A better new year?
We tend to see a new year as symbolic of a new beginning. This year, many people’s hopes are high that 2021 will be better than 2020. While it’s important to be optimistic about this – there are definitely signs of good news, such as the arrival of the vaccine – it should be balanced with a healthy dose of realistic thinking in case our expectations aren’t fully met.
There are positive signs that things are moving in the right direction, but nobody knows how quickly this will happen. If we pin all our hopes on the pandemic being over and everything getting back to how it was before – and we make plans that count on this – we risk setting ourselves up for disappointment. While it’s definitely right and sensible to be hopeful, the situation may well continue as it is for a while.
Don’t ‘write off’ the old year completely! While the last 12 months have definitely had their challenges, worries and sadness, we can all probably think of things we’ve done that have been positive and worthwhile. Some may have been unexpected and surprising. Examples could include spending time with family, achieving a goal, following healthy new habits, getting time to reflect, or discovering new activities you enjoy. It’s important to think back and acknowledge these.
If you’re worried, try to balance your thinking. Some people will find it really hard to feel positive about the coming year. If you’re being troubled by thoughts like ‘Nothing will ever be normal again’ or ‘There will never be anything to look forward to’, for example, this can lead to anxiety, frustration and a low mood.
Ask yourself how true the thought is. Is it really likely that this situation will continue forever? Think back to pandemics and crises that happened in the past. When people were in the middle of them, it would have been difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel – but it did arrive. Try and remember tough times you’ve been through in your own life. How did you feel? Did those feelings last forever? How did you cope? Did the situation improve? Did everything you were worried about happen?
Acknowledge there’s a lot we can’t control. Dwelling on the uncertainty ahead of us can cause a great deal of worry. There are many big questions about what next year has in store – but there are no definite answers to these yet, and none of us has the power to change the situation. Ask yourself whether worrying or fretting over ‘what ifs’ serves a purpose. Chances are the answer is ‘no’! Focus on the things in your life you can influence or do something about. The change of year can be the perfect time to do this.
Reflect on what you want from 2021. Yes – this new year is going to be a strange one, and we can’t make plans with total confidence. However, if you feel a bit stuck in a rut, or you’ve let healthy habits and behaviours slip, you could use the opportunity to get back on track.
A new year is a time when many of us feel motivated to re-evaluate our lives and make a change or have a fresh start. What do you want to do differently next year? You could set some goals, if you think this would be helpful, but don’t feel under pressure to achieve them. It’s a good idea to make your goals SMART:
- Specific – make them really clear and focused.
- Measurable – how will you know when you’ve achieved them?
- Realistic – you could have a ‘plan A’ and a ‘plan B’ version of your goal, to make sure you can still achieve it regardless of what happens with coronavirus.
- Timely – setting deadlines will keep you motivated and moving forward.
If you feel very anxious or low about what the next year has in store, and this is affecting your day-to-day life, online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could help you start to feel better quickly. You can find out more about the process here.