MENTAL HEALTH WELL-BEING: Considerations as a new year approaches

Brittany Bennett

As we wind down to the end of the calendar year, we may be reminiscing of the times we enjoyed, memories we acquired, hardships we endured, and shortcomings and concerns that have come along with COVID-19.

December traditions may look and feel different this year. They may even be postponed or skipped. Consider how you hope to spend your holiday season in the face of restrictions and discuss your hopes with those you would like to spend time with. Spend time working towards a satisfactory holiday season although it may be different.

Check in with family and friends you care for. Check in with family and friends you feel supported by for ideas and suggestions. Make time to connect with those you enjoy being around. Perhaps phone calls or video could be an option if in-person traditions cannot be carried through.

Throughout the month take note of your physical and mental health. Friendly reminders include maintaining consistency of routine. Ensure your sleep and appetite are fulfilled with enough rest and meals throughout the day. Drink water daily to work towards a "healthy gut," take any prescribed medications as directed or discuss with you prescriber if you have any concerns.

Ensure you have an annual physical exam scheduled and attend it even if through tele-health. Discuss your health care goals with your doctor and consider sharing those goals with those in your life you feel support from.

Be conscious to move your body for some form of exercise. Many who have lost their routine of going into work are now working from home moving their body less than before. Make an effort to consider bundling up for a walk, consider engaging in stretching your body or other exercise routines you can incorporate regularly, and give yourself permission to do so. If one has access to the internet there are exercise tutorials and classes one can watch along to.

With COVID-19 restrictions there is less opportunity to enjoy things we once did, care-free, anyway. And some things we once enjoyed we are not able to do at all, or we have to make significant accommodations to enjoy them now. During such change it is worthy to work to develop bonds and common interests with others.

People we enjoy having in our lives is important; connection is important. Being able to confide in those we trust or feel supported by is important. Being able to talk about nothing and everything, which might include laughs (even if dark humor, seeing we are in what one may consider darker times), is important. Laughter is good for the soul, literally. Research supports that laughter boosts the immune system, protects the heart through anti-inflammatory effect, triggers the body’s "feel-good chemicals" and forms bonds with others, amongst other benefits. Identify who you enjoy speaking to and make time do to more of it.

Consider checking in with one another over recent interests. Discuss suggestions on television programs, long-term or new hobbies, and good book reads perhaps that you both could enjoy at the same time. Get together via phone or video and discuss your thoughts.

As a recap here are some friendly reminders for self-care. Work to have enough water and meals throughout the day, have an exercise routine throughout the week, rest your mind and body with built-in quiet time, and work to build connectivity with others. Plan for enjoyable meals, plan for enjoyable company, plan for laughs, cries, ups and downs, discussion, and enjoy and embrace the feel-good moments. Repeat.

Until next time remember, treat others as you wish to be treated.

Brittany Bennett of Niagara Falls is a licensed mental health counselor. Send your questions to her at


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