As we transition to a new year, it can be a time of anxiety, stress and unrealistic expectations. Here are some recommendations from our team of therapy and wellness practitioners to help you navigate the start of 2017.
1. Take Inventory of Your Accomplishments from Last Year
(from Ronna Evans, LCSW – Adult, Family & Teen Therapist, Couples Counselor)
We tend to focus on what didn’t work for the past year, but it’s really important to acknowledge the successes we’ve had as well. Don’t just criticize or beat yourself up – appreciate your efforts and accomplishments as well. We need this balanced approach to be encouraged as we enter the new year.
I like to work with my clients in a detailed process where we go over the last year and discuss what their struggles were and what their accomplishments were. I try and avoid skipping over things. If a client says something like “I had so much more patience with my daughter,” I’ll say that’s great, but could you give me a few specific examples of how you did that? Even small victories are important to acknowledge so we can enter the new year feeling uplifted and reminded that we can make change even though it’s often difficult.
2. Don’t Forget About The Stuff In The Middle
(from Deede Amhowitz, MA/MFT – Individual, Couples & Group Therapist)
I find that most people dwell on the extremes as we enter a new year. They focus on the best and worst things that came to fruition last year, but most of life happens in the middle. So instead of just thinking in the extremes, take some time to be more realistic and evaluate all the stuff in between too. What do you want to keep around from the more everyday portions of our lives? What do you want to get rid of? It might not be as exciting as thinking about the extremes, but it’s crucial to staying grounded and planning realistically for the new year.
3. Stay In The Present
(from JoAnne Palladino, Reiki & Healing Touch Practitioner)
As we enter a new year, there’s a tendency to dwell on the past and the future, so I encourage my clients to live more in the present. When we focus on the future, we often create stories of fear which in turn create anxiety, but if you’re able to be engaged in the moment that’s where life is actually unfolding.
One great tool for living in the present is connecting with our breath and our breathing. The inhale and the exhale only happen in the moment. They’re not happening in the past and they’re not happening in the future. Being aware of our breathing brings us directly to where life is being lived – and that’s in the present moment.
This is also helpful when we feel anxiety. Just pause and stop for a moment or two, place your hand on your heart or your solar plexus and take a pause, then take a nice deep breath and just be really present with when the body inhales a breath and exhales a breath. It anchors us in our bodies, and helps us get in the flow of life. It’s a time-honored practice that’s been followed for thousands of years. It quiets the mind when you follow the breath, and it also relaxes the body. Thoughts get calmer, and our bodies gets calmer and less anxious, and we begin to live life from that space.
4. Don’t Forget To Play
(from Carol Wegmann, MS, LPCC – Child, Adult & Couples Therapist)
This advice comes to us from our child therapist, but for those of us without children, blocking out phone-free for our loved ones – or even ourselves – is a great way to de-stress and enter the new year feeling recharged.
As we come off the holidays and start a new year, many parents feel stressed, anxious, sad or depressed, and children are often very attuned to this. They feed off everything their parents feel, even if they might not fully understand it or have the words to express it.
As a play therapist, I really recommend paying extra attention to our children during this time. Take some toys out, play games, and get moving. Take a walk. Play in the snow. Exercise together. Dance. It’s stress relief for you as well as your children, and this time together is invaluable. Make sure to block out ample time without your phone and without an agenda. This time is especially important if you’ve noticed any changes in your child’s behavior, as most children won’t directly communicate they need more attention.
And if your kids are older, make extra time for them too. Teens might say they’re embarrassed of us, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want our attention and our time. Even if it’s just catching a movie or having lunch at a favorite restaurant, they usually want our company more than they’ll admit.
5. Set An Intention Instead Of A Resolution
(from JoAnne Palladino, Reiki & Healing Touch Practitioner)
The new year is often a time of creating resolutions, which we often have a hard time keeping. Our Reiki practitioner JoAnne recommends setting intentions instead.
By definition, resolutions are hard and firm decisions. Only the smallest minority of people who set resolutions wind up keeping them, and this often makes people feel bad. Intentions are more open and fluid, and can be set any time. They can be adjusted and expanded upon, and can even be different every day.
Setting an intention is about beginning to approach some aspect of life in a different way, a way that will enliven you and nourish you versus a way that’s going to deplete you or cause more anxiety in your life. An intention is for your betterment, or for self-love, or honesty. Intentions like this bring people back to themselves, instead of going outward to look for a resolution to your challenges and issues. Intentions can also bring you to the moment instead of shifting all your focus to the future.
An intention that will invite an uplifting within someone’s life might be as simple as thinking “I’m not going to say yes to everything, because every time I do that I get exhausted and then I’m angry that I said yes.” With that intention in mind, you can pause before you agree to something, and think “Is this something that I really want to do?” It’s not that you love someone less or don’t want to help them – it’s about giving yourself some self-care so you don’t get depleted.
Ballen Medical & Wellness
PS – If there’s any special topics you’d like to see discussed, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to feature your interests in an upcoming post.