New Year is typically a celebration with friends and loved ones—each new year is symbolic of positive new beginnings filled with optimism and opportunities. However, transitioning to a new year in 2021 will be much different for all. COVID has brought loss to almost everyone that will not readily pass as the clock passes midnight. So, how do you overcome the adversities of 2020 and embrace a new year with optimism and hope amidst ongoing struggles, sadness, and uncertainty? Here are five “overcomer suggestions” that might help you meet yourself where you are, and gently move forward each day and into the new year.
1. The one thing you can count on is you.
The one thing you can count on in the year ahead is you. I know that might sound cliche, but despite all that has happened around us, and all that will continue to confront us to some extent in the new year, we each have the capability to rise beyond the worst that happens and find strength and opportunity to not only keep going, but also to go higher. When we believe in ourselves as “overcomers” we can believe in our ability to keep moving forward, despite adversity.
Allow the strengths that COVID has required us all to draw upon, to keep fueling you and moving you forward.
Overcomer Suggestion #1: List your three strongest traits that will keep you moving forward in 2021. If you have trouble starting a list, start with the traits you most want— you may well find you already have them, and that they are yours to keep cultivating.
2. Taking care of yourself will be your best help.
In order to be strong for yourself, you must take care of yourself. As you enter 2021, amidst an environment of loss, sadness, uncertainty, and so many conflicted feelings, putting your mental and physical health first will be your best help to gain and maintain a positive outlook. Often, our first step in overcoming a situation around us, is overcoming a situation within us. This won’t resolve the external situation, but it will help us to confront that situation with a new set of choices that will arise when we take care of ourselves first.
Neuroscience shows that we feel more in control of our lives by making intentional choices each day. When we make time for a small and simple “self-care” habit each day, our sense of control increases and that feeling spills over to other areas of our lives.
Overcomer Suggestion #2: Think of the one “self-care” habit you would like to start, and schedule it today and for the next seven days at the same time. This can be as simple as creating five minutes of quiet time, heading to bed an hour earlier, or meditation (to explore meditations, the Daily Calm has great resources). Acknowledge your effort with a personal mantra, “I’m doing my best today, and today my best is good enough!”
3. Eliminate the “unessential” things in your day that contribute to your feelings of overwhelm and lack of coping.
Often, our feelings of overwhelm from our bigger challenges are made even greater when we have a list of tasks that we’re not getting through each day. Similarly, sometimes we keep adding things to our daily task list that are not essential. Emails have become a particular “overwhelm” stress factor. Give yourself a break from the daily, busy, unessential tasks (including unessential email responses) and use that time to take the essential break for yourself for which you feel you don’t have time.
Research shows that when you make progress on your essential activities each day, your coping abilities will increase, as will your ability to overcome feelings of overwhelm, especially through times of greatest challenge and trauma. Your “self-reaction” to yourself will be positive, reinforcing, and encouraging, rather than self-defeating and pessimistic. Rather than beating yourself up, you’ll soon be acknowledging yourself.
Overcomer Suggestion #3: Make a list of the “busy” tasks and activities that take your time every day. Simply cross out the ones that aren’t essential and don’t give them another thought. Make a list of the essential items that need your attention, make a specific time for them, and just leap into them. At the day’s end, make a note of the things you’ve accomplished and give yourself some kind words of acknowledgment.
4. Do one purposeful thing each day that is most meaningful to you.
Have a simple goal each day to do something that increases your feelings of life satisfaction. Generally accepted human nature is that we all seek meaning and purpose in life—serving something bigger than ourselves. In Buddhism, the ultimate purpose of life is enlightenment through pursuits that bring happiness to all sentient beings. World-renowned positive psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman’s PERMA framework includes “M” for “Meaning” as an essential element to alleviate suffering and enhance well-being. However, during times of greatest challenge, we may feel that just getting through each day for ourselves and our loved ones is all we can do. Yet, studies show that when we act in ways that consciously enhance our sense of meaning and purpose, our ability and motivation to get through the challenges of each day is also enhanced.
If you can commit to creating a moment of meaning and purpose in each day, your spirit and motivation will be lifted to keep you going to the next day, and the next.
Overcomer Suggestion #4: List the three things that give you a sense of purpose and meaning. Identify one thing you can do each day to spend time on that area of meaning and purpose, and schedule a specific time for tomorrow!
5. Connect to your sources of gratitude.
When hardship and trauma in one area of our lives pervade all other areas, we often feel we cannot experience anything positive in any area of our lives, let alone feel grateful. Yet, research has shown that finding even small things for which to express gratitude evokes and builds positive emotions and helps to re-frame negative experiences. Consistent expression of gratitude has also been shown to protect against depression.
Importantly, expressing gratitude helps us to be aware of the sources that support and sustain us. Those things for which we are most grateful are typically the things that most support and sustain us. Awareness of, and connection to, those sources during times of greatest hardship and trauma not only boosts our positive feelings, but also ensures we are connected to essential support when we are most in need.
For thousands of years, Buddhist philosophies have highlighted that when we understand our inherently dependent nature on all things, we can start to end our suffering. Robert Emmons, a world-leading scientific expert on gratitude, and professor of psychology at the University of Berkeley, California, affirms those Buddhist philosophies, “I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
Overcomer Suggestion #5: Make a list of the sources of gratitude in your life—include people, experiences, aspects of your life, elements of your personality and character traits. Identify your top three sources of gratitude and identify a time in your day when you can do an activity that involves at least one of those sources. For example, if it’s a friend or loved one, make time to connect with that person, or write to them and express your gratitude. If it’s your health, set aside additional time for a healthy activity. If it’s a sunrise, make time to watch the sunrise. Consciously make additional time each day for those sources of gratitude, and you’ll experience your sense of support grow, and also your ability to walk positively into the next day, and the year ahead.