The year 2020 brought challenges none of us could have imagined. The COVID-19 pandemic, its associated economic burdens, isolation from family and friends – coupled with our national racial and political unrest – impacted every American in some way.
As we embark on 2021 and start to see glimmers of hope to a return to normalcy, the fact remains that the events of 2020 have and continue to take a significant toll on our mental and emotional well-being. Even if your family has been lucky to have not felt the impact of serious illness, death or job loss, seeing news reports about our collective challenges day after day can still affect your mental health.
That is why as we move into the new year, the topic of mental and emotional healing is more important than ever.
At SAFY, we know good mental health is the framework for strong families and communities. When a parent or child is struggling with mental or emotional health, it impacts the ability for the entire family to function. And we know over the course of COVID-19, the number of Americans struggling with depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health challenges has grown. A survey from the CDC found that a staggering 41% of respondents reported mental health issues stemming from the pandemic.
While many are used to making resolutions for the new year, I’d like to offer some tips from SAFY on setting intentions for better mental and emotional health in the new year. Unlike resolutions that so often set us up for failure, intentions represent a larger shift in mindset for the way we live. Consider these intentions for supporting your mental health in 2021:
- Normalize the conversation. While talking about mental health may have had a stigma in the past, one silver lining we can all take from the year 2020 is the importance of being open to having conversations about mental health.
- Know the signs. We all have emotional ups and downs, good and bad days and occasional feelings of depression or anxiety. But serious, ongoing feelings of depression and anxiety can signal something more serious is going on. It’s important to know the signs to look for in yourself and your loved ones. Increased irritability, changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or not enough), changes in appetite, increases in alcohol use, dark thoughts, not feeling joy or contentment and sustained feelings of hopelessness are some telltale signs of a more serious mental health challenge.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression or general stress and it’s impacting your everyday life, don’t hesitate to seek help. First, talk to your family and loved ones, and then seek professional help. There are many options for mental health treatment that will help you get back to feeling a sense of normalcy and well-being.
- Check in on others. Whether it is our children, elderly parents, friends or neighbors, it is important for all of us to check in on the mental health of our loved ones. While it may seem difficult or uncomfortable, it can be one of the most loving and caring actions we can take. And if you sense there is a problem, help your loved one take action and seek professional help.
- Prioritize self-care. We all know what our minds and bodies need to manage stress. Taking a break from the endless news cycles and social media posts are important for everyone to get some mental clarity. In addition, find what works for you. Exercise. Take a walk. Watch mindless TV or a movie. Cook or bake. Play games with your kids. Call a friend. The important thing is to make these activities a priority.
SAFY is proud to offer a variety of mental and behavioral health supports in the communities we serve. And these services go beyond the families we work with as part of our therapeutic foster care, adoptions and family support programs. If you would like to learn more about our mental and behavioral health services or speak to one of our mental health professionals, please reach out. We’d love to help. www.safy.org/behavioral-health-services/.
Additional Resources on Mental Health:
- Better Help: 15 Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Nationwide Children’s Hospital On Our Sleeves Resources for Children’s Mental Health