As sure as masks lower the risk of Covid-19 transmission, 2020 was a difficult year for everyone. While vaccines are starting to be administered in some parts of the world, and are on their way to South Africa, the challenges are not over yet.
It’s likely to still be a tough year ahead as the country navigates the fallout of a second wave of infections. Stress levels have been at an all-time high for many people through the pandemic. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, 78 per cent of adults surveyed said that the pandemic ‘is a significant source of stress in their life’ and 67 per cent reported increased stress over this time.
With a new year upon us, now is the time to tune out the news reports, fear and uncertainty that featured so heavily in our lives in 2020. Too much stress over a long period of time can negatively impact your mental well-being and physical health, so it’s important to establish coping mechanisms ‒ from making healthy lifestyle choices and practising mindfulness, to decluttering your space and setting your goals in action.
At the start of every new year, people vow to drink green smoothies and exercise daily. You don’t have to go to extremes. Both of those things will make you feel good but you’re allowed a cheat day too. Here are some simple ways to be kinder to yourself in 2021.
- Focus on you
We’ve all been spending a lot more time with our loved ones, without the usual (at least brief) escapes of going to work, the gym, or out with friends. ‘Me’ time is beneficial for physical, mental, and emotional health.
Too little time to yourself can negatively impact your relationships and could potentially lead to unhealthy habits, sleep deprivation, depression or burnout. Psychologists recommend time alone for its many benefits including enhancing relationships, having time to think, properly resting the mind and unwinding from daily stresses and ultimately improving concentration, creativity and productivity.
Taking time to do things for yourself can help you recharge and even boost your immune system. If you’re seriously struggling to switch off for a while, practise mindfulness with meditation, go for a walk or run or find a book or recipe to focus on for a while.
In fact, lowering your stress levels, getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy meals and exercising combined is an excellent immune-boosting strategy.
- Tidy home, tidy mind
It’s scientifically proven that being surrounded by mess, dirt and clutter leads to higher stress levels. Cleaning and decluttering your space can eliminate distractions, boost motivation and create a healthier home environment.
You can double up on being kind to yourself by enlisting the help of a ‘SweepStar’ through the SweepSouth app or website. The process is quick, user-friendly and affordable. By doing so, according to SweepSouth co-founder and CEO Aisha Pandor, you directly create work opportunities at a time when many domestic workers are struggling to find employment. You also give yourself that much-needed break!
- Practise self-care
Self-care has been trending for a couple of years now. So much so that Google Search Trends reported a 250 per cent increase in self-care-related searches between 2019 and 2020. There’s a lot more to it than long baths, face masks and manicures though.
Self-care is incredibly important for mental health and wellness, and can even reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke or cancer. This is more than just taking ‘me’ time, it’s ensuring that all of your needs in life are met. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the United States identified eight dimensions of wellness: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual.
Your goals at the start of this year might have gone out of the window by March, but it’s time for a fresh start. Even if you’ve suffered setbacks, think about what you want for your life and how you can get things in motion in the year ahead. Things might still be different for a while, but it’s still important to focus on your goals.
- Be mindful of mental health
If you are concerned about your mental health at this understandably very stressful time, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many professionals that can equip you with the tools you need to cope with stress. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) stresses that the constant barrage of news and ever-changing regulations can be extremely stressful and overwhelming for anyone, especially those with pre-existing mental health issues.
The organisation advises that it is important to ‘learn new ways to cope and manage the stress’. Sadag also has a helpful list of tools, resources and helplines for those who need help through this time.
Be mindful of others too. You never know what internal struggles other people are going through.
- Tackle those odd jobs
The start of a new year is a great time to get on top of all of those niggling little things around the house that you just didn’t have the time and energy for while contending with a pandemic.
It’s been a busy time, with people living, working, exercising, home-schooling and more at home. Your house is bound to have suffered some wear and tear. They might not weigh heavily on your mind but all of those unfinished odd jobs add up and impact your stress levels. Tackle them, and take the burden off your shoulders.
You can also get SweepSouth in to help you. The business recently expanded their list of services to include gardeners, pool cleaners, painters, plumbers, electricians and handymen.
So, fix that broken light, replace that cracked tile or windowpane, liven up that wall that’s been crying out for a new coat of paint and, in the process, repair your state of mind.
Details: SweepSouth: sweepsouth.com or call 087-351-5444. Sadag: sadag.org