You don’t need a “new me” in this new year

If you’re reading this at the beginning of January and feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of a new year – and any expectations that may come alongside that – we’d like to firstly reassure you that it’s okay to just be you.

This week, our London clinic reopened after the festive break to support our clients as they welcome in the new year. As expected, the media is abundant with articles advocating self-improvement and goal setting to make the most of 2020. However, when it comes to mental health and recovery, this attitude is often more of a hindrance than a help.

As eating disorder specialists, we know that individuals with eating disorders often struggle with the beginning of a new year. Many feel overwhelmed by perceived expectations to “reach” or “complete” something. Some feel that the beginning of a new year highlights a seemingly endless expanse of time within which they want to progress in recovery, but don’t know how to kick-start that process. If any of this resonates with you, know that it’s okay that you’re feeling this way.

What tends to underlies these feelings is a fear of failure, mixed with perfectionism that promotes a “be all and end all” attitude towards goal setting. Speaking to our Clinical Psychologist, Katie, and Occupational Therapist, Kendra, we discussed how those in recovery can reframe their thoughts towards and learn to cope in the face of failure. At the end of the day, you deserve to feel empowered and positive about anything that’s around the corner and fear is merely a perspective (which you can change).

In our groups this week, we worked with our clients to set just two intentions. One intention being a value, and the other being practical. For instance, the value intention may be about how you wish to live this year and the practical intention being one thing you wish to achieve this year. Then, we worked backwards to identify what steps can be taken across the year – all the way back to what can be done today to help meet those two intentions.

By keeping it simple, we avoid opportunity for our critical voice to arise and attempt to undo any of the precious work we’ve done on ourselves for our recovery. We can keep our values broad – for instance, “I wish to be present in the now” – and our achievements small, working towards something bigger. If set properly, goals and intentions should be achievable. So, be kind to yourself and honest about what you can do today.

In light of this, remember that you don’t have to engage in any form of new year planning. It is perfectly okay to continue as you are, on your journey. There is no expectation for you to change – and any thing you do decide to do should reflect genuine love and care for yourself.

Wishing you a wonderful new year.

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