The new year is upon us. Traditionally, the new year represents a time for fresh starts and new chapters, and for many, it’s a time of hope and even excitement. That’s not necessarily true for everyone. For some, including those spinning in a spiral of substance abuse and addiction, this time of year can be filled with regret, shame, and a sense of hopelessness. The flood of well-wishes and posts about new goals and resolutions can feel overwhelming and even painful. Read on for 4 suggestions for easing the New Year pressure and finding ways of gently moving forward into 2022.
1. Practice Self-Compassion. Self-compassion is turning understanding, acceptance, and love toward ourselves. It’s really the opposite of self-shaming. Where self-shaming can cause us to freeze and sabotage ourselves, self-compassion can help us move forward into healing, growth, and even adventure. Just as self-shaming is a habit that we’ve grown over time, self-compassion is a habit that we can practice and develop. Here are a few ideas for practicing self-compassion as we sit on the edge of 2022 and moving forward:
- Nurture your body with a healthy meal, a gentle walk in nature, a nap, or a nice bath.
- Give yourself encouragement as though you are a close friend in need of kind words and a good cheerleading.
- Take the time to write about situations that have troubled you. Describe the situations without placing blame.
- Sit and focus on your breath for a few minutes.
2. Find the Present Moment. You might have heard it said that the past is where regret lives, and the future is home to anxiety. Sitting on the edge of the new year can bring the past into sharp focus, and it can emphasize the blurriness of the future resulting in some really uncomfortable emotions. While reflection can be quite beautiful and very useful and future planning is sometimes necessary, learning to return to and dwell in the present moment can be a game-changer. It can truly help us feel saner. The present moment is the home of peace. Here are some ways to practice being more present:
- Try breath counting. Sit quietly for 3 to 5 minutes and focus on your breathing. Try counting 4 exhalations in a row – like this: Exhale (1), Exhale (2), Exhale (3), Exhale (4), Exhale (1), and so on for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Try engaging your senses. Sit quietly and notice 3 things you can see in your environment, 3 things you can hear, and 3 things you can feel. Repeat this process for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Try a body scan. Sit and close your eyes. Start at your feet and move up to the top of your head deliberately looking for any sensations. This practice can be very short, or you can rest in it for 15 minutes or more.
3. Working with a Theme Instead of a Resolution. There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting resolutions at the beginning of the year. In fact, for some people, resolutions are a big part of their new year ritual, and setting them helps them feel good. For others though, the opposite is true. The idea of setting a resolution can bring up shame and dread before the new year even gets rolling. If this is true for you, consider working with a theme instead of setting a resolution. Setting a positive theme for the year can help you focus your actions, reframe events, and even develop boundaries. Themes can be based on single words like Love, Healing, Release, Grow, or Connection, or you might choose a phrase like Release to Embrace, Be in your Body, or Act from Love. Other options are bible verses, lines from poetry, or phrases from AA or another recovery group. Anything will do. The important thing is that the words are inspiring to you; they feel good. Remind yourself of your theme often. Write it in your calendar, post it on your fridge, or write it in lipstick on your mirror. Let it inspire you. If you bump up against a day when you don’t feel aligned with your theme, practice self-compassion, return to the present and start anew.
4. Seek Connection. We are social animals. We are not meant to go it alone. If you already have a support network of friends and family, that’s wonderful. Continue to feed and water the healthy connections in your life. If you are feeling isolated and alone or simply want to grow your support network, here are some ideas:
- Reach out to a spiritual community of your choice. Many spiritual groups are holding in-person meetings, some are offering online sessions, and many offer both.
- Engage in a 12-step support groups. Like spiritual groups, many 12-step groups are offering both live sessions AND online sessions.
- Find an interest-based group in your area or online. Art, music, dance, hiking, bird-watching, camping, tarot…these, and any number of other interesting things draw people together.
- Look for #sober tags on social media. Instagram and Facebook both host a wide variety of sober-related groups and individuals. With Dry January rolling in, you’re likely to find even more ways of connecting right now via social media.
- If you feel like you need more than friendly support and connection, now is a great time to reach out for help. Here are some numbers and links that you may find useful.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
- Veterans Helpline 1-877-956-0137
- SAMHSA National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP
- SAMHSA Treatment Locator https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/
- Psychology Today Therapist Finder https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists
- If you are struggling with alcohol or other chemical substances, you can also reach out to us here at Luna Recovery. We are available to chat online through the website, or you can call us at 1-888-448-LUNA.
The transition from the old year to the new can sometimes feel overwhelming and pressured, and it can also bring up feelings of regret, sadness, and loss. Practicing self-compassion and present-moment awareness, working with an inspiring theme instead of trying to force resolutions, and seeking connection (and help when necessary) can help you move into the new year more gently. These 4 practices are also a recipe for a more peaceful day-to-day life.
Dr. Allaire received his Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Houston, as Valedictorian of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and his Medical Doctorate from Baylor College of Medicine, where he served as Chief Resident. He is the medical monitor for the Physician Counseling Committee of the Harris County Medical Society and the Medical Director of Serenity House Detox. Dr. Allaire specializes in medically assisted detox cases, treating patients in recovery from addiction or other mental health disorders, the medical assessment and monitoring of patients with addictive disorders, medical care related to eating disorders and the medical treatment of patients with mental health conditions.