For some of us, 2021 represented a return to normal in many ways. For others, it may have been another difficult year. Regardless of your experience, here are a few tips you can use to improve your mental health going into 2022.
1: Start with the basics
You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: prioritizing our basic needs like eating, sleeping and getting physical activity is important for our mental health. Taking care of our bodies can improve our mood, stress levels, self-esteem and help reduce anxiety. Not sure where to begin? Here are a few strategies you can use to address the basics.
- Sleep: Aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Turn down your thermostat to the optimal temperature for sleep: between 60 and 67 F. Set a timer on your phone as a reminder to start shutting down your electronics at least 1 hour before bed. Instead of scrolling on your phone, opt for relaxing activities like reading, journaling, coloring, yoga or listening to a meditation to help your body unwind. You can also join the Healthy Living workshop from Counseling and Psychiatric Services, which covers a variety of topics, including sleep.
- Eating: Honor your hunger cues, and try to eat at least one meal distraction-free (that means no phones, no computers, no TV, etc.). If you find yourself feeling tired or hungry by the end of class, consider preparing snacks in advance to keep yourself full and focused. For example, a square of dark chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine that can help you stay alert. You can get help with nutrition, meal planning and intuitive eating at Nutrition Services.
- Physical activity: Make physical activity more enjoyable by choosing activities that you like and are excited to do. Working out doesn’t have to be strenuous or burn a lot of calories. Moving your body through walking, yoga or low-impact exercises is just as beneficial for your mental and physical health. Check out this article to learn more about how movement can improve your mental health.
2: Talk to someone
If you’re struggling, please reach out to someone you trust for help. Seeking connection and support from friends, family or professionals can help you through the hard times. Here are a few resources on campus that are available to help:
- Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS): CAPS is the primary mental health resource for CU Boulder students. They offer workshops, group therapy screening appointments to assess needs, brief individual counseling, psychiatric care, community referrals and Let’s Talk consultations.
- Office of Victim Assistance (OVA): OVA is the primary resource for students, staff and faculty who have experienced a traumatic or disruptive life event, including but not limited to harassment, physical assault, abuse, sexual assault, partner or family abuse, bias, discriminaiton and more. They offer on-going advocacy services and brief individual counseling.
- Peer Wellness Coaching (PWC): Peer Wellness Coaches are students who are trained to support their fellow Buffs. PWC is a great option for students who want to set goals, connect with additional resources or make positive changes in their lives.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please utilize emergency and crisis care options.
3: Practice what you know
We live in a culture that emphasizes quick fixes and easy solutions. However, mental health is a complex issue, and it may take time, patience and practice to feel better. One important factor in working to improve your mental health is to stick with it.
For instance, if you know that going to bed early or disconnecting from the news is helpful for you, continue to do those things over an extended period of time. Similarly, if you’re in therapy, it’s important to do the homework or exercises provided by your therapist. These are just a few examples of how you can put what you already know to good use. It’s also important to know that there’s no shame in looking for alternative strategies, but remember not to neglect the tools that already work for you.