A new year marks a fresh start for many, but for those battling their own difficulties, there is no start and stop button, writes Amanda Cassidy
The fireworks mocked us as we lay in bed back to back trying to rest our tired brains, unable to even bring ourselves to utter the words ‘Happy new year’. This was no celebration. It had started a few weeks previously when a very cherished family member had a health scare. It culminated in our New Year’s Eve spent in the oncology ward at our local hospital.
All around us, the world felt joyous, alien. A shiny new year lay ahead, tantalisingly just out of our grasp. For now.
Others privately shared their own problems and how they magnified as they bled into the new year. We no longer felt alone — there are always those who bristle at the happy-clappy nature of ringing in the new year mid-challenge.
If Christmas is about togetherness, then New Year is one giant dollop of virgin snow, encouraging us to tread its velvety path. And if you are not prepped to jump on the trail of new starts, you feel left behind, isolated, frozen in time.
Flicking through social media, the predictable images of filtered mountains, happy families and new resolutions stung. Not begrudging the beginning of anything for anyone, but it is hard to muster the energy to welcome a year that has been so far tainted with worry and fear so early on.
The universal fresh start
Closing the door on a new year and opening another is a mixture of relief, despair, and hope and not always in equal measures. The emphasis on reflection means it can be a tough time for anyone battling with their mental health.
Psychologists agree. Dr. Larry Kemper has written extensively about the unhealthy focus than can come with the New Year-New Start mentality: “During this time, we’re more likely to reflect upon our achievements or lack thereof. Failures to reach certain goals like losing weight, addressing health issues, or getting a promotion in the last 12 months, can feel particularly heavy at the end of the year”.
Depression too, doesn’t match time. It marches to the beat of its own drum. Stopping to measure up to what we’ve gained or lost in the course of the year can leave us spiralling.
Dr Kemper believes that trying to ringfence the emotions that come with this time of year is essential. “Depression and anxiety are normal human emotions and they can be beneficial to us, but they can become dangerous to us if they become extremely intense and extremely prolonged.”
Keeping your social connections alive and planning something to look forward to is the advice we get given. Chase the light, whatever that means to you — seek out the thing that makes you happiest and surround yourself with it. Feeling those feelings is ok, even when they are negative.
But setting goals, trying to improve your life and wanting to do better shouldn’t be dismissed either. Small concrete steps are proven to be beneficial to our lives. Feel out your resolutions — ones that suit you best. Be happy for what you have.
Go gently into 2020 remembering that not everything is, or should be, a bed of roses.
Image via Unsplash.com
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