Healthy Mind

10 Mental Health Practices We Learned This Year That We’re Taking With Us Into 2021

Erin Bunch

Photo: Getty Images
Someone recently sent me one of those "year in pictures" roundups, and after perusing the collection of 2020's most heart-wrenching photos, my response to her was, "We survived this!" TBH, I don't think we're giving ourselves enough credit for having made it through the incessant and unprecedented stress of this year—and we should be! It certainly hasn't been an easy or good year for anyone I know, but we've all done our best to make it through. In many cases, this has meant either leaning heavily on our go-to coping mechanisms or developing novel ways of dealing with the extraordinary pressures of the times.

When it comes to these self-preservation tactics, what works for one rarely works for all (with the exception of exercise—exercise is scientifically-proven to regulate/boost your mood for literally every human!). Still, it never hurts to look around at what others are doing to see if it might help you, too. With that in mind, below find self-care techniques and tricks gathered by Well+Good staffers that have helped them through 2020, so much so that they plan to continue the practices in the challenging new year ahead.

1. EFT Tapping

"Over the summer I started EFT Tapping [Emotional Freedom Technique] with Gala Darling as a way to kind of rewire my negative thoughts. Sitting still during meditation sends me down a depressing whirlpool sometimes, so I needed something kinetic and fresh. By August, I felt absolutely unfuckwithable, not in a dangerous way, but just in a 'Wow, I am a sparkly little person who is going to glow really hard on the other side of the pandemic' way. I basically introduced everyone—my friends, my colleagues, my mother—to it, and I do feel a difference on the days I tap versus the days I roll out of bed and cry into my keyboard. Definitely keeping this in my self-care toolkit." — Mary Grace Garis, Lifestyle Writer

2. Making space for intentional solitude

"I've grown to appreciate intentional alone time this year. I used to get it in passing every day—listening to podcasts on my commute, while showering, and just going through the motions of life. In quarantine, I've learned to value the concept of being alone because I don't actually live alone and thus have had to get creative with how I find solitude in quarantine. Noise-canceling headphones and a fun recipe to cook is one way I've been able to trick myself into feeling like I'm in my own space." — Alexis Berger, Senior Lifestyle Editor 

3. Accessing digital therapy

It's been harder than ever for many of us to access mental health care this year due to economic strain and/or pandemic precautions—at a time when we need it more than ever—but fortunately, digital therapy has stepped up in a major way. This year, we've explored companies like Talkspace, Hims and Hers, Frame, Cerebral, Real, and Octave, which offer varying mental health care solutions and tools at a variety of price points. In many cases, these options can be more easily tailored to meet individual needs than a set weekly session with a traditional IRL therapist, so this whole emerging landscape is one of the rare positive outcomes of 2020's myriad of challenges.

4. Getting cozy in the kitchen

"I've always loved cooking, but historically it's been more utilitarian or because I want to host a big dress-up dinner with just as many friends as canapés and bottles of red wine. Over the course of 2020, that's changed. With more time to pack my Pinterest boards with breakfasts that take longer to prepare than overnight oats, and the patience to try and try again with my grandmother's stew recipe, perfecting the measurements, cooking has become one of the few things that I've felt like I've had total control over in a time where so much is out of my hands. My kitchen has become my therapist's office, and paprika, my medicine of choice. The comfort that I've found in honing my culinary skills is something that's given me so much solace, and I can't wait to keep trying new recipes and learning more and more as I grow. Hopefully, more people can sit around my table in the coming years." — Saanya Ali, Editorial Projects Associate

"After I 'clock out' of work, I pull up a recipe on the Deliciously Ella app and take my time carefully slicing and dicing vegetables. The simple pleasure of cooking a meal from start to finish is something I rarely felt before the pandemic—but now I can't get enough." — Kells McPhillips, Staff Writer

5. Playing video games

McPhillips also took up video games this year, and she was far from alone. Market research reports that just between March 16 and March 22, at the very beginning of the pandemic in the U.S., video game sales increased by 63 percent. According to clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD, gaming helps us cope by allowing us a reprieve from our stress and anxieties. And science backs this up, too: video games have been found to improve moodreduce stress and anxiety, and institute a state of calm. Plus, they can be done in solitude, either with or without a virtual playmate.

6. Using music mindfully

"It's incredibly dorky, but I started listening to 'Hold On' by Wilson Phillips every morning to get myself out of bed. It sets just the right tone for pushing through the slog of this year, and kinda works as an anthem for overcoming anything. Friends have laughed at me, but I've also converted a few. 10/10 would recommend!" — Erin Bunch, freelance writer 

"Taylor Swift gave us not one but two new albums in 2020 (which, as one Twitter user pointed out, is more than the number of stimulus checks from the government). Their melancholy 'stare out the window and watch the raindrops at night while ensconced under a flannel blanket, drinking tea from a ceramic mug that you made yourself' vibes are perfect for my quarantine coping mechanism: sobbing to sad music. Instead of trying to keep my tears in, I defy my Capricorn moon and lean into my Pisces placements that are begging for me to feel all my feelings. I probably cry at least once a day, and if that just made you think, 'yikes,' I will point you to the science that says crying is good for you and crying to sad music, in particular, can make you feel happier. So I highly recommend blasting T-Swift (or Sara Bareilles, or Phoebe Bridgers, or Kiana Ledé) and letting those tears flow." — Allie Flinn, freelance writer

7. Pounding the pavement

"It's kind of my cop out for everything in life, but running always helps me to get perspective. That familiar motion of putting one foot in front of the other and knowing the finish line is far off has helped me mentally pace myself through the pandemic." — Ali Finney, Beauty and Fitness Director

8. Letting the stars guide your self-care

Any astrology buff knows that what centers a fiery Aries might not work so well for a watery Pisces. So, freelance writer Jessica Estrada asked astrologers to weigh in on the best way for each sign to practice self-care from the comfort of their home. Their answers ranged from sunshine for Leos to journaling for Scorpios—find your sign's recommended self-care technique here.

9. Or, utilizing your Myers-Briggs type to find the right ritual

Likewise, not all Myers-Briggs types are comforted by the same activities, so Jenna Birch, author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life & Love, shared the best coping mechanisms for each.

10. Prioritizing community

Having to be physically distanced from one another has made us all more aware of just how critical community is to our overall well-being. As a result, self-care began to look a lot less solitary this year than it has in years prior, and virtual communities sprung up all over the internet. Well+Good predicts this trend will continue in the new year; and if you're looking for a place to belong in 2021, check out Meetup's new-ish digital gatherings, Ethel's Club, Dive In Well, black girls breathing, Sad Girls Club, Chronicon Community, and/or Somewhere Good, as well as Therapy for Black Girls, Well-Read Black Girl, and GirlTrek. Or, build a stronger community with your existing friends—here are 12 ideas to get you started.

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