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Hitting the reset button on your mental health in 2021

Ways to learn from 2020 and enter 2021 with a healthier mindset.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — From layoffs and remote learning to wearing masks and social distancing, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way of life for all of us.

And many of us are counting down until 2020 is over.

"I think all of us have experienced this shared traumatic experience," says Stephanie K. Starks. 

She is an independently licensed social worker who specializes in trauma-focused therapy. Starks says she has seen more people seeking counseling since the pandemic began. 

"I think with COVID, you now have everything that COVID-19 brought to people's lives in addition to things that maybe they were dealing with before the pandemic hit."

Starks offers advice for changing your mindset going into 2021. 

"I tell all of my clients everyday, you need to be doing one thing to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Literally, you should be checking a box off everyday to make sure you've done something in one of those areas to take care of yourself. And you have to be very intentional about it."

Starks also recommends "having an attitude of gratitude." She says to think of one thing you are thankful for everyday.

Starks says you can use what you have experienced this year - "Try to identify things that you learned about yourself, you learned about your mate, you learned about your children and your family during COVID-19. Think about ways that you grew mentally, emotionally and spiritually."

Starks suggests creating a family time capsule. She says fill it with pictures, quotes, notes or letters that capture all of the things you learned about yourself and each other this year. You can then open it and revisit it at the end of 2021.

And don't forget about your 2020 goals. Starks says you can move those goals to 2021 and add some new ones.

Most importantly, Starks says, is to seek help if you need it. It could be a mental health professional, clergy member, trusted friend or mentor. "There's still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, but this is actually the best time to reach out to someone and just talk and process everything you've gone through this year, you know, what you've learned from it, how you can move forward in a positive direction in 2021."

Starks also offered these suggestions:

-Manage your exposure to the news and social media. Most cell phones have the capability for us to limit how much time we spend on various apps on our phones. 

-Make sure that you have a healthy sleep routine. Turn off your TV, radio, and electronics one-to-two hours before bedtime. 

-Manage your diet and exercise. You don't feel comfortable going to the gym? Take two-to-three,15-minute power walks throughout the day or throw on some dance music and dance in your living room. 

-Find creative ways to stay connected to family and friends. Plan a Zoom game night or karaoke night. 

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