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2021: A New Year

As the year comes to a close and we prepare to kiss 2020 goodbye, let’s keep grounded yet hopeful for a New Year.  Although romanticized and traditionally seen as a new start, 1200am on January 1st does not provide us with a magical switch to which all of our problems and fears disappear.  2020 has undoubtedly been a rollercoaster of 12 months but we need to keep perspective as we turn our calendars into a new set of months.  When we wake up January 1st may we feel the hope that the New Year provides and realistically continue to face our challenges, internally and externally.  How can we say goodbye to 2020 and say hello to 2021 in a healthy way?  Here are some tips for your New Year:

  1. Reflect Back: on 2020 and all that has happened within your life, good and bad.  Journal about your experiences with the pandemic and how it has impacted your life specifically.  Find blessings that occurred within the year that you never expected.  Review your photo reel in your phone from 2020 to help you remember key times over the past year.  Maybe you found a new hobby or finally tackled that home project that you never had time for.  Maybe your church family provided support to you when you lost income.  What can you reflect back on from 2020?
  2. Forward Thinking: What bad habits or toxic relationships do you want to extinguish from your life?  What changes do you want to make for yourself this year?  Set small, achievable goals for each month of the year.  Don’t try to tackle a lot of ambitious changes at once.  An effective behavioral change takes at least 30 days of consistency to be lasting.  New Year’s Resolutions are simple ideas, but concrete desires set into motion as goals are life changing.  Although you don’t ever need a special date to start implementing change in your life, starting 2021 with a new direction breeds hope.  What direction do you want to move forward in?
  3. Keep Going: We have all been in bad situations in life before.  Personally, professionally, or even relationally, each one of us has had to face life challenges.  How did you overcome those challenges?  What tools did you use?  Who did you lean on for support?  Those experiences have helped to prepare you for this time of your life.  2020 may have been crueler to you than others but you can choose to keep going.  You cannot always control the circumstances or outcomes but you sure can choose to show up and face the situation.  Keep going my friend.  We are cheering you on.

As 2020 comes to a close we wish you all peace for a healthy and happier 2021.  Keep yourself grounded and hopeful as you prepare for this New Year. 

Cheers, The MSC Team

Managing Grief or Loss Over the Holidays:

If you are experiencing grief, a loss, depression, or a life change, the holidays can be difficult. Here is a list of tips to deal with different challenges over the holidays.

Honor your loved one who passed:

·        Make their favorite cookies or side dish for a holiday meal. 

·        Watch their favorite movie or listen to their favorite songs while driving around and looking at Christmas lights.

·        Journal about your favorite holiday memories of your loved one and share them with family.

·         Give a donation to a cause they were passionate about in their name.

·        Write a letter stating how much you love them or miss them during the holidays.

 Start some new traditions: If your loss is recent, still very painful, or was unexpected, you may find it helpful to celebrate the holidays differently this year:

·        Start new traditions: eat new foods, celebrate Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, or attend a different church service.

·        Do not make such a big deal about the holidays: do some regular activities, listen to regular music on the radio, watch funny or happy movies, exercise, read books, organize or clean. 

·        Get away: spend a day or weekend visiting friends or exploring a small town or different city.

·        Make time for self- care and relax.

·        Scale back: have smaller celebrations with less frills. Less frills means less stress and less time and energy put into planning.

If you need to move on from a relationship or not think about/ see a toxic person:

·        Avoid social media and block the toxic person from all accounts, block their friends and family too.

·        Decline invitations to holiday parties where he/she may be.

·        Get rid of pictures and objects that remind you of him/her.

·        If you feel like calling or reaching out during the holidays, identify a backup friend or family member to call.

·        Make a list of the toxic person’s bad qualities to remind you of why he/she is out of your life and look at the list if you are tempted to reconcile or reach out.

·        If you are stuck ruminating, go outside, go for a walk, exercise, or do physical activity.

 Working through physical and mental illness:

·        Identify and lean on your support system.  Talk about how you are feeling. If you do not have a support system, look for online support groups and communities.

·        Journal about your feelings.

·        Focus on and identify the blessings, gifts, and positives in your life.

·        Make a list of all of your strengths and celebrate any progress you have made this year.

·        Practice self-compassion and kindness. Be patient and gentle with yourself.

·        Practice gratitude daily.

·        Surround yourself with people and things that you love and make you feel good.

·        Practice mindfulness.

·        Practice healthy coping skills

The Holidays and Your Mental Health

For many individuals the holidays are not The most wonderful time of the year…… The holiday season can stir up a lot of emotions and pain associated with grief, relationship problems, loneliness, stress, financial problems, family conflict, and well the list can go on and on. The holidays tend to amplify many feelings, especially the negative ones. How can you manage the holiday season and your mental health??? Here are some thoughts and tips:

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Limit time with or avoid toxic people: You do not have to spend holidays with people who are toxic, no other explanation is needed here! If you feel an obligation to a toxic family member, limit your time with him or her. Maybe schedule a visit with another relative right after or before your visit with your difficult relative. This season the Coronavirus has given us all a great excuse to avoid people; you can also apply this to people who are bad for you too! If you feel guilty about not seeing a family member who is toxic, send them a nice letter in a Christmas card, a small gift, or make a donation in their name to charity. It does not matter what time of year it is, you are always entitled to protect yourself and surround yourself with healthy people.

Practice setting boundaries: During the holiday season, we all have to set limits. Think of ways you can perfect the art of saying “No” during the holiday season. This can be with finances, gift giving, social activities, or at work.  If you can’t do something during the holidays for whatever reason, you can just say “No”. You do not need to apologize, explain, or justify your reason. If “No” feels too harsh you can try something softer like, “I would love to but I can’t”. Avoid overextending yourself and putting yourself in stressful situations this holiday season.

Focus on your values: What does the holiday season mean to you? Are the holidays about religion, spirituality, family, giving back, or celebrating? Do not feel pressure to conform to others’ traditions around the holidays. Take some time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday season and allow your holiday celebrations to focus on what is important to you.

Take time to relax: Schedule down time during the holiday season. It is important to have some time to slow down, enjoy a peppermint hot chocolate or gingerbread chai hot tea, and just relax. Do not pack your schedule during the holiday season. You will only feel more stressed.

Recognize your feelings: It is okay if you are sad, angry or anxious this holiday season for whatever reason. Practice saying; “I feel ______ because ______” multiple times a day. This is a way of checking in with yourself.  Remember you can be sad and still find joy or happiness during the holiday season. For example, maybe you are sad because your mother is very sick in the hospital but you can still take time, appreciate, and find joy in things like the festive lights, some homemade cookies, or a holiday card from your old neighbor.  You can be sad and still have moments of joy, peace, and hope. Do not feel guilty about positive feelings during the holidays if you are going through some tough stuff, it is always okay to embrace happiness. Emotions are temporary and they come and go. Remind yourself of that too.

Practice self-care: Put your name on your holiday gift list and buy yourself a nice present! Take time to show yourself kindness and compassion during this busy and stressful season. You can take a walk around your neighborhood and look at the decorations, meditate to some instrumental holiday music, journal about your favorite holiday memories, take a warm bubble bath and light a balsam and fir candle, enjoy some winter apple scented hand cream, or schedule a holiday massage. Do whatever is comforting to you. Often we focus on giving and doing for everyone else around the holidays and we neglect ourselves. Take time for you and practice self-care this holiday season.  Self- care is not selfish, it is essential! 

Clean out your emotional closet: 2021 is almost here, a new year brings new challenges and goals but we still have to clean out our emotional closet and wrap up some mental health goals. What emotional baggage do you need to let go? What negative feelings do you need to release?  What conversations do you need to have? Do you need to apologize to anyone? Are you ready to forgive anyone? How has your mental health been this year? What do you need to reflect on? 

Do something nice:  Giving back, volunteering, and helping others is a great way to feel good on the inside. With the pandemic, this may be more challenging this holiday season but you can still do a lot of good. You can send holiday cards to a local nursing home, ask your local school if any children are in need of gifts and buy a student something special, go through your closet and donate clothes, make a donation to your favorite charity or send a gift card to a neighbor in need. 

Wishing you love, joy, peace, and good mental health this holiday season.