mental health

By MercyOne on Tuesday, January 19, 2021


3 steps to improving mental health in 2021

This content was created by Paul Wehrman, LMHC, MercyOne Waterloo Behavioral Health Care:

As we start making plans for 2021, be sure to include making your mental health a priority.  Mental health starts with taking care of yourself:

  • Do you have a good balance between different activities, work, leisure and family? If they are not in balance, make plans to get them back into balance.
  • Are you getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, and interacting with people?
  • Have you planned to see your primary care provider for your yearly checkup?
  • Are you doing daily chores, keeping the house picked up, showering regularly, getting dressed to "go to work", even if you are working from home?

We can waste energy worrying about past or future events, what someone else may think or do, but it is more important to focus on the here and now, it is the only time we have under our control. 

Here are 3 steps to get started:

Step 1: Reflect on 2020

Now is a good time to pause and look at what habits we picked up in 2020 that we need to change. Are we isolating too much? Do we need to exercise more? Are we spending too much time on social media sites? Habits are very easy to pick up and very sometimes hard to stop.

This is also a good time to try and recognize if you are bringing any hurt, pain, or grudges with you into the new year. Many people find it hard to let go of past hurt, some caused by people who have moved to another area, or people in our lives who have passed away. Carrying this pain can lead to a person feeling depressed, angry, irritable and not able to enjoy the present. Learning to forgive and move on can help a person feel free and not controlled by negative thoughts.

RELATED: Make It OK to talk about mental illness

Step 2: Set goals

We can start making goals and plans for what we might like to do this year. We don't know what will be open and what will still be closed, but it is OK to dream. 

Here are a few ideas for goals that could help improve your mental health"

  • Visit every state park or different parks in your city.
  • Start a new hobby such as learning to play an instrument, knitting or painting.
  • Create a new mindfulness practice such as yoga or meditation.
  • Enroll in an educational class online.
  • Connect with loved ones by writing letters or sending cards.

We have 365 days to use this year, so might as well have fun and enjoy them! Goals must be achievable, observable and time-limited, otherwise they are just wishful thinking. Make plans, but be flexible, who knows what the new "normal" is going to look like.

STORIES: Hear from Iowans living with mental illness

Step 3: Check-in

Be aware of signs that indicate you may need to see a professional counselor. Any changes in behaviors that are starting to create problems for you. These are changes from what is "normal" for you.

  • Sleeping more or less than usual, or having trouble falling asleep.
  • Eating more comfort foods.
  • Low energy or motivation levels, just having a hard time getting started to do something.
  • Notice you are spending more time worrying about things, especially events from the past for the future.
  • Having any suicidal thoughts – be honest here. It is okay to have a thought, but if you start to form a plan and a method – seek help immediately.

GET HELP:  Statewide resources that can help you or a loved one


In this episode, Paul Wehrman, LMHC at MercyOne Waterloo Behavioral Health Care, discusses how to improve mental health in 2021.

mercyoneMercyOne is dedicated to providing specialized, family-centered treatment for adolescents, adults and seniors. Through inpatient and outpatient programs, our behavioral health experts empower you to take control and get back to living your best life. Find a behavioral health expert near you.