If you put self-care on the back burner in 2020, you’re hardly alone. This past year was undeniably stressful, with strange event after strange event happening on the regular (a global pandemic, an election that seemed to last eons, mass unemployment ― and that’s just chipping the surface).
Given all of that, many of us just focused on getting through the day. Even therapists slipped on self-care a bit. But a new year gives us a chance to reengage with healthier habits and practices that boost our mental and physical well-being.
Below, therapists share the healthy habits they’re doubling down on in 2021.
I’m prioritizing rest.
“I want to try to incorporate rest daily. This can look like a 15-minute yoga video or sitting for 10 minutes between sessions and focusing on deep breathing. This can even look like resting on the couch with my eyes closed and not napping. We tend to always be going and not think about the importance of rest. We tend to think and talk about the importance of sleep, but forget about the benefits of rest. Rest gives your mind a break. It gives your mind a chance to pause from thinking. Rest can help with stress, anxiety and focus.” ― Rebecca Leslie, a psychologist in Atlanta
I’m accepting that done is better than perfect.
“I struggle with a combination of procrastination and perfectionism (a common overlap), wherein I put things off until I have the time and space to devote to making them *just right.* While the desire for quality isn’t in itself problematic, I begin to get overwhelmed when the to-do list starts getting longer and longer, which often leads to more procrastination. It’s an anxiety-provoking cycle! This year I’m committed to reminding myself that no one has higher standards for myself than I do, and that the relief from finishing something in a timely matter is part of being kind to my future self.” ― Kathleen Dahlen deVos, a psychotherapist based in San Francisco
The election is over. I’m unplugging!
“Now that the election is over I’ve decided to disconnect from the news and social media. There’s just too much negativity and alarmism that I don’t find healthy for me. This is tough to do though, and requires really being on your toes. I was looking for a YouTube video the other day and a news stream showed up in the search results giving me the latest goings-on that I just didn’t need to see or think about. But cutting back on the noise is doable, and I already see a difference in my outlook and attitude because I’m doing it.” ― Kurt Smith, a therapist in Roseville, California
I’m not going to code switch anymore.
“Code switching is when a person adjusts the way they verbal and nonverbally communicate to connect with others. Code switching is often associated with Black people using very formal English and limited gestures to communicate when in predominantly white spaces.
However, people code switch to connect interculturally as well. For instance, using slang and nonverbal communication techniques that are more common in the Black community. BIPOC are not the only people that code switch ― women do this in predominantly male spaces, doctors tend to use more jargon when speaking to peers, and members of the LGBTIA+ community also do it.
Code switching can be exhausting because it requires an adjustment from the natural way of communicating. Some people even say those who code switch are being inauthentic. For me, I code switch to connect with others and to demonstrate my competence. At this point in my life, I much rather spend my limited energy on the work I am doing, rather than on showing through my communication that I can do the work.” ― Dana E. Crawford, a therapist in New York City
I’m engaging in more self-compassion practices.
“Self-compassion is when we respond to our distress, challenges and perceived shortcomings with the gentleness and care we might give to someone we really want to care about. 2020 has been a challenge for most of us and 2021 isn’t going to magically get easier. When we are already struggling and add self-judgment this does not support positive mental health. Being gentle with ourselves when we are struggling actually allows us to have more emotional resources to cope. Self-compassion also allows us to be gentler to others in return. I know I want to continue to support a kinder gentler world and I know it starts with me.” ― Sarah Joy Park, a psychologist in San Luis Obispo, California
I’m staying connected to my mind and body.
“In 2021, I’m focusing on staying connected with what my brain and body need. 2020 has been an exhausting year and so often I’ve found myself seeking quick ways to replenish and recharge, whether that’s bingeing Netflix or snacking on peanut butter M&M’s. Now there’s nothing wrong with either of those activities, but I’m working on getting more deeply in touch with what I need when I’m feeling depleted, rather than just noticing the emptiness. Do I need to give my brain a break and watch some TV? Do I need an energy boost from eating something delicious? Do I need to recharge by texting or calling my best friend for a chat? Or is my body asking for some sun salutations, a dance party in my living room, a steamy hot shower, or do I just want to curl up with a good book.” ― Alexis Bleich, the clinic director at Kip Therapy in New York City
I’m paying attention to pacing.
“When I’m feeling impatient in a relationship, job or anything else, I’m going to pay attention to pacing. That means reminding myself that everyone goes at their own pace. That should make me feel more patient and help me to match my effort and expectations to the outcomes I hope for.” ― Rachel Kazez, therapist and founder of All Along, which helps people understand mental health and find therapy
I’m spending more time working and playing outdoors.
“The mental health benefits of spending time in nature are well documented, and I was able to start enjoying those this year as I created an outdoor office to fight off my pandemic cabin fever. There’s something about being surrounded by sunshine, trees and noisy songbirds that makes the workday feel a lot less monotonous. And I can literally feel the screens in my life melting off me when I take a hike in the woods.” ― Sean Davis, a marriage and family therapist and a professor at Alliant International University in California
I’m connecting genuinely with others.
“2020 has taught me that we need each other. In 2021 I will be more mindful of checking in on others, focusing on healthy relationships and letting go of the bad ones. Life is too short to spend it in the company of people who suck the life out of you. 2021 will be spent making memories, laughing with loved ones and giving them the best of me.” ― Ibinye Osibodu-Onyali, a marriage and family therapist in Murrieta, California
I’m getting crafty.
“I’ve found that making things with my hands is an incredibly effective tool for managing stress and anxiety. The focus required for the task at hand is a kind of mindfulness practice, and the dopamine released from finishing a beautiful project is great as an antidote to the stress hormone cortisol. Also, crafting is a great break from screens for the eyes. I love fiber arts, so I’m going to pick weaving or knitting back up, or even relearn embroidery, something I haven’t done in over 25 years.” ― Kathleen Dahlen deVos