The time to celebrate the end of a very challenging year is RIGHT NOW!
Everyone has been through so much and the one thing we hopefully can look forward to very soon is being able to reconnect with our friends and family thanks to the brilliant scientists who have invented a vaccine for all of us!
It has been quite a roller coaster ride this year with emotions and events that take us up summits and on dives, complete with loops and curves, hand-gripping moments, and finally a little bit of relief!
Many of us carry a great deal of anxiety that we usually cover up and distract ourselves from, through work, relationships, going to a restaurant, watching television, exercising.
Some of these are good things to do, but they can also function as a way of diverting our anxieties. There were fewer options for coping and people’s anxieties escalated which shows up in their behavior.
It is important to remember that anxiety was not born of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was there before, and in almost every case, it goes back to people’s earliest experiences.
How we are responding to this situation, whatever we’re experiencing these days—including grief, panic, inspiration, the connection is part of our NEW beginnings.
We have the opportunity to get in touch with how we are feeling in the present, to see it for what it is, and to create the awareness around it that can hold it, so it no longer is able to control us or drag us down.
I have learned that, though we fight the feelings of sadness, we have no reason to be afraid of our emotions.
Everyone is different but I do know that if you surrender to your sadness, you’re not necessarily going to drown in it or be stuck in it for the rest of your life!
What can we do about what is called primitive agony that’s been ingrained in our nervous systems?
We CAN notice that it’s THERE! We can allow it to be there, feel it, and not run away from it!
Please remember trauma is not the same as pain. Trauma is not the same as fear. Those are natural responses to events. Trauma is when we get STUCK around those events and their impact on us. Trauma in some ways is resistance to grief. Genuine grieving is the opposite of trauma.
If this difficult time has triggered a deeply held sense of helplessness and a feeling of isolation, then it can reinforce the trauma that already lives inside.
So, the first thing to realize is that while it may not be accessible to us at all times— the capacity to acknowledge that it IS there allows an emotional shift to occur. It will be a positive catalyst in your life and you begin a new year!
Each of us is unique in how we take care of ourselves in different ways.
The need for self-care is documented and research has proven our overall well-being is essential in order to be our “healthiest self.”
The National Institutes of Health provide six strategies for improving your emotional health.
#1 BRIGHTEN YOUR OUTLOOK. Manage negative emotions and hold onto positive emotions.
- Remember good deeds.
- Forgive yourself.
- Spend time with friends.
- Explore your beliefs about the meaning of life.
- Develop healthy physical habits.
#2 REDUCE STRESS. Learning healthy ways to cope with chronic stress can boost resilience.
- Get enough sleep.
- Exercise regularly: Thirty minutes a day would be a big difference.
- Build a support network.
- Set priorities.
- Think positive.
- Try relaxation methods.
- Seek help.
#3 GET QUALITY SLEEP. Sleep affects both our mental and physical well-being. It is essential to allow your body to get the rest it needs to be the best version of yourself.
- Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time.
- Limit the use of electronic devices before bed.
- Relax before bed by meditating, reading, listening to calming music.
#4 COPE WITH LOSS. Learning healthy ways to help yourself through difficult times.
- Talk with caring friends.
- Find a grief group.
- Talk to your doctor.
- Consider additional support.
- Be patient. Mourning takes time. Grief can be a roller coaster of emotions.
#5 STRENGTHEN SOCIAL CONNECTIONS. Our relationships can have positive effects on our health.
- Join a group that engages in your favorite hobbies, such as hiking, painting, book clubs.
- Volunteer for things that you care about.
#6 BE MINDFUL.
- Take deep breaths. Breathe through your nose to a count of four, hold for one second, and then exhale through your mouth to a count of five. Repeat often.
- Enjoy a stroll.
- Practice mindful eating.
- Find mindfulness activities or resources such as yoga apps.
Taking charge of yourself in 2021 requires an individual level of responsibility. Some practical wellness check-in questions:
- What makes me feel recharged? Gives me energy?
- What stresses me?
- Where do I feel stress in my body?
- What recharging activities do I need to do when certain stressors occur?
- Do I have a balance of self-care activities: physically, emotionally, intellectually, financially, socially?
- What can I do to increase balance among my self-care domains?
- Do my values as a person align with the work that I am doing?
- Does my job overall give me a sense of satisfaction?
- What job factors are increasing and decreasing my overall wellness?
- What changes can I implement to help me become more present and peaceful?
- What resources and supports do I need to make these changes?
- Do I have regular check-ins with myself to reflect and make needed adjustments?
These are just some suggestions to help turn the page and start anew in 2021!
I have made a decision for myself to start the new year off by spending more time with my family. After a great deal of thought, it occurred to me that I need to practice what I tell my clients so after a health scare with my husband who just turned 65 recently, I will only be working remotely in Florida the first few weeks in January.
Life is precious and I want to slow down for a bit and smell the roses! This was a difficult permission slip to give myself, but I feel I will be a better counselor because I will have time to be introspective and prioritize the things in my life that matter most to me.
I found a saying the other day that expressed how I felt best;
“Find someone who makes you realize three things: One, that home is not a place, but a feeling. Two, that time is not measured by a clock but by moments. And three, the heartbeats are not only heard but felt and shared.”
This my wish for ALL of YOU!
Maria Bucci, M.Ed LPC DWC-F. Daring Way Facilitator by Dr. Brené Brown