First of all, let’s talk the elephant in the room that comes up the third week of every January, Blue Monday. Before you spiral into a day of despair, I am going to stop you right there. I’ve got some good news for you that’s hopefully going to put a new slant on your day. Drum roll please for this spoiler alert….. Blue Monday is not real! There is no science or evidence to suggest that the third Monday of every January is the saddest day of the year. In fact, Blue Monday is a commercial PR stunt devised to help drive travel and wellness brand sales. If you find yourself falling down the sadness track then my advice, keep smiling, focus on the positives and think of something you are grateful for. Feeling better now?! OK, now that’s been addressed, let’s get down to business and explore how we can make 2022 your best year yet!

As we head into another year with ever moving goal-posts around what our collective or isolating behaviours should be in the wake of the pandemic, we take a look at how these changes might cause us distress and disappointment, as well as offering some insight into how you can reduce the impact of these.

Disappointment arises when there’s a gap between our hopes, expectations and reality. It’s not uncommon during the festive season for our brains to create a short gift-wrapped movie of the fantasy New Year we would like to have. When sudden change happens our brains can be whiplashed into a different frame of reference, where reality bites or there’s a protracted period of ongoing uncertainty. Both of these aspects can be problematic. Intolerance of uncertainty can create anxiety – characterised by worry and physical symptoms. Sudden cancellation of best laid plans can lead to shock, disbelief and at worst a depression-like state, because it mimics the well documented stages of grief.

How can we help ourselves to stay calm in the face of unclear or seemingly ever changing paths ahead? One way to manage this is to take a look at your goals for the holidays and make them into SMART goals. Take some time to sit and look at what you want to happen and ensure that these elements are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

Acknowledge that not all of your previously set goals might be that realistic now and take a problem solving approach to mind map a plan B, C and even D if you can. If you find yourself plagued with intrusive worrying, use delay and distraction to postpone your concerns and then pick a time when you can come back to your drawing board and review your plans.

If something subsequently happens that you didn’t spot in your plans, give yourself some structured time and space to allow yourself to feel disappointed, then move off onto something more positive and proactive that you can feel in control of. Remember none of us have a crystal ball and be kind to yourself if something you didn’t foresee occurs.

A few tips worth considering include using the InsideOut gratitude journal – by all means write down all your frustrations first then focus only on what is positive, you may even like to capture that thought or moment with a photo or caption. Don’t compare yourself to others in terms of how their January and New Years Resolutions are going. Try not to dwell on how others appear to be coping with this year, just do the best to support yourself when difficult times arise.

If you can reach out to someone trusted to share how you are feeling, this should help break the feeling of getting used to being disappointed and they might have some wisdom or humour to share that can lift your mood.

This too shall pass, so, as Noddy Holder once said “Look to the future now…..” and make some plans for the next few weeks and beyond, just remember to keep them SMART. For more tips, templates and exercises to help you at this time of year, visit our App and website for more information.

For further help and support, check-out the InsideOut Mental Fitness Programme and Journaling Tools under ‘My Plan’ and ‘Journal’ respectively in the InsideOut App.

Author: Dr Rebecca Southall

Role: Chief Therapist at InsideOut

Date: Dec 2021