The Mental Health Resolutions You Need In 2021, According To An Expert

The best self-care you can do for yourself is listening to your body and knowing when to shift.


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 Forgiveness


"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 Bad


"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."

To learn more about Pamela Smith and her practice, you can check out her website here and follow her on Instagram.

Featured image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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