When a new year comes around, we often expect it to wash away what the previous year has done to our well-being and mental health. We expect it to automatically reset our well-being like the sea would wash away footprints on the sand. Whether that happens or not is ultimately up to you. We must however come to the realization that it will not happen automatically. It is something that we have to work towards and accumulates through small conscious decisions that we make.
We talked to Clinical Psychologist, Neville Robertson, about what you can do to reset your well-being and take on 2023 with a new mindset and motivation.
Why is resetting at times so difficult?
There can be a lot of reasons why resetting for a new year is difficult. Maybe it is because you had a challenging and difficult 2022 leaving you wondering if 2023 will be any different. Maybe it’s because 2023 holds uncertainty and you do not know where you will be halfway through the year. Or maybe it’s because you are feeling stuck or in a loop year in and year out. There are a lot of reasons why it can be difficult, but it is often the case that our minds tend to shift toward the past or the future.
Thinking about the past essentially means we are thinking or rather fixating on aspects that we no longer have control over – often leading to symptoms of depression or anxiety. Fixating about the future often means that we try to predict the future by speculating or assuming what will happen. This often means that we assume the worst will happen or solely focus on the negative. Once again, we may focus on aspects that are out of our control or maybe not yet in our control – possibly leading to symptoms of anxiety or stress.
Not fixating on the past or future means that our focus shifts to the here and now. It moves away from the uncontrollable to what is in my control NOW. Resetting for 2023 means that we start to focus more on what is in our control and less of what is not in our control.
This does not mean that we do not think about the past or the future. The past has brought us to where we are now, and the future will take us to where we want to be. What this means is that we do not fixate to a point where our capacity is overwhelmed by the uncontrollable. The new year carries with it new worries and old worries, but if we can start to distinguish between what we can and cannot control we may be able to reset for 2023 by letting go of what is not in our control.
So, how do we reset for 2023?
1.Making a list
Making a list seems simple and obvious however, it has this unique ability of creating a little perspective. Seeing something on paper in front of you allows you to focus on what it really is instead of exaggerating it in your mind. Here are two things that you can make a list of:
A.The controllable vs uncontrollable
Firstly, ask yourself what is in my control and what is not in my control. You can do this for the day, the week, the month, or the year. You can even do it per event or challenge that you experience. Once you have made your list, all of your attention and energy should focus solely on what is in your control.
B.What are my needs?
Focusing on the here and now and what is in your control also means that you focus on your needs – whether emotional, physical, social, or spiritual. In order to reset for this new year, it is important that we take care of ourselves. So, make a list of what your needs are in order to improve and sustain your wellbeing (NB: Remember, they have to be in your control).
2.Controlling our thinking
Sometimes we find ourselves in the past or future without even knowing it. Maybe, in the here and now, something challenging or difficult has happened. Our thoughts are racing, and our emotions are overwhelming. At that point in time, it is important that we focus on how we are thinking about the situation. More specifically we need to start identifying specific thoughts that are leading to our distress. More often than not, these thoughts are patterns that we automatically and regularly engage in. When you have identified the though(s), ask yourself: How is this thought helping me?
What is this thought contributing to me resolving the situation or feeling better? You may find yourself seeing that it is an unhelpful thought. This is a difficult exercise but building this awareness and challenging your thoughts can help you to identify ones that may be more rational and helpful to your situation.
We all want to be our better selves. We all want to do better in 2023, whether it is in our personal or professional lives. At times, the picture that we have of our future self is unrealistic and we want to jump from where we are now to the end product. Unfortunately, we both know that is not the case. Being realistic means two things:
(1) We set realistic expectations of ourselves and realistic goals. We often fall into a trap where we set these unrealistic standards for ourselves and when we don’t attain them, we become self-critical. These standards become unrelenting and keep on feeding this negative view of ourselves and our performance. Focus on goals that are attainable.
(2) Once we have realistic expectations, we need to become real about how we will go about and achieve them. Take your goal or expectation and break it down into small and manageable steps. Through doing this we may be able to shift our attention to achieving the smaller steps instead of questioning why we are not yet at the end goal. Each small step that you take will build your confidence and mastery resulting into a snowball effect that leads hopefully leads to the end destination or something better.
Be kind to yourself. You too are human. You too will make mistakes. You too will fail sometimes. “A failure is not always a mistake; it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying”. – B. F. Skinner.