Welcome to 2021
2020 was, to continue the overuse of the word, unprecedented. We, as a society, dealt with a worldwide pandemic, economic strife, political and social unrest, natural disasters, and many other smaller scale and personal events. A lot of these events caused distress, anxiety, depression, and fear. Throughout the year, it seems as though the overwhelming mantra was “I cannot wait for 2020 to be over”.
Our societal problems did not vanish on January 1, 2021.
We are starting to figure out that this was a problematic mindset. The world stayed largely the same as it was the day before. While a lot of exciting and promising things have happened in the last month or two of 2020, particularly with respect to COVID 19, we are still very much experiencing what we were last year. We are still in the midst of a pandemic, we are still unable to gather with friends and family as we did before, and we are still struggling with many of the economic, political, and social issues that we did in December. The events of January 6, 2021, in particular, were extremely distressing to so many of us, and lead a lot of people to feel incredibly discouraged and hopeless. If the first week was bad, many people are having a hard time not writing off the entire year as ruined, which can be destructive for mental health.
This is a prime example of All or Nothing Thinking. All or nothing thinking is a cognitive distortion that solely uses superlatives and extremes, such as always, never, best, or worst. Thinking this way does not allow for any gray area, and can exacerbate anxiety and depression. The reality is that every single day has positive, negative, and neutral moments. Just because there are negative things that have happened does not mean that there were no positives.
So what can we do to manage the disappointment?
Here are some suggestions for how to improve your thought process, and, therefore, your experience, as we continue on with this year:
Give it time. Just because some difficult things have happened during the first month of the year, and some difficult things have carried over from last year, does not mean this year will not have some positive moments. We cannot write off something we have not yet experienced.
Look for positive things in the day to day. Try talking about the best thing that happened that day at dinner with your family. You can also try finding something to look forward to everyday or every week. Make the most of smaller moments.
None of us have ever experienced a time quite like what we are experiencing now.
Talk about how you’re feeling. We are still experiencing a massive systemic trauma. We are all going to feel overwhelmed, scared, anxious, or upset sometimes. Our tolerance for stress has been greatly diminished by the pandemic. Talk to friends, family, or a professional about how you are feeling. Process the emotions and experiences. Talking about it will not make the stressor go away, but it will help you to make sense of what you are feeling.
Journal. There is no better way to remember events than to write them down. Try listing 3 things you are grateful for at the end of each day, or writing a summary of the week every Saturday. Not only can journaling greatly help anxiety, depression, and a variety of other mental health challenges, it can also help you remember the nuances of a period of time.
Focus on connection. Reach out to people! Connection with other people is vitally important, arguably now more than ever. We have so many ways to talk to each other that does not involve being face to face. Set up a weekly zoom call with friends, or text someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Call a family member. Join a new Facebook group. There are many options for increasing connection.
Every year has its challenges. While 2020 had some extreme difficulties, we have all made it through difficult times before. So much happens in the 365 days it takes for us to orbit the sun, and 2021 still has a lot of potential.
If you are struggling with navigating what is happening in the world, email us or give us a call at 217-203-2008 to schedule an appointment. We are here for you!