Are the echoes of 2021 still ringing too loud for you, even though it’s come and gone?
Does everyone around you seem ready to move into the new season, except you?
The world moves at such a fast pace these days that slowing down feels like a luxury. Among the many trending slogans on social media, one that resonates well among introverts is an acronym, JOMO, as the antidote to FOMO (fear of missing out). It lowers the compulsion to keep up with external pressures and move at a pace that works for you.
As you settle deeper into the midlife season, the joy of missing out becomes more appealing as it frees you to slow down and savour your experiences more deeply. In the past year, chances are you navigated four seasons crammed with big and small moments, personal challenges, tragedy, and victories. If so, you can relate to the ‘times’ described in the popular Ecclesiastes 3 (verse1-8) poem that captures the cyclical rhythm of life.
Who you were at the start of 2021 has shifted as you begin a new year. Before you are pulled into the many roles this season will ask of you, take some time to pause—to rest and recharge.
If you’re unsure where to start, these five stages of reflection, inspired by the Ecclesiastes poem, may offer some inspiration.
Stage 1: A Time to Pause
You pour yourself wholeheartedly into the many roles assigned to you -family, marriage, and other significant relationships. Health, career, and economic uncertainty. The persistent pandemic and other health concerns; daily news and social media are among the many voices vying for your attention, which can leave anyone exhausted and emptied. Danna Faulds, in her poem, Walk Slowly, offers a gentle reminder to pause.
Mindfulness practices such as breathing exercises, tuning in to your senses, and mindful walking can help you slow down and tune in to your inner self.
Stage 2: A Time for Self-Care
A common misconception about self-care is that it’s a luxury reserved for only a select few. Self-care is not indulgent or selfish. It is essential for physical, mental and emotional health to foster overall wellbeing. A lack of self-care can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout.
Self-care has been clinically shown to improve physical health, concentration, and increase energy. It can help reduce anxiety and depression and increase a sense of happiness.
Self-care can focus on any of these seven wellness domains:
- Physical (walk, swim, exercise, sleep)
- Emotional (therapy, cry, laugh, introspection)
- Social (quality time with family or friends)
- Environmental (take a walk, clean or declutter your living or work space)
- Financial (save or invest for a future goal)
- Spiritual (prayer, meditate, read)
Which of these self-care activities can you fit in your schedule to help you rest and recharge and increase a sense of peace?
Stage 3: A Time to Reflect
Reflective journaling to explore your past or present experiences, thoughts and emotions can be healing and restorative in several ways.
- It helps you manage anxiety
- It reduces stress
- It helps you identify your triggers—what sets you off
- It helps you unravel problems
- It helps you uncover new ways to cope with stressors
With journaling, there is no need to worry about what the other person may think or how they will respond. It is a non-judgmental space that welcomes your truest self. Not only that but you are bombarded daily by far too many voices trying to impose an identity and beliefs on you that can be confusing and overwhelming at times.
Reflective journaling is an alternative space where you can be 100% yourself to process life. You can rationally and calmly work through the sticky issues you’re currently facing. In the pages of a private journal, you don’t need to filter your thoughts or feelings to protect your ego, as you would when speaking to someone other than an objective professional counsellor/therapist. Regular reflective journaling makes you less inclined to often consult others because you become better at managing life yourself.
Once you feel physically rested and recharged, spend some time reflecting on the past year. Particularly, how your unique experiences refined and shaped who you are becoming.
Stage 4: A Time to Take Stock
Count Your Blessings
Research shows that counting our blessings, or focusing on gratitude, can help us feel happier and improve our health. We deal better with adversity, and it helps us build stronger relationships.
Gratitude or ‘gratia‘ is a word derived from Latin, meaning grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. It is acknowledging the goodness in one’s life that is often attributed to a source beyond ourselves. This can relate to people, nature or a higher power.
Without discounting the immense challenges of the pandemic and the heart-wrenching losses that resulted from its impact, as you reflect on the past year, you may be pleasantly surprised to notice the smallest blessings you may have overlooked or forgotten.
Recall the four seasons in 2021. For each season, can you list at least 1-3 things you feel grateful for, and what was involved in that situation?
Let’s Keep it Real
Let’s be honest. Life can get downright hard some days. For the past two years, we’ve lived through a pandemic that turned our world inside out. It fractured the very fabric of society, with loss and grief affecting families across the globe. It disrupted the world economies, impacting the way we work, educate and socialise. Ultimately, it forced us to pause and re-evaluate everything that matters.
- In which ways have you felt those shifts?
- What did you learn about yourself as you moved through the hard experiences?
- How has it strengthened your resilience and character?
No experience is ever a waste. Depending on your outlook, every milestone and challenge you faced during the past year has the capacity to shift you towards self-actualisation in Maslow’s hierarchy.
Viewed from a spiritual perspective, your life experiences and particularly the challenges you navigate are said to develop perseverance and deepen maturity as you evolve from one life stage to the next.
Stage 5: A Time for a New Word
As you get ready to fully step into this new year, what are your dreams and aspirations for the future? More importantly, how can you turn abstract desires into concrete goals?
When planning for the future, many find it helpful to come up with a word for the year. Your word can capture all your goals and plans and serve as a signpost as you move through the seasons. You can apply your word to the main pillars in your life, i.e. the seven wellness domains listed earlier. If you refer to it regularly, at the end of the year, you will notice how your word guided your decisions and goals.
Spend some time thinking about the year ahead and one word that can capture your goals.
There you have it- five steps to help you find closure to the year and set you on a clear path for the future. If you need more inspiration to step into the new year, feel free to browse through the Resource Library for tools, such as the free 2022 Mind Map or the 2022 Journal, to support you towards purposeful living.
The resources available on this website are for inspiration and general use only. If you need professional help with a specific health issue, speak to your nearest licensed medical doctor, counsellor, or therapist. Or, see the helplines below:
- South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)
- Free Telephone Counselling Hotlines in South Africa