As we leave last year behind us, I can admit that things still feel like nothing has changed. It is hard to not forget what last year has done to us mentally, emotionally, and physically. While we can't change what has happened, we can change how we move forward, regardless of what is to come for 2021. Offering an assist in helping us find our way back and improve our mental health is licensed professional counselor, Pamela Smith. When it comes to mental health and prioritizing it for yourself, she mentioned that it is easy for us to get so wrapped up in our everyday obligations that it hinders us from realizing what exactly we actually need for positive mental health.
"Being a black woman is very difficult. As much of an honor it is, it can be extremely difficult. So my self-care is knowing when. Not only will my body tell me it's time for me to have several seats, but mentally you can feel [yourself] becoming more and more drained." Pamela Smith was willing to share 5 mental health practices with xoNecole that we all can apply for the year 2021. If you apply these practices, it will help you differentiate if you are operating in survival mode vs actually living for yourself.
1. Maintain a Schedule
"The pandemic hit everyone off their balance. This sense of normalcy was hijacked and it caused a lot of fear in people. In my profession, what I have learned is that uncertainty is a true root of anxiety. You need to bring back something that can ground you and to keep you tethered to life," Pamela explained. "This year, one thing you can do is create a new schedule for yourself and maintain it. You can bring in some of the old things you used to do in your routine, while also opening up to adding something new. Part of creating a schedule, with or without limited resources, can help with that fear of uncertainty. You have something to look forward to and you feel less and less impacted by things you don't have control over."
It is something about setting intentions that helps with the flow of each day for people. We cannot predict what each day will hold, but putting in certain daily tasks for yourself can help you stay focused, feel more grounded and centered.
2. Be Kind to Yourself
"We are our own worst critics. We don't need somebody else to beat us up because we do a really good job doing that on our own. In this new realm that we're in, remember you are not by yourself. It may feel lonely right now, but I promise you are not alone in this. There are a lot of people feeling the exact same way," Pamela began. "To help with that aloneness, learn to quiet that voice in your head that is telling you those negative thoughts. Give yourself grace and know that you are just doing the best you can."
"If you are not doing the best that you can, then step your game up. When you are able to be kind to yourself, it can ease that feeling of something's missing. It will allow you to live with a mindset of positivity and gratitude."
What does being kind to yourself look like? Is it reading positive affirmations out loud to yourself, taking a nice bubble bath, or letting out a good cry? Whatever comes to mind that can pivot those negative mental stories when we are alone, apply and repeat. These kinds of moments will always come, so practicing your go-to act of kindness will go a long way.
3. Take That Nap, Sis!
"I will admit that this is the most difficult one. We give so much of ourselves to others, that it's hard to find time to pour back into ourselves. Every day we are the employee, the mother, the daughter, the friend, the soror, you know we are all of the things. So this certain self-care technique is beneficial to add to the daily hustle and bustle. I recommend getting a good sleep regimen to get some quality rest," Pamela shared. "Even if it's not a nap and you need to plan for times to eat or exercise, do that for yourself. It is those moments of pause that makes a huge difference for your body's energy. Think about your cell phone. When you see that 10 percent notification come on, we instantly put it on the charger. If we treated our bodies just like we treat our cell phones, we would be able to perform a lot better."
A moment of pause is exactly what we all need. It is easy to lose track of time and it is difficult to imagine where to fit in this moment of pause. But if you are determined to add 15-30 minutes of recharging, you will find a way to fit it in. You can create your own time during the day and there is no wrong answer. It is OK to give yourself permission to relax and it will not stop you from completing the rest of the world's demands of you.
4. Practice ForgivenessGiphy
"I don't think I have met anyone that hasn't experienced some sort of trauma. The severity differs, but I do believe that everyone has had some sort of trauma or traumatic event in their life. Oftentimes, we don't know how to deal with that trauma because we don't know who we are. Not knowing who we are doesn't afford us the ability to forgive ourselves for something we did in our past. Forgiving yourself will be beneficial for self-discovery and once you can do it for yourself, you can forgive others."
"Everything that you are now is a sum total of all your experiences. Accepting that you will not rely on your past experiences can help with you reimagining a new definition of how you are showing up for yourself."
Self-reflection and letting go of some of that baggage is important for this one. Just like we said goodbye to 2020, try and say goodbye to things that you have been holding on to that no longer serves you. You may have done something you regret or the way someone mistreated you is still in the back of yor mind. Right now, you owe it to yourself to not let the past have so much power over you. You cannot change what happened. So let us accept what was, acknowledge the heaviness it brings, and be brave enough to leave it exactly where it is in order to move forward.
5. Accepting Life Adjustments Aren't Always BadGiphy
"We got very creative during this pandemic. Us as a people, if we can't do anything else, we are going to make things happen. This pandemic allowed us to be on a time out. To sit and think for a moment on what is important to us. Because of this time out, we have readjusted our priorities a bit. We went back to the basics to try and maintain our relationships and build new ones," she began.
"While the pandemic has been hard for us, our values have shifted and who is to say that is not what we needed? Who is to say that by adjusting our values and accepting what we have zero control over, this doesn't help us in the long run? We started to appreciate things we already have instead of looking for the next thing to gain."
Featured image by Shutterstock