by Danielle Palmer, licensed professional counselor in Ohio (LPC) and Kentucky (LPCA)
2020 is a year we’ll remember- whether we’d like to or not. We’re all well aware of what this year has brought with it, so I won’t even attempt to sum it up for anyone. Rather, I’d prefer to focus on the possibilities of the upcoming New Year.
Many of us attempt to approach the beginning of a new year with a fresh start. Although we don’t necessarily know what this particular New Year will look like and how we will function in society, I think this concept is as important as ever. For those who are lucky enough to see January 2021, I want you to think of what you’ve learned from this rough year that has changed you for the better. While you think on this, I want to discuss some things I’ve learned and seen while being a therapist during a pandemic.
It’s easy for negativity to fill up space. This “space” may be your workplace, your home, relationship- it doesn’t matter. When we’re all struggling to some extent, our mind wants to soak up all of that negativity and spread it around. The fear and uncertainty that came with this year has led to many people embodying a “sponge-like” mentality- where whatever feeling is filling the room is soaked up like a sponge and felt as an emotion. For instance, if around someone who is struggling with feeling “blue” or “down,” you may notice yourself beginning to feel similarly just by being in their physical or virtual presence.
I’ve learned how important it is to check in with yourself and process what you are actually thinking and feeling- apart from those around you. If you’re feeling scared, it’s okay. Talk about it, write out your thoughts, and feel the emotions that are impacting you. Walk through them in a way that says, “I hear you and I know you’re afraid” and ask yourself what may help.
The way you speak is a direct reflection for the way you think. In other words, your language influences your mindset. When the words that come out of your mouth are laced with negativity, your mind begins to accept that negativity for what is and what will be. On the flipside, when your words are more positive, yet realistic, your mind will follow in its path. For instance: “The weather is terrible today!” versus “I wish the sun was out. I hope it clears up soon.” Even if it doesn’t change the weather itself, I promise it will impact your view of the day.
Engage in healthy, safe activities to cope with life stressors. Now, more than ever, we need as many tools in our coping toolbox as possible. Figure out what helps while you’re under restrictions. If you can’t go to a particular place you used to love visiting, find an alternative spot to get yourself through this time. Get outside and reconnect with nature. Find the activities you never knew you needed to look for, because the alternative option of staying inside on your couch may not be the best for your mental health. Netflix is great, but so is fresh air 😉.
Apart from pushing yourself to engage in more activities, I also want to encourage you to appreciate your loved ones in ways you may not have thought of before. Many people have lost family members this year and we’ve had to learn the hard way of just how precious that time with them is. I know it may not look the way you want it to, but until we are functioning in a world more freely, openly, and without so much fear, I want you to think of the alterative ways you can have special moments with those you love. It may not be possible to visit a family member in the nursing home, but when’s the last time you wrote them a card? How are you expressing your love for that person when you can’t do it face-to-face? Although baking in the kitchen with a relative who is at high-risk isn’t an option, are you willing to video chat with them while you both work on a favorite dessert? I know it’s not ideal, but if our options are no memories or not as enjoyable ones, I know I don’t want to miss out on a moment I can’t get back. It’s okay to mourn and grieve the life we don’t get to have right now, but when you’re done processing those feelings and validating those very real emotions, you’ll have a choice to make. I just hope you’ll choose something– whatever makes this time just a little bit easier.
While you’re choosing that “something,” I hope you keep in mind an area that has seemed to be forgotten amongst many this year: kindness. Be kind. Never underestimate its power. When you choose to spread that positivity and happiness into another person’s life, you’re automatically increasing these areas in yours as well. There is plenty of it to go around, yet most people are lacking it. Allow kindness into your words, your thoughts, and actions. Offer forgiveness when appropriate and patience when needed. In the words of Bob Goff, “Throw kindness around like Confetti.”
If you’re interested in learning more or discussing some of the areas above, I’d be more than happy to meet with you. Feel free to schedule an appointment online at https://www.findyourbreakthrough.com/ or by calling 812.655.3058.