So you made it to 2021! I did too, and I have to say I’m tired. A lot of us are; you must be too. Looking back at 2020 it is crystal clear why… As I am writing this post it’s the 25th January. We are getting towards the end of a month that tends to be full of promises, of health or diet challenges. There is “Dry January” and this year I noticed a lot of “Veganuary”. In other words there is a lot of “new year new me” going on in January, as people tend to see it as a chance for a fresh start. It’s no wonder that gyms, leisure centres and nutrition services have a massive boost every January. But not this year: gyms in the UK for example are closed as the country is in lockdown.
This year is a little different. Whilst the spirit of a new start is ever present, most of us did not get to welcome 2021 as we would normally have done. Despite the presence of copious amounts of food and drink, celebrations were more low-key due to lockdowns all over the world as a result of covid. And while we hoped that covid would be a thing of the past by now, the situation is far from over. We have to recognize that the global situation appears to be much better these days, as we have the vaccines and we are more familiar with the virus. Nevertheless, that comes with a great deal of emotional fatigue. We are worn out, stressed, fed up, over it, we feel imprisoned; these are words that have come up during psychotherapy sessions with clients but also during conversations with friends. No matter who we are, how old we are, what we do for a living, we all feel the strain in our minds and bodies.
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But let’s go back to the concept of “New Year New Me”. I always found it a very odd and unrealistic thing to do, so I rarely make any resolutions. I thought (and still do) that it can put a lot of pressure on us to try and uphold to said resolutions. And it comes with a great deal of disappointment if we don’t keep at them. The truth is that most people don’t adhere to their goals for the new year. And others simply forget about them altogether. Until the following year that is, when all the resolutions they had placed the year before resurface with vengeance. At that point they may aspire to different goals, or reaffirm the same ones from the year before, only to forget about them in the process. And the cycle continues, with one thing being certain: the resolutions are not happening and the frustration remains. This is not a good place to be in the sense that resolutions are about positive changes and habits, but they end up signalling defeat and lack of commitment.
I admire those that stick to their goals and actually crush them, but they don’t represent the majority of the population. And since I don’t really belong in that category myself, I will continue to focus on the rest of us. Over the years I have tried to think about the clean slate of endless possibilities that a new year promises in different ways. My birthday also falls in January, so this month has an added personal significance for me. The last few years, and especially last year, I started to think as time as the continuous line that it is. Years, months, days are all mental constructs we have put together in our effort to structure our existence. And they tend to work fine, expect when they don’t because they add pressure and stress. So I decided to look at 2021 as part of a continuum, where the sole compass is to navigate my ship with empathy, understanding and flexibility. Because as I confessed in the beginning, I am tired.
I have an idea of what I’d like to do, to achieve even, but I don’t want to put any solid structure around that because if I don’t make it, then I will have failed. And although I have no problem with failing and making mistakes, I strongly feel that there is no need for additional rules and regulations that may hang upon me until indefinitely.
You may be like me, or not, in regards to resolutions. You may have skipped making any this time round, or made a lot of them. You may still be working on last year’s goals. Wherever you may be, it is all fine. And if it works for you, then there’s no need to change it. But I hope you hear me out when I gently say this to you: be flexible with what you expect from yourself. Take into account what you have lived through last year, and whatever you decide to ask of yourself in 2021, do it with compassion. I often tell my clients that we are not machines, so we require rest, nurturing, play. Especially when we are emotionally exhausted.
If you want to maintain any resolutions you have already placed, that’s excellent and I salute you. But maybe you choose to remove any deadline there is. Maybe you leave them more open-ended so it will feel like an accomplishment when you conquer them, regardless when that actually happens. Maybe, altogether, you want to be less strict towards yourself, because we are still going through a lot collectively.
So, I guess, the message I want to leave you with is:
Be nice to yourself, you deserve that much!