There are only a few days left until we can officially say 2016 is a thing of the past. For many, this is something worth some extra noise-makers and celebrating on New Year’s Eve. This has been a tough year filled with tough events and tough times getting through it all. I have dealt with some serious losses (and I don’t mean Prince, Bowie or Alan Rickman, but those sucked, too), as well as the crapstorm that was the 2016 election cycle and most days it feels like too much.
When we feel this way, there are things we can do individually and collectively to get us back on the right path. Self-care tends to go out the window during times of difficulty, but we can rein it back in with some focus and planning. Here are some strategies for taking care of yourself after this hellish year.
1. Take a hot shower or extended soak in the tub
Nowadays we often find ourselves immersed in some form of engagement or distraction. If we do not meditate regularly, our minds rarely see a break from the constant influx of information that comes with our daily grind. One way you can hit the pause button is by taking a mindful shower or bath. Don’t turn on any music and don’t bring along a magazine to your soak—just focus on how the warm water feels and how your aromatic bubble bath or shower gel smells. Take a moment.
2. Reach out to someone you miss
We all have a handful of friends or family members who have fallen off our radar lately. It will probably feel really darn good to reach out to them, even if it’s just to say hello. If you schedule a lunch date to catch up—even better. Who knows, they might be feeling just as dizzied by this year as you are and might appreciate the gesture.
3. Take a pen to paper to process your feelings
Instead of a fleeting Tweet or Facebook status (or even less productive: keeping it all inside), whip out a piece of paper, a sketchbook, or your favorite journal and let your emotions pour out onto the page. Take a step back from social media to allow yourself to privately express yourself through drawing or writing.
4. Crank your favorite tune and sing/dance along
There is not much that is as freeing as belting out your favorite guilty pleasure tune or dancing like a maniac in your living room to an old school jam. When was the last time you did that? If it’s been a while, go ahead and fire up the iPod—your endorphins will thank you.
5. Bust out of your routine and experience something different
An especially common complaint during the winter months is the drudgery of cabin fever. Through your reflections on the last year, you might also feel a sense of “ugh” on doing the same old thing day in and day out. Break free from this routine and schedule something different this week. It could be something small, like swinging by the coffee shop on your lunch break instead of staying at your desk, or taking a weekend trip to a museum you’ve never visited. This change can help remind your brain that everyday doesn’t have to be exactly the same and there’s a whole world out there to explore.
6. Regain sight of your core values
All of the events this year that took a toll on you did so for a reason. If you suffered a loss, you hurt because you love and value those close to you. If you felt triggered by hateful comments during the election cycle, you hurt because you have a strong sense of right vs. wrong. If you felt heartbroken by the devastating events that took place over the last 12 months, you hurt because you have compassion.
All of these values are good ones to have, even when they are threatened by the happenings in the outside world. Find a way to close out 2016 by reconnecting with these values somehow. That might look like offering your time, effort or money to others in need or a cause that is near and dear to your heart. Giving back when we feel feel depleted somehow has the ability to replenish what we’ve been missing.
Note: If you feel you need professional help with getting through tough times this year, be sure to reach out to a mental health provider. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, day or night, at 1-800-273-8255.
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