Beating the New Year blues
The tradition at New Year is to make resolutions that are intended to change our lives for the better. However, the timing isn’t always good, as all too often we are making them from a low point. For some, Christmas has highlighted family problems or loneliness. Others miss the excitement and company of the holiday and find themselves isolated in January. It’s no surprise that divorce lawyers report a surge of enquiries in the New Year.
The cold and dark hours of winter can also have a depressing effect on many people (seasonal affective disorder), and this year there is the extra trauma of flooded homes and communities for many in the UK. So the idea of losing weight, getting fit, giving up smoking, getting a better social life could seem quite irrelevant from your viewpoint.
How then do you get through the first few weeks of 2014 when it seems to be such an uphill battle? Many people will tell you that keeping busy is the key, and activity may well be helpful (and necessary if you have post-flooding cleaning up), but it isn’t the whole answer. If you have depression there may be something in your past relationships – parents or others – is causing anxiety and low self-esteem. It might be that your parents were constantly critical of you, or there might have been abuse or other traumatic events that happened. You may not have ever talked things over, working through the meaning and effect of this experience. In fact, you may not be aware of it, but take for granted that your family upbringing simply was what it was.
‘Burying the past’, ‘getting on with life’, ‘keeping busy’ are strategies that are unlikely to work for very long, and will not equip you to cope with difficulties when they arise. That doesn’t mean either that the reverse activity – dwelling on events or worries – is the answer. But ‘dealing with it’ is, and that’s what counselling is for. So how do you ‘deal with’ anxiety and mild or seasonal depression?
Counselling is more effective than self-reflection as it is supportive. Here are the stages an integrative counsellor would take you through:
Counselling enables you to really explore the experience you have had, the feelings you have and how they affect you now. The conversation becomes a dialogue, with the counsellor making observations and insights. You might hear her say, “I’m wondering if…” or “What I’m hearing is…” This gives you the opportunity to reflect and consider a different viewpoint.
- As you progress, the dialogue can create awareness for you of what has happened and the meaning or impact it has had on you – who and where you are now. You may, in this process, become ‘stuck’, perhaps for a week or more, but working through things both in the session and between times will help you move forward eventually.
- Processing this over the weeks can lead to understanding and acceptance of what has happened, and sometimes rejection of the criticism you were brought up with, bringing greater contentment, confidence and the ability to function better.
- If the counsellor has a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) approach then she will also take you through your thoughts and beliefs, and help you to challenge the ones that are causing you distress.
- Using visualisation or other techniques you can learn to put negative thoughts away, leaving your head clear to continue in a more positive way.
- This enables you to have ideas and plans for things you want to do, how you want to live and be. Then you can put those New Year resolutions into a more lasting and meaningful routine.
So making a New Year’s resolution to seek help for your difficulties could be the best one you make.