As the year draws to a close and the new year approaches, it is often a time for reflection and looking forward to the year ahead. This can bring joy, excitement and hope but also dread, fear and apprehension.
2020 has brought challenges that none of us could have predicted. I can’t imagine anyone sat on the eve of December 31st 2019 considering the year ahead and anticipating that we would be thrust in to a world-wide pandemic. Now as we consider what 2021 will deliver us its easy to feel uncertainty, panic and anxiety.
The last year has been beyond difficult for a huge majority of people and no one has gone unaffected by this pandemic, yet I regularly speak to people who minimise their experience and deny themselves their right to feel. There are those people who describe feeling guilty for their sadness at missing out on a holiday or disappointed at not being able to watch their football team play live because they know that many people have lost loved ones to this horrible virus. We’ve all been affected in different ways and a sense of loss doesn’t just come from being bereaved. Many people work all year to be able to afford a holiday abroad where they will spend quality time with their families and gain some well-deserved rest. Those who attend football matches often do so with friends or family where they feel a sense of connection and camaraderie that is hugely important to them. When these things are taken away it can have a significant effect on someone’s mental wellbeing.
I fully appreciate that there is a difference between these losses and the death of a loved one. The permanence of death is devastating and its effects can continue for years after the initial loss. However, even when our losses are temporary, if we have no end date it is hard to maintain a positive outlook and the negative effect can build over time as our resilience wains.
If you deny yourself your feelings, they have a habit of coming out in other and sometimes more enduring ways. Sadness may manifest as depression, fear may be expressed as anger and uncertainty can turn to anxiety.
When we acknowledge and accept our emotions, we validate our experience which can help us to cope with the very challenges that are the catalyst for those emotions. The key is to allow yourself to feel the emotions without becoming consumed by them. One of the best ways to do this is to acknowledge them regularly then they don’t build to the point where they become overwhelming. Finding a balance between this and recognising the things you have to feel grateful for is a really healthy way of managing emotions and coping in times of stress and uncertainty. The benefits of practising gratitude have been well researched and it is clear they are vast and varied.
This pandemic has brought with it great loss, it’s taken many lives, denied us opportunities and experiences, destroyed businesses and taken away treasured time with those close to us. Whatever you have lost throughout this time, you have a right to grieve, you are entitled to feel sad and if it helps you to cope you can absolutely feel gratitude for the things you do have and the lessons you have learnt from this so very difficult time. Gratitude and grief aren’t mutually exclusive there unquestionably is a place for both.