2020 was a tough year for everyone. There’s no hiding the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic increased stressors that were already present, and brought up new ones. Whether the challenges were social, political or financial, everyone’s mental wellness suffered in some way.
In this article, we’ll explore some common obstacles that people have encountered over the past year as well as ways to embrace those obstacles and improve our mental wellbeing.
In the wake of the pandemic, we’ve all had to assess and come to terms with our physical health. Especially vulnerable individual have needed to take extreme precautions to protect themselves and others. It is well documented that physical conditions negatively impact mental health, and the added stress of a dangerous and communicable disease only adds to that.
One of the best ways to support mental wellness in 2021 is to make an extra effort to lead a healthy lifestyle. Whether or not you are impacted by a physical condition, you can take steps to better your health by exercising, eating healthy, spending time outdoors and getting better sleep.
Loss of a loved one
Perhaps the most devastating impact of the pandemic has been the significant loss of life to the disease. Whether the relation is a dear loved one or a distant acquaintance, it’s important to make space for that grief.
Grief is a process that each individual journeys through at his or her own pace. The impact of a lost loved one could linger for the rest of a person’s life, but learning how to accept and manage the accompanying feelings is important to healing and bettering mental health.
Experiencing loss can also bring on feelings of depression. Although this is a normal reaction to death, the isolation and stress of the past year might have prolonged or worsened existing depressive symptoms. The best things you can do to cope through a loss in these times are relying on social support, taking care of yourself and seeking professional help whenever necessary.
According to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, there is a clear correlation between financial debt and mental health. Many companies faced with hardship have needed to lay off employees or decrease pay, resulting in major stress for families across the globe.
Although economic insecurity is obviously a tragedy, the widespread need for assistance has brought attention to programs that are available, and even saw the creation of new financial relief programs. Contact your city manager – or search online resources – to identify potential services that can help with housing, medical bills, food assistance, transportation and more.
There is no shame in requesting financial help. Accepting support from government or local agencies can not only help you to provide for day-to-day needs, but can also help protect your mental health.
Increased anxiety and depression symptoms
Uncertainty, social isolation and hundreds of other factors may have exacerbated feelings of existing depression and anxiety, or brought them out for the first time. Whether or not you have a clinical diagnosis of a mental health disorder, addressing anxiety and depression can help you to change this year for the better.
The best way to address anxiety or depression is to enlist the help of a mental health professional. Starting or increasing treatment can help you to not only cope, but thrive this year. Along with formal treatment, here are some suggestions to better your mental health in 2021:
- Try out a new self-care regimen, such as mindfulness or stretching
- Establish a regular exercise routine
- Educate yourself on mental health symptoms and treatment
- Embrace a new hobby
- Spend time with loved ones, even if it has to be done virtually
- Set goals for yourself and write out steps to get there
- Try daily journaling
2020 was a heavy year. Whether our challenges were new or existing, there’s no denying that we all need extra support for our mental wellbeing. Despite many obstacles, there is hope for living a healthier and more satisfying 2021. When you invest in yourself and take advantage of professional help and resources, there’s no reason this year can’t be the best year of your life.
If you’re hoping to make 2021 better than last year and you want to engage in mental health services to help get you there, check out The Light Program. Adults and teens can find treatment for a variety of mental health concerns, through both residential and outpatient programs. Call (610) 644-6464 to set up an appointment.