It’s been a tough year for most of us. As it comes to a close, it’s useful to take stock of what we have been through.
Often, in the midst of a crisis or change, we just need to survive. Our go to strategy is to push tough feelings down and just get on with it. Although this can be useful in the short term, it’s not always great in the long term. Unacknowledged feelings can leave us feeling tired, drained, snappy and irritated. When we try to bury our feelings, it can actually cause them to become even stronger and keep us stuck and prevent us from moving beyond them. When we give our feelings some ‘airtime’ they begin to dissolve and their impact on us significantly reduces.
Here’s how you might go about giving airtime to dissolve some unhelpful feelings:
- What have I lost this year? For example, travel, money, security, time, sport, social time. How did that loss make me feel?
- What’s the toughest/scariest thing I went through this year, and how did that make me feel?
- What’s my biggest disappointment this year, and how has that left me feeling?
As you ask yourselves these questions, feelings may arise. All you need to do is acknowledge them. Know that it’s normal to feel these things, and simply allow them to be. Some people find it helpful to write down or draw their thoughts and feelings as they arise.
If it feels too overwhelming to do this by yourself, that’s okay, and also normal. You may need to find a friend or even a counsellor who can support you through this.
We often get through tough times by deploying our strengths and resources. We can use our strengths consciously or unconsciously, and even discover new strengths. It’s great to take stock of our strengths, both to be thankful that they have helped us through a tough time, and to know we have them for the future. Have a think about what strengths you used or discovered over this time.
Think about strengths in three different domains – attitudes, skills, and people.
- Attitude strengths might include such things as perseverance, self-compassion, grit, insight, initiative, and kindness.
- Skills strengths might include creativity, budgeting, advocacy, cooking, risk management, or marketing.
- People strengths could include friends, community, neighbours, whanāu, and colleagues.
While we may never have wanted the experience we have had, it can be useful, when the time is right, to reflect on how we have grown as a result of the experience. Research suggests that 70% of people do experience post-traumatic growth, or more simply put, growth after a challenging event. For example, have a deeper sense of self and purpose, a greater appreciation for life and loved ones, and an increased capacity for altruism, empathy and desire to act for the greater good.
Growth can also be skills and capabilities you have developed along the way. For example, how to home-school your kids, or how to run meetings on Zoom, or find new ways to do business.