By Quinton Kiser
So, it’s a new year. It’s 2021, to be exact. For some of us, it is a little hard to believe that we are actually in the year 2021. I can remember when the year 2000 was an exciting, futuristic year that many people were looking forward to. I can remember when the year 2010 was a vague year that seemed far off in the future, and I couldn’t imagine what life might be like when we finally got there. But now we’ve arrived. If that doesn’t amaze you (even just a little), you’re probably at least glad to be done with 2020. That year was definitely a year for the history books, and I’m sure many of us are hoping that 2021 is better.
The good news is, you don’t have to merely hope that 2021 is a better year. You can do certain things for yourself to help make this a decent year. Granted, 2020 was filled with all sorts of things that most of us had little control over—COVID-19, a rancorous presidential election, Tiger King, and depleted store shelves. Nevertheless, much of our well-being is still in our control. We just need to take the initiative to self-reflect and decide specifically what we need to work on in our lives and how can go about doing it. Here are some ways you can take better care of yourself in 2021 so that it is better than 2020.
Did you know that nearly 65% of all Americans (hey, that’s nearly 2/3) who were polled just last July 2020 said that social media has a negative effect on how things are in the U.S. today? That’s scary! They name misinformation, hate, and harassment as primary reasons for this. (Cyber bullying probably falls under hate.) They are concerned about people believing everything they read on social media, not being prepared to discern between those who are just giving uninformed opinions and those who are actually giving positive, constructive information. While younger people in early adulthood were more likely to call social media a positive force, older Americans believe the opposite. Where is the truth? Somewhere in the middle? In any case, we should probably pay attention to how to create positive social media habits and stay safe. Then we can teach our children how to do it!
Okay – if you’re practically perfect in practically every way, raise your hand. Wait – I don’t see any hands – LOL! That’s because nobody is practically perfect in any way (unless your name is Mary Poppins). However, that may be by design. So, it’s not a bad thing. What’s important is that you are open and strive to become a better person. If you’re a mom (or if you’re a dad or if you’re just raising kids), well – kids are always there to give us challenges, problems, etc. … all of which are opportunities for growth. Here we go!
The holidays have come and gone … again. While they can be quite wonderful, they are usually also quite stressful. Many if not most of us make New Year’s resolutions, and then what happens? They somehow quietly go by the wayside. Take, for example, resolutions to lose weight. While understandable, and many of us gain weight during the holidays or just want to get thinner and healthier for the coming bathing suit season, the emotional reasons we overeat are still present within us. So are the old habits. So are the old dieting patterns, which often end up in a blaze of smoke!
Have you ever been one of the people who get the holiday blues toward the end of the year? If so, you’re not alone. Whether you are battling a mental health issue or not, it is easy to succumb to the holiday blues. (Did you know that 64% of people who do have mental health issues report feeling depressed at the holidays?) Although the suicide rates do not spike at the holidays, the holiday blues are very real. It’s been clearly documented that people do feel more stress, anxiety, and especially depression at this time of year. Of course, the majority of people report feeling happy, loving, and generally have high spirits, but at the same time they are also overly tired, still feeling higher levels of stress, irritability, and they report feeling bloated and sad. Some of the reasons for increased stress are time, money, all the commercialism that surrounds the holiday season, feeling pressured to give gifts, and being at family gatherings. Ironically, more people report feeling the added stress at work rather than at home. Please remember that holiday blues end at the close of the holiday season, so if you’re still feeling any of these negative symptoms, it is probably time to look at your diet, and hook up with a professional to help you readjust. The holidays may just be exacerbating a situation that is already there and that needs attention.
While the holiday season is supposed to be festive, create happy feelings, etc., that doesn’t mean it will automatically enhance our mental health. In fact, as many of us are painfully aware, it is not uncommon for people to feel angry, irritable, stressed out, and depressed at year’s end. Stressors include lack of time, money, too much commercialism, and pressures of giving gifts and being at family gatherings. So, if that happens, let’s find out how to turn it back around again!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.