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A better new year?

A better new year?

People often treat a new year as a new beginning. This year has been another unusual one! And while we’re still experiencing a lot of uncertainty around the pandemic, many of us will be hoping that 2022 will see further ‘opening up’ as the virus is brought under control.

We’re in a much more positive position than we were at the end of 2020, but nobody can predict how quickly things will get back to ‘normal’. It’s important to be optimistic, and to make plans and arrange things to look forward to, but we should balance this out with a healthy dose of realistic thinking in case our expectations aren’t fully met.

Don’t ‘write off’ the old year! The last 12 months have been challenging for us all (again!) – but we can all probably think of things we’ve done that have been positive and worthwhile. Examples could include spending time with family again, achieving a goal, exploring new places in the UK, 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 hard to feel positive about the coming year. If you’re being troubled by thoughts like ‘Nothing will ever be normal again’ or ‘There’s nothing 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 other 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?

Remember how far we’ve come. When thinking about what’s possible now, compare this with the situation we were all in a year ago rather than times before the pandemic. We were in lockdown, and the vaccine programme hadn’t yet begun. There are restrictions in place again this year, which may feel like a step backwards – but think about the things you can do today that wouldn’t have been possible 12 months ago.

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 2022. While we still can’t make plans with total confidence, 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?
  • Achievable
  • 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 2022 has in store, and this is affecting your day-to-day life, online CBT could help you to feel better. You can find out more about the process here.

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