Barry Bray at Present Future Self suggests some positive ways to make a fresh start in the new year

2021 offers us all new opportunities and the sense of a fresh start with new vaccines on the way (and for some, already here).

That is not to ignore the fact that it is still difficult for everyone now.  In the last few months I have seen first hand, from clients in my own professional therapy practice, how stressed people are and how they miss loved ones.  In recent weeks I have treated adults and young adults with everything from social anxiety to issues with school, work, relaxation, issues around Covid, sleep and more.  The recent nationwide mental health studies also overwhelmingly support how tough we are all finding it.

Clearly 2020 has knocked and tested us all in ways we could not have imagined just one year ago.

The great thing about humans, though, is that we are incredibly resourceful and adaptable.  When I think about how my own family and children have coped I am proud of it.  When I think about how everyone in my local community has supported each other, I am grateful.  When I listen to how clients, families and friends have adjusted to tough new social realities and how young adults have dealt with uncertainty at school, I remind them how they need to congratulate themselves. Truly.

Has it been easy? Has it been perfect? Of course not.  But we are adapting nonetheless.

Whilst we have an amazing ability to change ourselves and flourish when confronted by difficulty it is vitally important to remember that we do not have to cope alone.  Asking for help can be incredibly difficult for some. ‘Coping’ can be seen as a badge of honor, and I see this too much.  Often ‘help’ is seen as ‘failure’ rather than simply a human necessity. This is simply wrong.

Having spent 20 years as a secondary school teacher and senior leader, and now working with adults and young adults as a psychotherapist, I know how incredibly resilient and resourceful we all are but also how much we all have to learn about self-care. It is a skill.  The years of evidence-based research into cognition and behaviour, as well as my own experience,  shows us that the answer really is within us.  When I help people deconstruct their thoughts, feelings and actions and understand them for what they are it is incredibly liberating. When I work with people, supporting them to re-frame their thoughts and actions in ways that lift them they are able to move forward into the future with confidence and purpose.  We are able to take control of negative thought patterns and create helpful ways of thinking; our past is most definitely not our future. Our thoughts, feelings and actions are closely interlinked and also highly malleable; we just need to learn the skills and apply them consistently over time.  

So what simple things (that I have actually done!) can you do to get your year off to a great start?

  1. Put the phone away. Hide the remote control. Talk to your loved ones. Have fun. And do this regularly.
  2. Develop healthy mind and body routines for all the family that prevent/reduce the stress before it happens. Get outside, walk, exercise, take time out, listen to my podcasts! 
  3. Forgive yourself. If you miss a day of your New Year’s Resolutions or the ‘plan’ goes awry, take a moment to step back and accept it.  Reflect and then get back to it or change the plan. It is not all or nothing.
  4. Ask for help if you need it. It is perfectly normal.

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