COPING WITH NEW YEAR – handy hints from Louise Rooney MBACP

New Year is such a strange time for many people – on the one hand its dark, cold, miserable and can be quite a lonely and melancholy time of year. Other people might think of it as a chance to start afresh, new resolutions, wiping the slate clean. And then on top of it all we are surrounded by messages in the press and media about how we should/ought/have to be and do.

For people who have experienced great trauma, are feeling isolated, maybe fearful, this time of year can be even more difficult to manage. So here at Survivors Voice we came up with some tips that some of you may find useful for working through the low energy, reflective winter months in a positive and empowering way.

1.  Start a journal – journals in whatever form are wonderful for venting and for getting those hurlyburly thoughts that crowd into your head out of the way. You can either write them, type them, create pictoral journals either with drawings or sketching. Try to find 20 minutes at the beginning of your day to do this – early journalling is when today hasn’t had a chance to add to the thoughts in your head.
2.  Create a hope list – remember hope is a little bit like a road in the country – it wasn’t there originally but after lots of people walked along the same track it became a really clear pathway! Write down all those little hopes and big hopes that you have for this year – not putting yourself under pressure to achieve anything in particular or to set yourself up for disappointment but to find the time to mentally walk on that same pathway as everyone else.

3.  If you have access to the internet there are some wonderful sites full of beautiful images – take 20 minutes every day to google positive, uplifting images that inspire you, or make you smile – what do you like – do you like animals, landscapes, peoples faces, symbols. Check out Google, select Images and type in one of the following – kind faces/baby animals/peaceful/inspirational landscapes or find some of your own.
4.  If you are looking to start making some changes in your life and needing some ideas on where to start, you can just take small steps at this stage of the year, remember that you have only winter energies available so go soft and steady. You might like to take 15 minutes of time out at the end of the day to do some meditative practice and you could focus on one of the following :-

HALT – Hungry Angry Lonely Tired – can you remember how many times you were any or all of these. If you were any of these then you might have experienced feelings of pain, frustration, sadness, upset etc. Look to eliminate feeling any of these – so if you are hungry, make sure that you are eating well, if you are tired, get some rest etc.
Self-criticism – how many times in the 15 minutes does a negative self thought pop into your head – no need to focus on the content, just make your head a little bit like a butterfly net, just catch what you can and see how many times you criticise yourself. If you see the frequency then you can start to reduce the number
of times.
FEAR – are you frightened of something, are fearful thoughts getting in your way. Take the end of day 15 minutes to give yourself over to them, JUST FOR THE 15 MINUTES, make that your worry time. For the rest of the day if a worry pops into your head, or a fear, park it in your head and tell yourself you will think about that during the 15 minutes worry time.
5. Challenging fears – New Year can be a very frightening time for people, they might think that something wicked this way comes or worry about what the year will bring – the best way to handle this is to challenge the reality of the fears – take a moment to think about someone in your life or in the world around you that you trust – this person needs to be a kind person, someone who you know will speak honestly but who has your best interests at heart. It might be a family member, you could imagine the Dalai
Llama even or a personal hero. When you are feeling frightened, close your eyes, breath and imagine that this person comes into your head – WHAT WOULD THEY SAY ABOUT THE FEAR YOU ARE HAVING? How would they rationalise it, test the reality of it, support you through it if it is real.

6. Have you thought about writing a letter to the younger version of you? If you could imagine that you were able to go back in your adult form to give the child version of you some support and hope, what might you say? What would the younger you want to know?

7. Take up some creative practices – are you a gardener, are you a baker, do you enjoy painting? Therapeutic and creative practices are gentle but inspiring and don’t need to cost too much.

8. Softly softly through the rest of the winter – give yourself permission to be gentle, quiet, kind to yourself and take the pressure off yourself. If you feel that you want a duvet day, take one! If you feel that want to go for a walk, go for one! If you want to bake a cake or plant some spring bulbs ready for the nice weather, do it.

9. Get some fresh air, a little gentle exercise will help with endorphin production (happy hormones), try and get some light during the day – sometimes Seasonal Affective Disorder can be alleviated with some daylight.

If you have ways that you find useful to get through those darker times, then do share them with us on the blog/forum pages – REMEMBER THAT SURVIVORS VOICE IS ABOUT US ALL COMING TOGETHER TO EMPOWER EACH OTHER so all your ideas are very very welcome.

Try to focus on small steps towards positivity, no stable and positive change can really happen in one swoop, the longest successes are those built brick by brick.

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