While 2020 presented the world with a host of new and difficult challenges, 2021 was arguably just as stressful. With the world still reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, navigating vaccine rollouts, ongoing political turmoil, and the continued need to adapt to changing safety recommendations, 2021 has inspired a variety of mixed and opposing feelings in many of us.
As the year winds down to a close, it’s important to consider how these past events have impacted you and how to move forward in 2022. Regardless of where you are in your mental health journey, here are four tips from Lyra therapists and coaches to help you work towards a mentally healthy 2022:
2021 has been another trying year. Things were supposed to go back to normal—but in many ways they got worse or simply stayed the same. It’s understandable to feel discouraged or even hopeless. If you are wondering if life will ever return to some semblance of normalcy, you’re in good company.
It’s easy to lose perspective and buy into the story that because things have been this way for so long, they always will be. One helpful strategy to put things in perspective is to zoom out and consider how you’ll look back at this time in 20, 30, or 40 years. These few years will certainly stand out as a period of loss and disruption, but will inevitably be followed by more change. And change comes in all forms: good, bad, and neutral.
For a mentally healthy 2022, try embracing the ever-evolving, impermanent nature of life. Grieve the tragedies, celebrate the positive shifts—and most of all—be kind to yourself in the face of ongoing change.
– Shane O’Neil-Hart, LCSW, Senior Clinical Manager, Mental Health Coaching
While it may feel counterintuitive, consider holding emotional discomfort with attention, curiosity, and care to better support your mental health this year. For nearly everyone, physical pain triggers a biological response to avoid the discomfort it causes. Avoidance is also a natural response to emotional pain, but it can disconnect us from our values, steal us from the present moment, and contribute to symptoms of depression and anxiety. If emotional pain is an inevitable part of the human experience, and avoiding it ultimately makes things worse, how can we respond to it in a healthy way?
Start by noticing emotional discomfort, then gently ask yourself what it might be trying to tell you. Pain is often connected to caring. Perhaps the discomfort is alerting you to a personal value you’re longing to express more fully, an overdue hard conversation, or the need to establish a new boundary. When we practice accepting emotional pain as a normal (albeit difficult!) part of life, we free up the energy required to actively listen and respond to what we need.
– Lindsay Leopold, PCC; Coach Learning & Development Lead and Lyra Mental Health Coach
As 2022 approaches, you may be experiencing a mixture of feelings—hope, excitement, uncertainty, exhaustion, disappointment. Know that there is no right or wrong way to feel as you enter a new year and while you don’t always get to choose how you feel, you can choose what you do.
As 2022 beings, consider choices that help you move forward in alignment with your values. Take a moment to consider what you value and want to move closer to this year–family, friends, career, health, hobbies, etc? And then consider how you want to be in relation to that value–present, attuned, authentic, tenacious, consistent, etc? Putting the “what” and the “how” together–what your value is and how you want to act in relation to that value–can help you to use your values, rather than your emotions, to guide your behavior in service of what matters most to you.
Remember that values are different than feelings. You don’t have to feel a certain way to act that way. For instance, you don’t have to feel calm and loving to be calm and loving. We can’t always control how we feel, the things that happen to us, or the outcome of every situation but if you are acting in a way that aligns with your values, you can feel proud that you behaved in a way that really lines up with and moves you closer to what you care about.
– Kendall Browne, PhD, Program Manager for Workforce Mental Health
The past two years have been wrought with unpredictable loss, change, and shifts in culture. It can be easy to feel defeated by what appears to be constant difficulty. Such long term and varied suffering can also result in feeling desperate for change but afraid to hope for reprieve from hardship. It can feel like too much of a risk to hope for joy, strength, and success, especially at the start of a new year when many hardships still exist from the past year(s).
But unfortunately, avoiding this risk can leave us feeling cynical, burned out, and/or unmotivated to endure. The complex reality of life is that it holds both beautiful and tragic elements; strength and suffering; joy and pain. What’s more, these things can exist at the same time, in the same place, within the same person. When difficulty and hardship seem overwhelming, it can be encouraging to intentionally look for that which is beautiful, hopeful, worth rejoicing over. It is there, within yourself, your community, the world around you-the hunt for it will prove successful. While this will not negate or erase the tragedy that exists in life, it is worth stating that even in the midst of that, hope, joy, and change are possible. It is worth the risk to believe it.
– Andrea Holman, PhD, Program Manager for Workforce Mental Health, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
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