While 2020 was an incredibly difficult year for many of us, it also showed us how important it is to prioritize our mental health and take care of one another. Here are 4 tips and takeaways from the past year that you can use to improve your mental health in 2021.
1: Start with the basics
You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: prioritizing your basic needs like eating, sleeping and getting physical activity is important for your mental health. Taking care of our bodies can improve our mood, stress levels, self-esteem and help reduce anxiety. Not sure where to begin? Here are a few strategies you can use to address the basics:
- Sleep: Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Set a timer on your phone to shut off all electronics at least 1 hour before bed. Instead of scrolling on your phone, opt for relaxing activities like reading, journaling, coloring, yoga or listening to a meditation to help your body unwind. You can also check out this free Healthy Living workshop from Counseling and Psychiatric Services, which covers a variety of topics, including sleep.
- Eating: Honor your hunger cues, and try to eat at least one meal distraction-free (that means no phones, no computers, no TV, etc.). If you find yourself feeling tired or hungry by the end of class, consider preparing snacks in advance to keep yourself full and focused. You can get help with nutrition, meal planning and intuitive eating through Nutrition Services.
- Physical activity: Make physical activity more enjoyable by choosing activities that you like and are excited to do. Working out doesn’t have to be strenuous or burn a lot of calories. Moving your body through walking, yoga or low-impact exercises is just as beneficial for your mental and physical health. Check out the Rec Center for virtual fitness classes or sign up for outdoor activities.
2: Take a break from Zoom
Between Zoom classes, Zoom meetups, Zoom game nights and all the other things we Zoom about, it’s no wonder many of us are feeling fatigued by virtual socializing. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to unplug and find alternative ways to meet people or connect with friends and family. Here are a few ideas to try:
- Snail mail. Sending letters, postcards or small care packages in the mail can be a great way to connect with friends, family and other loved ones. It can also give you something to look forward to.
- Pretend you have a landline. Video calls have swiftly replaced face-to-face interactions. While this can be a great way to see and chat with friends or family, it can be fatiguing to be on video all day. If you dread video chats, try making an old fashioned phone call instead. You may be surprised by the difference.
- There’s an app for that. Meeting people organically can be hard. If you are struggling to meet new people, it may be helpful to use an app to help you connect more easily. Apps like MeetUp and Bumble BFF can be a great place to start finding people or joining groups you click with.
- Volunteer. Find a cause that you care about and explore volunteer opportunities. This can be a great way to get more involved in your community (in person or online) and meet new people who have similar interests. The Volunteer Resource Center has a number of resources to help you get started.
- Socialize at a distance. Opt for activities that allow you to see friends while maintaining a safe distance. For instance, outdoor activities like hiking or biking are a great way to enjoy social time while still following public health orders. Remember to check the current dial level for restrictions before heading out.
3: Talk to someone
If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust for help. Seeking connection and support from friends, family or professionals can help you through the hard times. Here are a few resources on campus that are available to help:
- Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS): CAPS is the primary mental health resource for CU Boulder students. They offer mental health assessments, brief individual and couples counseling, workshops, group therapy and Let’s Talk consultations.
- Office of Victim Assistance (OVA): OVA is the primary resource for students, staff and faculty who have experienced a traumatic or disruptive life event, including death, illness, harassment, assault, abuse, bias and more. They offer brief individual counseling, advocacy services and Ask an Advocate consultations.
- Peer Wellness Coaching (PWC): Peer Wellness Coaches are students who are trained to support their fellow Buffs. PWC is a great option for students who want to set goals, connect with additional resources or make positive changes in their lives.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please utilize emergency and crisis care options.
4: Practice what you know
We live in a culture that emphasizes quick fixes and easy solutions. However, mental health is a complex issue, and it may take time, patience and practice to feel better. One important factor in working to improve your mental health is to stick with it. It can feel tempting to continually scroll through mental health practices looking for the best and easiest solution. However, taking stock of what you already know and putting it into practice can often be more helpful than searching for new alternatives.
For instance, if you’re in therapy, it’s important to do the homework or exercises provided by your therapist. Similarly, if you know that going to bed early or disconnecting from the news is helpful for you, continue to do those things over an extended period of time. These are just a few examples of how you can put what you already know to good use. It’s also important to know that there’s no shame in looking for alternative strategies, but remember not to neglect the tools that work for you.
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