While 2020 has been a very difficult year for many of us, it has also shown us how important it is to prioritize our mental health and take care of each other. Here are 4 tips and instructions from last 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 being physically active is important for your mental health. Taking care of our bodies can improve our mood, stress levels, and self-esteem, and help reduce anxiety. Not sure where to start? Here are some strategies you can use to tackle the basics:
- sleeping: Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Set a timer on your phone to turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before bed. Instead of scrolling on your phone, choose to do relaxing activities like reading, journaling, coloring, yoga, or listening to meditation to help your body relax. You can also check out this free Healthy Living workshop from Counseling and Psychiatry Services, which covers a variety of topics, including sleep.
- Eating food: Respect your hunger cues and try to eat at least one distraction-free meal (that means no phones, computers, TV, etc.). If you find yourself feeling tired or hungry by the end of class, consider preparing snacks in advance to keep you focused and satiated. You can get help with nutrition, meal planning and intuitive eating through Nutrition Services.
- Physical activity: Make physical activity more fun by choosing the activities you love and are passionate about. The exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or burn a lot of calories. Moving your body through walking, yoga or low-impact exercise is good 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 get-togethers, Zoom game nights and all the other things we zoom in on, it’s no wonder so many of us feel overwhelmed by virtual socializing. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to separate and find alternative ways to meet people or connect with friends and family. Here are some ideas you can 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.
- Suppose you have a land line. Video calls quickly replaced face-to-face interactions. Although this is a great way to watch and chat with friends or family, it can be tiring 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 is an app for this. Meeting people organically can be difficult. If you are struggling to meet new people, it may be useful to use an app to help you communicate more easily. Apps like MeetUp and Bumble BFF can be a great place to start looking for people or joining groups you click.
- volunteering. Find a cause 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 with similar interests. The Volunteer Resource Center has a number of resources to help you get started.
- Remote social networking. Choose activities that allow you to see friends while keeping a safe distance. For example, outdoor activities like hiking or biking are a great way to enjoy social time while still following public health orders. Remember to check your current connection level for restrictions before exiting.
3: Talk to someone
If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust for help. Finding connection and support from friends, family, or professionals can help you through difficult times. Here are some of the resources available to help on campus:
- Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS): CAPS is the primary mental health resource for CU Boulder students. They offer mental health assessments, brief counseling for individuals and couples, workshops, group therapy, and Let’s Talk counseling.
- Office of Victim Assistance (OVA): OVA is the essential resource for students, staff, and faculty who have experienced a traumatic or upsetting life event, including death, illness, harassment, assault, abuse, prejudice, and more. They offer brief one-to-one counseling, advocacy services, and ask a lawyer.
- Peer Wellness Training (PWC): Peer wellness coaches are students who have been trained to support their fellow undergraduates. 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 take advantage of our emergency and crisis care options.
4: Practice what you know
We live in a culture that emphasizes quick solutions and easy solutions. However, mental health is a complex issue, and it may take time, patience, and practice until you feel better. An important factor in working to improve your mental health is sticking to it. It can be tempting to constantly scroll through mental health practices in search of the best and easiest solutions. However, evaluating what you already know and putting it into practice can be more helpful than looking for new alternatives.
For example, if you are in therapy, it is important that you do the homework or exercises provided by your therapist. Likewise, if you know going to bed early or breaking up with the news is good for you, keep doing these things over a long period of time. These are just a few examples of how to put what you already know to good use. It is also important to know that there is no shame in looking for alternative strategies, but remember not to neglect the tools that work for you.
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