by Kathleen Krol, MSS, LCSW, RPT-S
Traditionally, December is a time of looking back at the highlights of the past year, joining in varied holiday and spiritual celebrations and waiting in anticipation of what the new year will bring. This December, like most of 2020, will be different. For many, the lows may have overshadowed the highs, holiday and spiritual gatherings may be smaller with the absence of significant others, and individuals may be cautious and apprehensive about what the new year brings, rather than hopeful. So how does one let go of the negativity of 2020, shift energy to embrace the potential for positive, and move forward into 2021 with hope?
Letting go does not necessarily mean forgetting. Instead, it is about releasing the negative energy that can cling to us. Letting go is acceptance of the things we did not have control of this past year: circumstances, the world, others. Letting go is more about choosing how we respond and whether we choose to hold tight to negative energy or release it and make space for new energy. Letting go is a process and can have many paths.
The process of letting go and shifting your energy might start with a check-in (both physically and mentally) when there are situations or personal interactions which trigger a “hot spot.” A “hot spot” can be a negative or uncomfortable emotion, thought or body sensation. If you have been in survival mode this past year, you may not have had time to process your frustration, anger, sadness, and other feelings. What would enable you to experience your feelings?
Possibilities may include talking it out, journaling, movement, music, art, expressing through writing poetry or a song. Once you have allowed yourself to experience and express the emotion, then you are more open to letting go of any remaining negative energy. Ritual can be another symbolic way of letting go and moving forward. Writing down what you want to let go of and then releasing it through burning it or ripping it up are two ways. Another idea is to write words or situations on stones and toss them into a creek or river. Name the situation, take a deep breath and as you blow out, toss the stone saying, “I release this” or “I let go of this”.
Letting go and transforming the energy from negative to more positive can be through shifting your focus from one of defeat to one of empowerment. Look back at the past year and notice your personal strengths, supports and resources and the strategies that helped you to cope. Acknowledge you made it through your own perseverance and endurance and that you may be stronger than you think. Invite yourself to recognize that this inner strength – and those external resources – will be there for future challenges as well.
Moving forward into the new year, you may invite yourself to take each day as it comes. First, be kind to yourself. This past year has taken a lot of emotional and mental energy. Give yourself time for personal reflection and self-care this last month of the year and as we go forward into 2021. Allow time for yourself to replenish your energy, nurturing and caring for yourself first. Rather than create New Year resolutions in which you may try to compensate for unfinished tasks of the past year, consider aiming for smaller, more doable goals. You might try a daily challenge – such as substituting one healthy snack (like fruit) for a “pandemic comfort food” (like cookies) – rather than setting a loftier goal of losing all the weight you gained during 2020. Maybe you can aim to walk 15 minutes every other day or schedule a long walk weekly, rather than criticizing yourself when you don’t exercise daily. Starting with smaller, more easily achievable goals will give you a boost of confidence, and these small successes are likely to build on themselves.
Last, you may want to try replacing apprehension about the future with a sense of curiosity to what the day and year will bring. Aim to be curious as you go about your day, using your senses to bring you into a more full appreciation of things you might normally take for granted. This may include noticing, smelling, feeling, tasting, or touching something new and really experiencing it in the here-and-now. Simple pleasures like the taste of a crisp apple, the warmth of the sun through the window, and the sound of birds chirping can bring delight when we bring our full attention and curiosity. Try to find one new thing each day to truly savor.
In little ways, you can be conscious and intentional in letting go, shifting your energy, deepening your focus, and discovering hope as you finish out this year and prepare for the next. Depending on the intensity of your individual circumstances, you may find you are still holding unto something that is challenging to let go of by yourself. If that is the case, be kind to yourself and seek support with friends, family, or a professional. Some burdens are too heavy to carry alone, and you may not be able to let go until you are fully witnessed by someone else. We are here to help.
Kathleen Krol is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Play Therapist who works with individuals, children, teens, and families using a family focused and integrative approach to treatment. Areas of expertise include trauma, anxiety, depression, grief/loss, life transitions and adoption and attachment issues. She specializes in EMDR with all ages, Play Therapy, Family Therapy, Sand Tray and Sand Focusing Therapy and Parent Coaching. If you would like to learn more, go to www.kathleenkrol.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-289-3101#1.