2020 was a difficult year. Let’s be honest. I know I am one of most who cannot wait for 2020 to be over knowing that, hopefully, 2021 cannot be any worse. But hey, on the positive side, we can only go up from here!
With that in mind, there are several things you can do as we begin the new year to recover from this past year’s challenges and be sure to put your mental health at the top of your self care priorities for 2021. That is why we created this list of 13 mental health and self care tips for the 2021 new year. Intended not only to help get you back on your feet again, but also feel grounded and capable of conquering another year like we know you can. 💪🏼
- Change up your furniture layout
- Discover new songs and create a motivational playlist
- Start a new hobby
- Challenge yourself to learn something new by taking a free online course
- Downsize and declutter your living space
- Take a break from social media
- Create a Pinterest “Vision Board”
- Add a 10-minute daily exercise routine
- Set work boundaries
- Turn off notifications/push notifications on your phone
- Stop watching the news
- Create a “Self Care Jar”
Let's dive into more about what these really mean and how you can modify your habits and behaviors, and add new ones, to improve your mental health for 2021.
1. Change up your furniture layout
This small change surprisingly adds quite a bit of spice to your everyday life and also allows you to be creative while creating a fresh, calm space that can help you feel even more comfortable and relaxed.
Adding some plant life can also be a great addition to any room. Plants are known to be aesthetically comforting and can provide fresher air. Maybe it is time to create that yoga and meditation space that you’ve been daydreaming about, a space dedicated entirely to you and your practice. Consider adding in some candles and plants for the ultimate peaceful affect.
2. Discover new songs and create a motivational playlist
When I am feeling in a slump, this is one of the first things that I do. Create a Mood Playlist from songs that you already love that give off the good vibes your soul craves.
Or, if you have Spotify, head over to the Browse > Discover tab and find some great new songs for your inspiration.
3. Start a new hobby
During these peak COVID-times, it is easy to go a bit stir crazy staying inside for days on end. Why not try your hand at a new hobby to keep you busy and productive. I recently tried Macramé and had no idea how much fun it is! Since I discovered my love for Macramé, I actually made all Macramé Christmas gifts this year and have many other Macramé home decor ideas on my list that I am excited to get started on.
Here are some great hobby ideas to try:
- Playing the guitar
- Candle/soap making
4. Challenge yourself to learn something new by taking a free online course
As I recently discovered, there are TONS of online classes that don’t require major time commitments, can be completed on your own schedule, and are absolutely FREE. Some even provide you with a free certificate at the end that is yours to keep. Although these aren’t necessarily going to get you a college degree, they can definitely add and refine your current skills.
Here are some great sites to browse through and take advantage of the many free courses they offer:
Volunteering your time is incredibly rewarding. Not only is it a great way to give back to the community, but it is also a great way to redirect your energy in a way that is empowering and gratifying.
During these prime pandemic times when most public gatherings are not allowed and people are working more safely from home, many volunteer positions have moved online. Some remote volunteer activities could include: helping draft newsletters and reports, assist with online fundraising efforts or phone banks, tackle social media, and even create videos and other promotional materials.
Consider your unique skill set. How can it be utilized remotely to help an organization grow and develop? These skills could be in accounting, such as helping to create information management systems, electronic organization and filing, or even data analysis. Maybe you are skilled in writing and are creative. You may love to develop marketing strategies for social platforms, email newsletters, and create images using graphic design.
If you have lived, you have experiences; from those experiences, you have gained skills. No matter what your work or professional background, everyone has something to offer and something to gain when volunteering.
What are some causes you are passionate about? Explore more about ways you can get involved and make a difference by visiting LearnHowToBecome.org.
6. Downsize and declutter your living space
One of my personal favorites, decluttering and downsizing the things you own will also declutter your brain. It is also said that those with the messiest office desks tend to be people who are typically more disorganized, flustered, and stressed.
Start downsizing with just one room, closet, or drawer at a time. Whatever you can realistically and mentally handle, start there. If there is something you are not sure you want to get rid of but can’t yet part with it, place it in a separate “maybe” bin and hide that bin from sight (but not so hidden that you will forget where you put it). The idea is that the next time you go through your things, have a look in this bin and if there are things you forgot about or never used, it’s a good sign you should get rid of it.
But please, when downsizing, do so sustainability. By this I mean recycle, up-cycle, and donate as much as possible before tossing it into the waste bin. Goodwill is a great choice for nearly all donations. However, keep in mind that there are some items they do not accept. Check out the Goodwill website for more details.
To find out more about materials and items accepted for recycling in your area, visit your city’s website. Pinterest has great repurposed household upcycle ideas, even for used plastic shampoo bottles. You could just discover your next DIY hobby!
7. Take a break from social media
I don’t mean indefinitely and I don’t mean deleting your account (of course you can if you want to). Only you can decide how long your break will be. But it should be a break that challenges you. If taking a break from social media for just one hour is a struggle, then perhaps make it two hours. If you only check social media once a day, try taking a break for a week.
Social media is notoriously known for negatively impacting mental health. Studies show that constant social media usage can lead to an increase in anxiety, depression, and sleep issues as well as a decrease in self-esteem1. Needless to say, take a break from social media for a while, your mental health will thank you.
One great thing I learned when I went off of Facebook was that it doesn’t own you. You also don’t need to delete your account. Instead, deleting the app from your phone is a great way to reduce the impulse and ease of frequent checking - along with turning off push notifications, which we will get to further on in #11.
Once I deleted the Facebook app from my phone, I felt a sense of freedom from its stronghold. I was able to distance myself from it. It’s like when a t-shirt falls behind the dryer, only to find it years later when, during that time, you forgot you even owned it in the first place.
It’s a feeling of empowerment. You are not controlled by the things you own - this includes your phone and the apps on it. You CAN control social media.
The best way to do so is to determine how frequently you check or think about checking it and how long you spend on all social media platforms each day. Begin slowly by choosing a realistic period of time and/or take a break from just one platform at a time. You will discover how much further you can push yourself to the point where you realize that you don’t even think about it at all. You have complete control over the steering wheel, my dear.
8. Create a Pinterest “Vision Board”
This Vision Board can be whatever you make it. Think of it as a physical bulletin board hanging in your room representing all things that inspire you. These could be how you concretely picture your dreams, what confidence looks like, favorite quotes, home decor, lifestyle, etc.
9. Add a 10-minute daily exercise routine
Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous. Think about it in any way that makes you feel comfortable without making you overwhelmed. The great part is this can be adapted to fit the time and energy you have available.
One great way to feel better and give yourself time to breathe while also working your muscles is to stretch for 10 minutes each day. This will create more fluidity in your body and help alleviate any aches and pains that may occur from sitting behind a desk all day (just guessing).
If you do work from home and have access to a laptop, I encourage you to take your laptop and work on the floor. I am an avid believer in multitasking, and so for you super busy momma’s and side-hustlers, you can actually get some static stretching done while you work.
Although focusing on getting deep stretches can often require undivided attention, putting on a new Podcast or your new favorite playlist during this time can help you feel relaxed and motivated.
Here are some awesome Podcast ideas for motivation:
- The Michelle Obama Podcast
- Unlocking Us with Brené Brown
- TED Talks Daily
- On Being with Krista Tippett
- Good Together
10. Set work boundaries
If you are under no obligation to work on the weekends, check company statuses, respond to business notifications after hours, or work long hours, you should set work boundaries with yourself and follow them. I came across an incredibly important point recently and that is that we as a culture need to stop glamorizing being a workaholic.
Work-life balance is crucial to our mental health.
Unless required by your job to be available after hours, set boundaries and stick to them. These might include:
-Not checking work emails on the weekend
-Not taking work-related calls after hours
+Taking a personal day and not apologizing for it or making the work up later
+Taking time off to care for your family and not apologizing for it
If a company expects you to work outside the demands of your job description, maybe it is time to arrange a meeting to discuss and re-evaluate the expectations of your position. If they make you feel guilty for taking an acceptable amount of time off every once in a while, then they may not have your mental health and personal well being in mind and it might be time for you to re-evaluate your values in an employer.
Here is a great article on What the "Best Companies to Work For" Do Differently. Spoiler: they “Put People First”.
11. Turn off notifications/push notifications on your phone
This doesn’t mean turning your phone on silent or Do Not Disturb mode. What I am talking about here is changing the notification settings for apps that send you many push notifications. You know what I am talking about. On an iPhone, it’s that little red bubble that pops up in the upper right corner of an app with a number signaling how many unread notifications you have for that app.
Turn those off.
Unless the app is something you need for work or for other urgent matters, turn off the push notifications. You can do so by going into your iPhone Settings > Notifications > find the App > modify the notification settings for that specific app. Here are the step-by-step instructions for iPhone and other devices: https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-turn-off-notifications-on-iphone
12. Stop watching the news
The news is typically filled with constant negativity. One headline after the next. A less time-consuming and more productive way I keep updated on current events without watching the news is to instead head over to my phone’s BBC or Al Jazeera app. This way, I can skim the latest headlines and read more about the topics that interest me, without having to listen through everything, including all the negativity that comes with it.
Another great way to fill your time is by instead replacing your nightly news habit with TED Talk and learn something new and inspirational. Here are 5 excellent and motivating TED Talks on YouTube you will definitely want to check out:
Elizabeth Gilbert Your Elusive Creative Genius
Eric Whitacre A Virtual Choir 2,000 Voices Strong
Hannah Brencher Love Letters to Strangers
Susan Cain The Power of Introverts
Scott Geller The Psychology of Self-Motivation
13. Create a "Self Care Jar"
This is a super fun and creative idea that is really simple and doesn’t involve a lot of extra supplies. Consider it a jar filled with date-night ideas - but they are date-night ideas with yourself. They don’t have to be extravagant and you don’t even need to spend any money on them at all if you don’t want or if it’s not in the budget.
We have created a handy Self Care Jar Ideas printable with great ideas, ready for you to print and cut out to add to your own self care jar. Just add ideas to the jar and pick out a different one each week!