When the novelty of a new year wanes, how do we keep moving?
As days of leave dwindle before the majority of us head back into the workplace, the novelty and symbolism of 2021 will start to wear off. Following a horrific year in 2020, for both our mental and physical health, it is going to be difficult to distinguish what difference 2021 is offering us, besides a new number as a semblance of hope. Here are five tangible ways to retain control and stabilise during a tumultuous period of time.
When heading into a period of uncertainty, make clear cut goals (however big or small you want) and create a rewards system for them. These 'rewards' may not be for a particular achievement, but simply for making it through a tough period of time. For example, in 2020, every two months I would take myself to a bookstore and purchase a new text as a symbol of achievement simply for moving through the year. These incentives don't have to be large or luxurious, but simply help with establishing small, manageable goal posts during stressful times.
4. Try something uncomfortably new
During an incredibly unpredictable pandemic, I believe one of the best things we can do is lean into the uncomfortable and distract ourselves with something fresh. Enrol in a course, take up an instrument, download duo lingo for all I care. Do something which subverts the natural wave of your life (this may even be watching the pilot episode of a TV show you arrogantly swore you would never try). Just stretch those wings an inch.
3. Write. Write. Write.
A list, a thought, a memory, a feeling. The notion of 'gratitude journals' have a bad reputation from the anti 'live, laugh, love' camp. I was in that camp. I would constantly think, 'eugh that is so tacky'...until I started doing it. I write everything down. The notes app on my phone is a melting pot of ideas, stories and thoughts. Every time I write about my day, I feel better. A subconscious release and relief that arrives in the form of calculating and quantifying your personal response to the everyday. Writing may not be for everyone, but remember, it doesn't have to be good, it probably shouldn't be good. The reason it works is not for the sake of reading back but moving forward and providing yourself a natural release from your own thoughts.
Cover image: Wix illustrations
2. if you're making goals, ensure they are manageable and concrete
The idea of the New Year's Resolution is splendid, but all too often it encompasses drastic changes based in capitalism and social conditioning. If you are going to make a goal, ensure that there is a concrete game plan with tangible benchmarks in healthy timeframes. In 2021, my goal is not to 'give up alcohol' altogether because frankly, that will not functionally work for me. Instead, my goal is to ensure that I only drink on two occasions each month, and within those occasions I do not consume more than six standard drinks. No binge drinking, no ordering a random drink at a restaurant. This allows me to limit social activities and financial blow-outs that accompany excess consumption of alcohol. In previous years, I have given myself outrageous goals 'lose 10kgs in two months', 'be quieter' or my personal favourite, 'never buy lunch at work'. This year, I am working on creating budgets, agendas and manageable, tangible goals like reducing my drinking.
1. Evaluate your relationship with social media
For most of us, the use of our phones and laptops is beyond our control, we use them for work, emergencies and to function throughout the day (I cannot wake up without assistance from my trusty alarm app). BUT, this doesn't mean we have to give up on altering our usage habits. There are many ways to disengage from our phone in our downtime, here are some ideas:
- turn off lock screen notifications for unnecessary applications
- set a compulsory 'do not disturb' time
- mute group chats on Messenger (if you are tagged in a message, you will be notified)
- add a night mode feature to your phone (assists with the transition to sleep)