I wasn’t going to write a New Year’s post this year; it felt like there wasn’t much to say, I guess. Well, that’s what I thought until I started to scan through my social media. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it (again); the year we have just been through has been pretty horrendous for so many and in so many different ways. It’s been a time of frustration, anxiety, worry, trauma and stress; all the things we experience in life, but magnificently amplified.
We’ve had pressure on us to just “keep calm and carry on” when nothing about this year has given us a chance to do so. I follow many scientific, informational, cultural, economic and news posts. I noticed the frustrations, bewilderment and trauma from society; the slight hysteria of the beginning of lockdown in March, the frustrations of a second lockdown and the confusion of what we are now experiencing. I’m not about to go into the politics of whether or not this is a real disease, whether the social distancing is fair or whether or not you should wear a mask; if you care about your fellow human, even if you do not have the knowledge of being a respected epidemiologist or scientist, then you know this is a real disease with devastating effects. COVID’s traumatic impact on society as a whole has been and continues to be, immeasurable. People are dying, so keep safe, wash your hands, social distance and wear a mask. But like I said I’m not going to debate this fact with you.
I will say that the pressure we put on ourselves to do things this year has been so intense and unprecedented; I don’t know anyone who has learned to play the piano or guitar or is almost fluent in a new language. No, I’m not seeing any people socially, but my practice is hectic at the moment, so I hear a lot from different groups of our society. The consensus is consistent “I should have done X, Y and Z during this lockdown, everybody else did, and now I feel like I’ve wasted my time “. I think the truth of the matter is that we are all somewhere in the middle- some people have done some stuff like learning how to make bread or sew, and for other people, they’ve had to learn to cook just to survive. Everything we’ve done during this lockdown, this pandemic, has given us skills; nobody in our lived experience has lived through a pandemic, but you have.
2021, well, it’s not going to be much different; I’m afraid, certainly not the beginning of it. I see a lot of people having high hopes for 2021, we’re already starting to see the next year of “I’m going to do X, Y and Z”, “2021 is going to be my year”, “it’s gonna be so much better” et cetera et cetera. Yes, we can hope it’s going to be better, yes, I suspect it will be a lot better, but we have a long hard slog to get through first. Things aren’t going to suddenly change at 12:01 on January 1st because it is a new year and we want things to change. We are still in a pandemic, and we are still struggling. So, you don’t have to start with new years resolutions of “I will do this, and I will do that”. Does it matter if you learn Japanese this year? Or maybe yoga? Had you planned to do these things before the pandemic happened? So why pressure yourself now? Let’s just try and get through the first six months of 2021 as best as we can, let’s not put added pressure on ourselves or each other.
I keep seeing motivational quotes about mental health- you know the ones, “I’m just focusing on the positives” all of them insidiously assuming that it is your fault that you don’t have a positive attitude. Of course, these can be helpful- affirmations can, and have been proven to help and support psychological therapeutic work Affirmations, Positive Psychology. However, these can also make some people feel really bad about themselves, as they can’t be present with affirmations at this moment in time. “Oh, it’s my fault that I’m feeling so bad because I should just have a positive mental attitude”. Positive mental bullshit, there, I am calling it. It’s tough to be an optimist when the whole world is in a pessimistic place. So, please be kind to yourself- just because someone has posted a beautiful picture of the beach with “think positive, tomorrow is a better day, if you think positively about it”; doesn’t negate how you feel at this moment in time. It is hard to see that far into the future when you struggle to get through that current moment. You are allowed to feel sad, desperate, lost- we’ve all felt it at some point this year.
Remember to be compassionate, other people think and feel the way you do, some people feel worse, and some feel better. These feelings will pass with time, so distract yourself for that moment. Talk to your friends and family, stay connected, one of the most important things that we can do to support ourselves and be compassionate to ourselves and others. Connecting with others is essential to us as humans; it makes us human and is vital to us as a society, as a community. It can help us to have motivation and purpose to carry on. So, focus on talking to people, doing things that make you feel good and not feeling guilty about it. If you’re feeling low, talking to a friend is going to feel hard to do. It’s okay that it feels hard, but the best thing you can do is push yourself and talk to that friend. I know it is difficult, but take it one step at a time; that famous saying of “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is so true, now more than ever.
If you’re feeling low, it is hard to do anything, even fun stuff. Then we can get stuck in a perpetual cycle of loss; we feel bad so we stop doing some of the things that make us feel good- in a pandemic this could be going to meet friends, going to a coffee shop, gym or cinema. These are things we may not be able to do at this moment in time. Not doing these things makes us feel worse and lowers our mood- I feel depressed, so what’s the point? So, we do less and even stop contacting people- c’mon, how many of you are now avoiding those Zoom meetups with friends? Avoiding texts or calls? A connection keeps us going, and it is something small that we can do to improve our mood. It is about acknowledging that things are tough right now, so be kind. If your friend said they felt low, what would you do? Would you talk to them? Make them laugh? Send them a text or a card? Organise a Zoom call? Okay, that’s wonderful- you genuinely are a good friend But, hang on a minute. If you would do that for a friend who is feeling low, why would you not do that for yourself? You are just as important, if not more important; it could help to see it in this frame of reference; we all need help and support at times.
But you know what? That might be too hard right now. It’s New Year’s Eve, and life looks very different from how we planned it to at this point. So a Zoom meeting is too much- honestly, who wants to put on clothes and take off your pj’s anyway? So, grab a shower, a bath. Change your bedding or pj’s. Have a cup of tea whilst sat on the sofa, or dancing around the kitchen. It doesn’t matter what you do but show yourself some kindness if you can. What have you got to lose by trying? Tonight might be rough for a lot of us, so let’s just get through it. Tomorrow is a different day; it may not be better, but it won’t be the same as today. Have a lovely evening; whatever you are doing. If you’re alone, try to do all the things you love the most, and if you’re with people? Well, it doesn’t have to be fireworks, you know. A quiet night in is okay. This time next year, everything will look different, and I hope you will be with all your family and friends. After all, 2021 can’t possibly be as bad as 2020… can it? Happy New Year, everyone!