Hello 2021! 12 Great Ideas to Reduce Stress in the New Year
The past year was challenging for many people world wide, due to a global pandemic, political unrest, and economic hardship. If you are a gifted person, or the parent of a gifted child, 2020 may have further impacted you by intensifying challenges you already deal with every day, like existential crises, heightened emotional sensitivity, problems with education or work, feelings of isolation and anxiety. Even if you had a relatively good year, it is unlikely you and your family were unaffected.
It’s okay to acknowledge your child’s or your hardship, and then give yourself and them a break. It’s so easy to beat ourselves up when life is hard, which can lead to feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and worthlessness. This is also true for kids, especially, our bright young people who can be huge perfectionists, and who may already feel different in the world. Now is a great time to learn the practice of self compassion.
What is self compassion you ask? In a nutshell, it is being nice to yourself. It is suspending the judgments of your inner critic. Doing away with your ideas of what you should or shouldn’t do, and engaging in some real self care. This is not to be confused with being selfish. It means setting appropriate boundaries with others, taking care of your physical and mental well-being and having some fun in life. This is essential to a person’s short and long term health, can improve the quality of relationships with others and can contribute to living a richer and fuller life. And if you are a parent, this will give you a greater ability to connect with your child and avoid meeting them with frustration. Openly practicing self care, also gives you the opportunity to teach your children how to care for themselves by setting a good example.
Here are some ideas to help you start practicing self compassion today:
1. Be present and aware of what you are doing in the moment. This will help you to enjoy what you are doing now, and reduce worry about the past and future. For example, when you are eating, notice your food. Allow yourself to savor your meal and avoid mindless eating on the go. Another example, is when you go for walks outside, have a few moments of silence to notice the sounds and environment around you. This can be very peaceful, calming and will allow you to connect with the world in a positive way.
2. Recognize what you do right, as well as what your partner and children are doing right. Also recognize anyone who gave you support when you needed it, and anyone you were kind to. As it is important to honor our pain, it is equally important to honor our healthy pleasure. Negativity can have such a strong pull in our hearts and minds, the good stuff in life can drift aside without us even noticing it was ever there. Noticing when something has gone right can help us to hang on to it, and notice more positive things in our lives can reduce the effects of the negative.
3. Practice gratitude, even if you think you have nothing to be grateful for. Make a list of at least ten things you are truly thankful for, even if they are small. Each day as you start or end your day, think of one thing or person you appreciate and notice the sensation you feel in your body connected with that thankfulness. If it’s something big, that’s wonderful, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be as small as witnessing the beauty of a flower you saw when you walked outside this morning.
4. Take time to grieve the losses. Many people had tremendous losses this year. Some lost loved ones, health, jobs, marriages and dreams. Giving yourself time and space to feel your emotions as they come up is important. Be gentle with yourself. If possible, allow yourself to remember happy memories before the loss occurred. This will help to counter some of your suffering.
5. If there are things you want to change, make small, tangible and measurable goals you can stick to. Plan little, healthy rewards for yourself as you reach those milestones. This is also a good way to help your gifted child, who might be reluctant to try new things.
6. Set aside time to pursue your own interests and work on projects that matter to you, even if it's only a few minutes a day or a couple hours a week. Many of us have active, creative minds that thirst for knowledge, dream big and need to be satisfied. It's good to follow your curiosity. This is true for children and teens as well.
7. Make time to enjoy life. So often we get caught up in getting things done, helping others, working hard, etc. we forget to have fun. Fun shouldn’t be a luxury, but a necessity. We humans are made to enjoy life, and we deserve to do so. This doesn’t mean shirk your responsibilities, binge eat or drink, or go off on a relentless shopping spree you can’t afford. It means, do something harmless that brings you pleasure each day, and notice it. Again, this can be big and/or small. Take a hot bath, talk to friends, read a book, color. Play with your children, friends (even if it's virtual) and partner. You know what you like. Do it and help your children to do the same. Play is important at every age. It helps us to better manage stress, improves our relationships and increases learning.
8. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Allow others to be kind to you. Kindness feels good, spreads the good and improves relationships.
9. It's okay to say "no" sometimes, and important to set personal boundaries. Letting those we care about know our limits, teaches them how we want to be treated.
10. Part of taking care of yourself is having a good support system, which includes people who can help you reach your goals and who encourage you to do what is good for you. It's always good to try to surround ourselves with people who bring out the best in us.
11. Take care of your physical health. Make sure you are getting fresh air, exercise and eating well.
12. As part of your support network and maintaining good physical health, take care of your emotional health. Consider connecting with an experienced mental health professional in your area. Good therapy can be an excellent way to care for yourself, and show self compassion. It is an investment in your well being and future happiness.
Whether you welcome the new year with open arms, accept it reluctantly or dread what 2021 has to offer, it's here. We have another year of life, which means we have opportunities to reflect, set intentions for the new year, and to embrace whatever comes our way with care and compassion for self and others. Here's to 2021! May it bring joy, peace, health and prosperity to all. Happy New Year!
About the Author: Christy, is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, practicing in San Diego, California. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, teens, parents, families, couples and individual adults with complex psychological and relationship problems. She specializes in the needs of gifted, bright and high achieving people, as well as those who have suffered past trauma. Christy uses an eclectic approach, meeting the needs of whomever she is working with. Her work addresses the needs of the whole person, incorporating mind and body