For many, a new year feels like a fresh start & a clean slate. And although you can make a change on any of the 365 days of the year, it’s still important to take advantage of any new energy and enthusiasm you may be feeling right now. What’s most important, though, is to accept & acknowledge that you likely won’t feel that same energy or enthusiasm every day, week or month this year and that you have a plan in place to bounce back from that.
Here are just a few ways you can make the most of your positive mindset right now and use it to build momentum & keep yourself inspired all year long:
- Set intentions – Intentions leave a little wiggle room for you to not be perfect, which is important. They require acceptance of where you already are while also requiring you to get crystal clear about the type of life you want to live, the type of person you want to be and how you can manifest that in your daily routine. Intentions are different from resolutions in the sense that they don’t set out to ‘resolve’ anything and instead help us gain clarity about what specific qualities or behaviors we want to possess that will help us live the life we want to. Instead of making resolutions & giving up at the first misstep, set intentions that are aligned with your goals and values and forgive yourself when your behavior isn’t aligned, knowing the intention is still true.
- Anticipate challenges – Every year will have some bumps in the road, both big and small, both expected and unexpected. Make a game plan for how you’ll respond to those. For example, if you know you have a trip coming up, are there ways you can start saving for it now? If you have an event later in the year, are there ways you can spread out the planning so it’s less overwhelming down the road? If you know your company is laying people off in the summer, can you start updating your resume or networking to prepare for that? Of course there are some things you can’t prepare or plan for, but doing an overview of big, upcoming events can help us feel less stressed when they approach. You should also put a plan in place for what you’ll do about unexpected challenges or any periods of depression, anxiety, disappointment, or failure this year. Who are your supports and what action steps will you take if those things should come up for you?
- Make 90-day goals – While it’s great to set long-term, yearly goals, it also leaves the space for us to put things off until much later in the year, possibly never getting around to something on our list or not leaving a realistic amount of time to accomplish it. If you want to ensure you make progress toward your goals early on, setting quarterly goals might be a better approach.
- Schedule weekly and monthly reflection – Checking in with yourself to reflect on how your year is going, whether or not you’re behavior is aligning with your intentions and how your progress toward your goals is going is an important step that people often overlook. It’s great to have intentions and to set goals, but you need to be checking in with yourself on them, too, so you can make shifts and adjustments where needed. I recommend a Sunday and end-of-month check in to review what went well and what struggles you had the week or month prior, decide what changes need to be made for the week or month ahead, and create a plan to put those changes into action.
- Find accountability and support – You shouldn’t have to feel alone in your approach to the new year and having consistent accountability & support toward your intentions and goals will help you stay focused long after the new energy from the beginning of the year has passed. Find a reliable accountability partner or support group that has similar goals to yours and schedule time to check in with them weekly or monthly, no matter what. Sometimes just sharing our goals and knowing someone is going to be checking in with us about them at a specific time is enough to help us overcome the lack of energy or motivation we may experience otherwise.
How are you feeling about the new year? Have you set some intentions or goals for yourself? If you’re lacking clarity about what you want to achieve or manifest in the new year, that’s okay. Try journaling or talking with a friend or therapist to get in touch with your inner values. As you speak it out loud or write it on paper, your inner dialogue and internalized desires become apparent.
Wishing you all a healthy & fulfilling 2018!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?
Surprisingly that isn’t the case for a large number of people who actually feel increasingly depressed, lonely, and anxious around the holiday season. The societal pressure to feel all ‘holly jolly’ makes people who are already experiencing some level of distress, loss or unhappiness in their lives feel even worse. Mixed with the seasonal shift and the added stressors of extra expenses, busier schedules, poor eating & drinking habits and dysfunctional family relations, it only makes sense that our emotional and mental state would be heightened during this time.
If you’re one of the many people who struggle around this time of year, there’s a few important things you should know:
- You are not abnormal. It might seem like everyone around you is wrapped in Christmas lights and singing ‘fa-la-la’ while tap dancing in the snow, but more people are experiencing intense levels of depression, anxiety and stress at this time of year than you probably realize. People are often too proud to share the hard stuff, especially when they (like you) assume everyone around them is so full of joy, but believe me, it exists. As a therapist, I see many patients who struggle during this time of year and many who even consider taking their own lives as a means to escape it all. Despite the supposed ‘joy’ of the holiday season, there are plenty who just like you – are feeling down. You are not flawed, wrong, or a bad person for feeling this way. In fact, it’s completely normal for your emotions to be intensified now more than ever.
- You are not alone. When we feel like the people around us are happy, the last thing we want to do is burden them with our problems. But we’re actually not burdening them at all. If it is the case that they seem to feel particularly happy during this time of year, they will likely be even more eager to listen and support you. On the contrary, they might be relieved by you sharing your struggles because it gives them an opportunity to relate and share their own. When we feel depressed, we often assume the worst about the people in our lives – that they don’t care about us, that we’re a bother to them or that they couldn’t possibly understand. These are usually just defense mechanisms that we create to justify our feelings of loneliness and, ultimately, make ourselves feel worse. If you’re not comfortable reaching out to the people you know, there are plenty of therapists and support groups that can help you through this time of year.
- You are not your thoughts or feelings. One of the biggest challenges people have is separating their thoughts and feelings from themselves. They feel lonely, so they believe that they are lonely & might fail to see the ways that they’re not. They feel depressed, so they beat themselves up for it, assuming they’re flawed or a failure of some sort. They think that nobody cares about them and assume that must be true. Our thoughts & feelings are separate from ourselves. I like to think of them as clouds, just floating by, unattached to us. They exist, and they’re a part of our existence, but they don’t define who we are and what our reality is. When we can begin to separate our feelings and thoughts from our reality, our worthiness, and our identity, we can begin to heal and not feel consumed and controlled by them.
- You are not doomed. It’s often hard for people to see light at the end of the tunnel or to believe that they are capable of overcoming the intensity of their emotional and mental state. When we’re in the midst of a severe period of depression or anxiety, it doesn’t necessarily matter how much we rationalize with ourselves, remind ourselves of previous times that we worked through something similar, or use positive self-talk. We just feel stuck, frustrated, and helpless. But let me remind you of point #3, just because you feel stuck, frustrated and helpless, doesn’t mean you actually are. You might feel that way right now and it may take some time for you to feel otherwise, but chances are, if you’re reading this, you are also extremely self-aware, resilient and curious — and those things will help you through this difficult time.
If you don’t personally experience increased feelings of loneliness, depression or anxiety at this time of year, make sure you’re being mindful and aware of the people in your life who may. Reach out to your loved ones and make sure to remind them that you’re there for them. Invite them to spend time with you, but be understanding if they’d rather not. Don’t make them think they can just ‘snap out of it’ or try to guilt them into feeling better. Show them patience, kindness, love and support – even if they only let you do so from a distance.
I’m offering free, 30-minute ‘holiday healing’ sessions through the new year to help you start the process of working through the difficult emotions you may be feeling during this holiday season. Please contact me with your availability to schedule yours.
We know that developing a positive morning routine can greatly impact our mental and emotional well-being, increase our productivity levels and improve our quality of life. But we also know it’s a lot easier said than done, right?
As a former late sleeper turned morning person, I’ve compiled what I believe to be 5 of the most crucial steps for breaking up with the snooze button.
- Determine your motivation. If you don’t have a really strong reason for wanting to take your mornings back other than that you’ve been told it’s a good idea, you probably won’t fully commit. You need to determine HOW reclaiming your mornings will impact your life and WHY that is important to you. If you don’t have really strong reasons for waking up earlier, the rest of these steps won’t matter, so it’s important to get crystal clear about your goals and how an earlier wake-up time will help you achieve them.
- Throw out your current narrative. Proclaiming that you just “aren’t a morning person” isn’t exactly opening up the space for you to become one, is it? Focusing on how much you hate mornings probably won’t help you in the process of learning how to enjoy them. Shift your mindset and visualize yourself enjoying your mornings every night before you go to bed. Focus on the aspects of morning that you enjoy rather than what you dread about them. When you wake up, replace complaints with gratitude and set positive and productive intentions for the day.
- Develop a routine. We are creatures of habit, so developing a morning routine will make you more likely to be successful in your mission to wake up earlier. As you consistently do this routine, waking up earlier will feel like less of a chore and more of a normality (typically after the first month). Develop your routine by choosing tasks that are directly connected to your motivation and that will directly impact the reasons you’re deciding to make mornings a priority.
- Sprinkle in things that you enjoy. Start by thinking about the things you love to do, but find yourself not having the time or energy for later in the day — exercise, reading, journaling and meditation are common morning practices that help people feel more fulfilled and productive throughout the day. Think about what things might make you feel that way and schedule them into your routine accordingly. Without some form of enjoyment in your morning routine, chances are you’ll feel more inclined to skip it.
- Commit. One of the biggest reasons people fail to develop a new routine or habit is because they don’t ever fully mentally commit to it. They see it as optional, something they would like to do, instead of a requirement and something that they have to do to achieve their goals. This is often a defense mechanism we use to cope with our fear of failure. Try, instead, to think of your morning routine as a non-negotiable part of your day. If you do miss it, don’t let that be a perceived failure or an excuse to give up entirely. Instead, make a re-commitment to your morning routine every day with your WHY at the forefront of your mind.
You may often hear about behavioral techniques you can use to trick yourself into getting up earlier — putting your alarm clock across the room, splashing water on your face, jumping into a cold shower, sleeping in your workout clothes, getting to bed earlier — many of which are incredibly helpful and effective. But these things alone won’t get you out of bed earlier every day. You must have a strong desire and motivation, something that excites you and a routine and mindset that will help you stay committed.
Whether you love or hate mornings, I’d love to hear from you. What things help you to have or prevent you from having a productive morning? Which of these 5 steps, if any, do you need to implement most in your quest to reclaim your mornings?