Happy New Year!… Or is it?

If you find yourself, like me, going into 2022 after having spent Christmas with one less gift under the tree, hearing “Happy New Year!” likely doesn’t align with where you are emotionally this season. And you are certainly not alone. Maybe you too lost a loved one as a result of the pandemic or maybe it was completely unrelated. Maybe you experienced loss this year that didn’t occur through death, but through a divorce, a break-up, a move, or being let go from your job.

It is possible that you didn’t suffer any of these heartaches mentioned, but you still seem to be carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, likely because you, like so many, are still reeling from the aftermath of a post-pandemic world.
You may find yourself longing for the simpler times of being able to see your favorite co-worker without panicking that you left your mask at your desk or sending your child off to school even though they have the slightest tickle in their throat (which has everything to do with their 10-year battle with seasonal allergies and nothing to do with a deadly virus).

Nonetheless, there is a name to the heartbreak, the emptiness, the longing, the “trudging through the mud” feeling: grief.

We are all grieving as we welcome 2022, which may seem to put a damper on the excitement and refreshment that usually accompanies a new year. We are reminded of the hope that we felt this time last year as the collective mantra “things will be back to normal this year” clouded the reality of the ongoing pandemic. We certainly hope we are heading in the right direction, but will we ever really be “back to normal?” If you find yourself asking this question often, I invite you to try one or all of the following practices to reset as we kick off 2022:

  • Acknowledge your feelings: It is easy to go through the day on autopilot, checking off our to-do lists, making decisions, and navigating daily challenges. Maybe you even prefer this because you don’t have to experience the difficult feelings of grief, anger, regret, or guilt. Do you a favor and check in with yourself rather than check out. Ignoring or pushing aside how we’re feeling will only encourage an unhealthy habit of dismissing our humanity. You can acknowledge how you’re feeling by taking a few minutes to journal about your day or printing out this emotion wheel and placing a finger on at least three feelings you have experienced on a given day. Remember, we are human, complex beings, and are capable of experiencing more than one feeling in a single moment.
  • Get back to basics: Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? When we are in a state of transition and adjustment, it is important to give ourselves grace and remember that we are not going to operate at the same level as we may in a more comfortable or familiar situation. Set realistic expectations for yourself and take care of your most basic physiological needs. You can do this through eating nutritious and sustaining meals, drinking plenty of water, getting restful sleep, and moving your body on a regular basis. It may be a good idea to have a checkup with your doctor so that they are aware of any changes in your life.
  • Unplug: While our electronic devices certainly have made our lives easier and were our saving grace in being able to stay connected through the height of COVID-19, they can also have significant negative effects on our mental health with excessive use. Schedule time for yourself throughout the week to completely disconnect from your devices. Take a walk with your family, spend time in nature, or take a drive to somewhere new to foster that sense of refreshment that we are all craving.

Whether you are navigating a new reality without a loved one as we close out the holiday season or longing for that sense of normalcy, my hope for you in this new year is that you find peace, comfort, hope, and a sense of renewal. And that you remember, you’re not alone.

Written by: Savannah Lippincott, LCSW

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