As we begin our first few days and weeks into the new year, there is a lot of talk about what 2021 will bring to us.
We are finally leaving the old year behind; a year that was full of stress, crisis, and fears. When you have chronic stress, the result might be a sense of disconnect within yourself. You may feel disconnected from your mind, from your feelings, from your body, or from loved ones. You might be shutting down or cutting off feelings in order to deal with painful situations. This is a common defense mechanism that can be helpful—at first.
However, like everything else, when this mechanism is overused it can create unwanted side effects like depression or chronic anxiety.
After having lived most of 2020 at home and worried about getting the virus, one cannot escape the wish that this new year will be—must be—different. Our stress levels were so high that our hope depended on the clock when it hit 12:00 a.m. on December 31st; we somehow believed, magically, all would be different, because we were now in a new year.
This reminds me how so many of us make promises based on dates; statements such as: “I will start the diet on Monday,” “On January 1st, I will start exercising,” or “I will start meditating next week, right at the peak of the full moon,” are common.
Unfortunately, this year the stay-at-home orders will not change in 2021, well, at least not at first. But, this doesn’t mean we cannot make changes to how we deal with stress, regardless of what the calendar looks like.
If stress creates a disconnect inside, here are four things you can do to reconnect to yourself:
The most important factor is acceptance; accept that we are in a collective crisis situation and there is little we can do. Go into the new year with a new frame of mind: rather than fighting against the current, be more accepting of what is.
We are already out of the initial shock that we all experienced back in March 2020, when we were told the world was shutting down due to a deadly virus. Now we live the aftermath of that. First validate your feelings, but then know that by practicing radical acceptance, you will help reduce your stress level and stay connected to your feelings.
Your mantra should be: “It is what it is.”
Focus on Your Body
Once you make peace with reality, the next area to focus on is our body. Living every day with a lot of stress can take its toll on the body. Do you feel spacey? Are you distracted? Do you have chronic pain that is not related to any physical illness? You might be disconnected from your body.
Take a few minutes every day to bring your attention to sensing your body. When you are ungrounded, place one hand over the top of your head. Gently push your hand down and feel the weight of your head go down to your feet. Keep your eyes open.
Another simple way of grounding can be done by standing with your feet parallel to one another, at least as far apart as your shoulders. Plant your feet as firmly as possible on the ground. Keep your head straight, chin tucked, and spine straight. Rest your hands at your side. Let all your body’s weight and tension go into your feet, allowing them to be absorbed into the ground. To support this grounding process, imagine roots growing out the bottom of your feet, like the roots of a tree, extending deep into the ground beneath you.
Welcome All Feelings
When we experience a crisis, we go through unbearable feelings of pain, sadness, anger, shame, isolation, grief, and loss. The pain can be so intense at the time of the incident that we feel like we can’t tolerate it if we allow the feelings to ever be present again. This can be another form that you may have disconnected from yourself.
It is important to know that there are no good or bad feelings and that all feelings are welcome. We have emotions for a reason. Emotions provide us with information about ourselves and the things going on around us. For example, the emotion of fear tells us we may be in danger. The emotion of sadness tells us we may need some time to take care of ourselves or seek comfort from others.
Given the important role they play in our lives, our emotions are there to be experienced, and they eventually need to be experienced. So, be gentle and kind with yourself, and allow the feelings to go through you without judging them.
Connect with Others
Another way to stay connected to yourself is through connecting to others. This might be difficult now as we have to keep our distance, but it is not impossible. If you are not on good terms with your family, create your own family. Choose people you trust, such as friends, colleagues, or parents of friends, to be your extended family members.
Because we are social animals, it is important to be connected to other humans, so go ahead and create your own tribe even if it means you are only seeing them through Zoom. Reach out to people you trust and feel comfortable with. If you don’t already have people in your life that you feel comfortable sharing with, support groups and group therapy are excellent options.
Don’t isolate from others or turn to coping behaviors such as drinking or working long hours, these behaviors may prevent you from reestablishing a connection and trust to yourself—and this is vital for healing and living a satisfying life.
Hang in there; remember: this too shall pass.