The 2022 Blues: How To Survive The 'Worst Year Ever'
We don’t know about you, but we’re feeling '22. And by that, we don’t mean young, free, single and ready to write a song about an ex-crush. In fact, the only crush we’re feeling right now is the crushing weight of the multiple impending crises that have been building since we lived through a near-miss apocalypse in 2020. We’re feeling '22 alright. Twenty-two and blue.
When Covid hit in 2020, one of the scariest elements of lockdowns, emergency mandates and ever-evolving rule-changes was the feeling of losing control. Many of us bypassed the fight or flight reactions (no one to fight and nowhere to go) and made do with ‘freeze’ for much of 2020 and 2021, not only staying put physically, but freezing our emotional responses until we had the capacity to deal with the cataclysmic impact of such an upheaval. As we tentatively come out the other side of the pandemic, those emotions are rising to the surface, compounded by fresh reasons to feel terrified and out of control: soaring energy bills, cost of living crisis, world affairs, climate anxiety, economic recessions and human rights rollbacks. And to top it all off, last week brought with it the devastating passing of Britain’s longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. ‘The worst year ever’ might have just hit its peak.
If that last paragraph felt like your anxiety inner monologue, you’re not alone. According to Mind UK, in any given week, 8% (a conservative estimate, if you ask us) of the population is dealing with depression and anxiety. One in four of us will experience a mental health issue in any given year. With such an extensive list of things to worry about right now, and the anxiety hangover from the pandemic, it’s no wonder this year feels particularly blue.
Some people have moved past the big freeze of 2020 and gone into flight mode, making 2022 their most avoidant on record, (we all know someone who’s been in a different city or on a different beach every weekend for the last three months straight,) and while this tactic is undeniably appealing, coming back home (and down to earth with a bump) to be faced with your problems is inevitable at some point. And so, it’s time to engage fight mode. A collective fight against the ’22 blues begins right here, and step one is regaining control. Some things are, unquestionably, out of our hands, but others we can very much have our say in. It’s time to turn the ’22 blues into something more positive. We’re rebranding (pink is more on-trend anyway).
Let’s turn ’22 into the best year ever! OK, ok, let’s keep this manageable. Let’s turn 2022 into the least-bad-year-of-the-decade-so-far! Here, we’ve got five ways to achieve 22-woohoo levels of contentedness.
Get (Politically) Active
During the pandemic, it felt like we were powerless to make an impact on the situation, and for many, this feeling of powerlessness has become the modus operandi. It’s time to take back control. Social media activism has become so ingrained in our daily doom-scroll that it is failing to make an impact. You can continue to like and share about the causes you care about, but how about picking one or two and making a difference in the real world? Join marches, write to your MP, lobby for safer streets. While we’re all focusing on the bigger pictures and going global with our campaigning, it’s easy to forget that it’s in our own local communities that we can have the most impact. Step one is to find out who your local MP is and lobby them about the issues that matter to you. Next up, find local groups doing work that matters to you and get involved. Positively contributing to tangible action in your local area can have an enormous impact on your mental health, and of course you’ll be positively impacting those around you, too.
Check out environmental and Community charity, Groundwork, which supports and involves volunteers within its programmes to help change places and lives for good. Rachel Davies from the charity told us: 'Throughout and following a most difficult year, many people turned to volunteering to help them through the unprecedented events that took place.' One Barnet volunteer said: 'I really enjoyed the whole experience and the fact that it made me feel like I have found a sense of purpose: my heart is happy. To see other people happy and thankful motivates me. It provided me with a whole new perspective on life and a bright positive outlook especially in these difficult and challenging times we now find ourselves in.'
On to the other type of getting active. Moving your body and getting outdoors can have a transformative effect on your wellbeing. So much so that in Canada, doctors are now prescribing their patients with time in nature via National Parks passes. This stems from research finding that people who spent two hours or more in nature per week were more likely to have good health and wellbeing. Whether now is the time to finally try the couch to 5k challenge or tweaking your WFH routine to include a morning walk around your local park, starting the day with some fresh air is likely to lift your mood and set positive routines for the future.
Of course, true wellness starts from the inside out, so now could be the perfect time to start working on your mental health at a deeper level. If you’ve been putting off addressing mental health issues, or you’re finding the same thought patterns cropping up over and over, take a moment to think about investing in yourself with some counselling, group therapy or short-term CBT work. NHS wait-lists can be off-putting when it comes to seeking help, but there are charities out there that can offer free services and advice when you need it most. Victims of domestic abuse can get free support from their local chapter of Women’s Aid. African heritage domestic abuse victims can find mental health support at Sistah Space. Switchboard is a helpline for the LGBTQI+ community while Stonewall charity offers help and advice. You can find a therapist in your local area that is right for you by searching on Counselling Directory and narrowing by speciality. Always meet with a couple or have initial calls with several counsellors so you can find the person right for you.
Jenna Goodgame, Clinical Lead at Oxford Wellness Centre for the Priory Group, speaking on behalf of NHS recommended free global mental health app My Possible Self, told ELLE: 'One particular technique to find mindfulness is meditation. Meditation welcomes a combination of techniques to help you become more aware of your mental state and to learn to regulate intense emotion, helping you find calm on the difficult days. If you are new to mindfulness, free mental health app, My Possible Self, has a number of guided mindfulness sessions to help beginners ease in.'
'If you find your mood and associated mental health is dipping on a regular basis in the long-term, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a great option. CBT focusses on solving problems in the "here and now." It is goal and solution focused and encourages people to think about their difficulties in a different way and reframe negative thought patterns.'
When you need to rest, rest. Get under the covers and then, get under the covers…of a great book. Binge-buying multiple self-help books and then failing to pick any of them up is only going to make you feel worse, but do your research and invest in one or two that you think could give you the kick-start you need to shift your perspective or simply give you some light relief.
Anyone looking for a philosophical reset could pick up the best-selling self-help classic The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and watch how actively not taking things personally can completely shift your perspective (and increase your happiness). If you want to combine two assignments and listen to audiobooks or podcasts while walking in nature (look at you, multi-tasking the hell out of ’22), there are endless options that can inform, entertain, and expand your horizons. For bite-sized chunks of feminist thought coaching, check out Unf*ck Your Brain by Kara Loewentheil or get stuck into Jameela Jamil’s I Weigh podcast. Or broaden your horizons with Russell Brand’s Under The Skin, which always features interesting guests and tackles a plethora of important topics, reframing politics with a philosophical lens.
It might feel unlikely that 2022 is going to be the year when all your wildest dreams come true, but what if you reimagined those dreams so that they could? Manifesting has gained popularity in recent years (try scrolling for 30 seconds on Instagram or TikTok right now without the words ‘affirmations’ ‘positive vibes’ or ‘attraction law’) but it’s with mentally reframing what success means to you that you can find true contentedness. Finding some mental space to do this work is the first step, which is where practices like tapping can come into play. We spoke to Manifestation Coach & Tapping Expert, Poppy Delbridge, whose new book Tapping In is out now, and she told us: 'In stressful times and when there is so much uncertainty in the world, it's better than ever to start your tapping journey because when we tap, we deactivate the stress response. This means the nervous system can regulate, so we can start to feel calmer, more content and able to focus on more positive things.
'Many people start manifesting because they want better things, a new home or a promotion. All this is great because it is a natural human urge to progress. However, it's important to reframe the reason why you want those things. If you could manifest anything - what positive qualities would that bring to your life and emotional wellbeing? Usually, it’s a set of values that we are trying to create in our lives like peace, joy or accomplishment and to get there we need to debunk and ditch a lot of inner gremlins first.' If success meant ‘achieving a peaceful walk in the woods every week’ or ‘laughing until you cry with your best friend’ rather than ‘owning a Chanel bag’ or ‘getting a 20K promotion’ maybe you’d feel like life was a little more under control. (Admittedly the 20K promotion wouldn’t hurt.)
Some of these steps might feel a bit overwhelming right now, but think of it like a wellbeing ladder to climb at your own pace. Step one, a walk in the woods listening to a wellbeing podcast, step two, intensive therapy and every issue you’ve ever experienced, reversed and resolved. Simple! One foot in front of the other, one day at a time. Just wait and see, we’ll be feeling ’23.
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