting your energy to something else. Whether it be ticking off your daily to-do list, making a cup of tea, watching your favourite television show or planning your goals, appointments and schedules ahead of time for a sense of security.
4. Keep active physically
When we say keep active, we don’t mean doing an extensive workout to the point of exhaustion (but if that works for you, go for it!). Keeping active can be anything from a 30-minute walk to a 10-minute light stretching session, or even just vacuuming the house.
Whatever you decide to do, the goal is to bring your energy levels back up. According to studies by Harvard Health, exercise reduces the levels of stress hormones in your body like adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins - chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. Make a note of how you feel pre-exercise versus post-exercise, and see if you notice a change in your mood.
5. Reach out and speak out
Literally everyone in the world at the moment is experiencing some level of loneliness and sadness, especially in the new normal of social distancing and self-isolation. With that said, now more than ever it’s important to connect with others and talk about how you’re feeling. Chances are they are probably feeling a similar way.
Find someone you trust and openly speak about how you’re feeling. By doing this, you may even help others open up too, showing them that they aren’t the only ones experiencing deep levels of anxiety, grief and loneliness. As the famous saying goes, misery loves company.
6. Focus on what you can control, and surrender to the things you can’t
The reality is that we can’t control everything. Rather than putting up a fight, perhaps the smartest action is to simply let go.
This is where creating daily habits designed to nurture your mental health comes in. Little habits like making the bed every morning, writing a to-do list, going out for a run, giving yourself an hour of power to get shit done, are all positive actions that provide a sense of security and control.
Instead of delving into the bigger picture of what the world is going to be like in 6 or 12 months, take it all one day at a time. Pick your battles wisely and don’t expend energy on things that don’t serve your mental health, values or purpose.
7. Braindump it all
In other words, write it all down. Put your phone on silent, find a quiet space, and wear your heart on your sleeve as you pour your feelings out with pen to paper.
When you’re overwhelmed with your feelings, sometimes the best way to relieve it is by physically acknowledging it all in a journal planner, notebook or diary. This technique is especially beneficial if you’re living alone because the notebook acts like an active listener.
Don’t even worry too much about structure, spelling, grammar or even sounding eloquent. The goal here is to relieve as much space in your brain as possible. Think of your journal as a mini therapist - it exists to readily absorb every thought, feeling and idea you have so you have more mental space to handle whatever else comes your way next.
Focus on what lies ahead for you
With only a few months left in the year, your mental health might find comfort in looking ahead to what lies next year. There is a light at the end of the tunnel - we’re almost there!
Whether it’s honing in on your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) or trying to stay organised with your daily tasks, our new, soon to be released 2022 collection of diaries and planners are here to make next year a better year.
Sign up to our 2022 list here
By Aleczander Gamboa