We can surely all agree that 2020 was filled with many challenges. From being inundated by a global health pandemic, having to adapt to these unprecedented times, feeling alone, and witnessing the suffering of so many, we look forward to better times and we enter 2021 with hope for a new and better year. Surely there is much to give us hope, such as widespread COVID-19 vaccination initiatives and optimism that a return to normal will soon be upon us. However, many of the 2020 stressors remain and along with the “winter blues” that many individuals experience during the winter months, we may still be struggling. Enter self-care. Self-care refers to being kind to oneself and giving oneself the space and time to do things that are recharging. Self-care is a great way to manage stressors and is critical in the recovery process.
Here are five great ways to integrate self-care into the new year:
Exercise: Not only are there an abundance of benefits to our physical health by remaining active, exercise is also a great way to boost your mental health! Exercise releases endorphins which can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, and the best part is that it does not take a lot to reap the benefits of exercise. Fifteen to twenty minutes of exercise, three to four times per week is a great place to start. Whether going for a walk, a bike ride, or a hike, to attending a socially-distanced workout class or visiting your local gym, the options for integrating exercise into your new year routine are endless!
Journaling: A terrific way to reflect on and process your emotions is by journaling. You can journal about how you are feeling, how your day went, what goals you have, or what your needs are. It can be a great way to clear your thoughts and recharge, particularly during stressful times.
Get adequate sleep: Getting the recommended sleep per night is another great way to engage in physical and mental self-care. Healthy sleep can contribute to increased alertness during the daytime and a more robust immune system, while also preventing burnout, helping us manage stress more effectively, and simply improving our overall sense of well-being. While the ideal number of hours of sleep is very individualized, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night for adults.
Focus on happiness: Do more things that bring you joy. Whether it being engaging in a hobby, snuggling with your pets, catching up with a friend or loved one, watching a good movie, or treating yourself, try integrating satisfying activities into your new year goals. And remember, sometimes laugher is the best medicine.
Ask for help: One of the hardest, but most important ways to engage in self-care is learning how to ask for help. We all feel overwhelmed at times. We all feel stressed at times. We all struggle at times. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is okay to express that you need someone to talk to. It is okay to receive help. If you would like to speak to a mental health professional, UTHealth Student Counseling Services is here to help. We are available for in-person and telehealth therapy sessions Mondays through Fridays, from 8 AM to 5 PM by calling 713-500-5171 to schedule an appointment. Additional resources for help include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) and Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741), and the I-M-UT Crisis Hotline (713-500-IMUT), which are all available 24/7.