It’s that time of year again! One of my most cherished rituals for bringing the year to a meaningful end, a Personal Annual Review is a general term for looking back at the year gone by. Different people do this in different ways and in past years I have set out various tips for doing your own review on my blog, focusing mainly on personal experience rather than career goals.
This year I decided to do something different, however, and I wrote a complete guide to doing your own annual review. I wanted to set all the information out in one place because I know it can be confusing, especially when self-development is not your 9-5 job as it is for me.
I loved creating this guide because I know that so many people have struggled this year, and if there is one thing that can really help us to face difficulty and pain it is to find the meaning and growth in it. Through conducting our own personal review we can look at the challenges we’ve faced, our successes, how we’ve grown and the blessings we’ve received, all at the same time, allowing us to put the year in perspective.
Perspective is very helpful because it is so easy to either focus on the negative, or try to ignore it completely as a way of coping. But in order to thrive, we really need to process what we’ve been through and also respect the fact that we’ve been strong and have grown as people.
There is something very powerful about ending things intentionally and in a meaningful way. In terms of coming to the end of the year, I think this requires us to be open enough with ourselves to admit just how hard the tough bits have been as well as feeling grateful for the kindness of others and the positives we have received along the way. Allowing a pause between an ending and a beginning, in which we can take stock and understand what we need and what we want, can make a new start that much more aligned and fulfilling when we do begin.
Whatever kind of year you’ve had, whatever joys and challenges you’ve encountered, I hope you find time for your own personal annual review and that it brings you meaning and clarity.
More About the Guide
You can pick up your copy here and there is also additional support for the Guide available as a series of emails (which you can sign up to here), to help you get the most out of it.
This 39-page guide has all the info and exercises you need to do your own review and it has printable exercises at the back, so you can return to it year after year. I can vouch for the fact that it is really interesting to look back over past years’ reviews, knowing yourself better and with greater insight. It is an amazing way of seeing your progress through life.
And if you’re not ready to buy the guide but you’d like to do your own review, why not check out my blog articles from previous years for hints about creating your own personal review?
I’ve been thinking about change as the wind starts to feel a little colder, the leaves are turning to beautiful reds and oranges and the nights are increasingly encroaching on my evenings (and why does it feel like such a surprise every year?). And more specifically, I’ve been considering how we’re dealing with change during the pandemic.
Change and the pandemic
We’ve all experienced such a massive shift in our lives over the past year and a half, and many of us have navigated this without any explicit support. While a company going through a transition might use change consultants to come in and help employees adapt – most of us have been just trying to ride out the shifting currents and keep our head above water, while also keep an eye on the horizon.
Change pretty much always guarantees that we will gain something and we will lose something. So, it’s very likely that something about your life changing dramatically was a kind of loss, whether you thought of it that way or not. You may even have some residual grief or charged feelings about it that are still affecting you on some level.
If you’re wondering how this would manifest, here’s an example: as the world opens up more and more, a person feels strong emotions arising, but part of this is actually residual after-effects of that initial shock and period of change. Or, someone seems to have coped well on the surface but deep down they’re not feeling good, or they seem fine but every now and then bite someone’s head off, then maybe there’s an edge there that needs to be addressed.
Navigating the after-effects and residual emotions
So what can we do, if we still have some residual baggage to shake off?
It goes without saying, but if you need help from a pro then seek that out first.
But, if you’re doing pretty well, a good first step is to look at the way change affects us. One of my favourite models for this is the Kubler-Ross change Curve, and this is interesting because it is basically the same as the 5 stages of grief. It helps us to understand the complicated emotions we go through in response to a significant change.
Looking at this diagram you can probably relate to at least a couple of things you felt when the pandemic started, and perhaps at different points through the whole 18+ months. It’s helpful to know that while we generally move from the left to right, we can also slide back a step or two, or get stuck at one of the stages (except the last one). For example, some people who are not coping well may be stuck at the frustration/anger or depression stage (although some groups seem to have taken up camp in the denial stage, they actually appear to be stuck at anger to me).
Can you identify a stage that you are currently struggling with? If you can, try to keep an open mind and wonder what the best way to move through it would be.
Emotions, triggers and perspective
It’s also a really good idea to try working through the emotions you’re feeling that are not resolving themselves. There are loads of different ways to process emotions, too many to cover here – but talking to a therapist, doing some creative self-expression or writing in your diary (journal) can all really help.
Another helpful step is to identify anything that is currently a trigger for you and think about the reason for it. Some examples of triggers include: someone may have found lockdown hard because the isolation may have reminded them of not having friends at school, but another person may hate it because they feel powerless and they usually feel safe by staying in control, while someone else may detest being told what to do by the government because it reminds them of their unkind and controlling parent. There are so many ways we can be triggered and most are specific to us, shaped by our experiences growing up and our personality.
There’s an exercise in another post that I think you may find helpful if you’re having a really hard time accepting the situation – whether that is the pandemic in general, returning to the office, or another tricky situation. On the 2ndhalf of this page you’ll find an exercise called Embracing the Challenge designed to help you get more perspective and feel more empowered, positive and in control. If you enjoy it, why not send it to a friend?
I want you to know I’m not writing about this in a cerebral, detached kind of way – I’ve had to process a lot throughout the past year and a half and I continue to work with my emotions as I move forward through inner and outer change, while supporting my coaching clients in their own similar-but-different processes. This isn’t self-indulgent – it’s a way of staying connected to yourself and what’s important to you and making sure you’re moving in the right direction.
Look ahead to where you’re going
Generally speaking, although it’s great to keep an eye on problems, we want to be moving towards something positive instead of away from negatives. It helps us stay in a more open and creative state, consciously choosing the right kind of life, instead of living defensively. This will look a bit different to all of us, but if I use myself as an example, I was getting a bit down over people not wearing masks because I have a long history (20 years) of working with clients to keep them healthy, many of whom are vulnerable and will be affected both by rising infection numbers, and psychologically by not wanting to leave the house. However, the stress was very bad for me and it wasn’t going to change the behaviour of the general public, so I still wear a mask in order to live in line with my values, protect others and stay healthy, but I try to orient myself towards the projects I am working towards and supporting clients in having the quality of life at home and work that fulfils them.
Getting the balance right between working through your emotions to surf the waves of change, while looking in a positive direction is tricky, and we won’t get it right all the time. It’s easy to “decide” to be positive while deep down we’re feeling a bit low or angry, but this work is not about perfection, it’s about checking in with ourselves and making adjustments – sometimes just tiny, but important ones.
Whatever direction you are heading in, I hope this has helped a little. Feel free to share this with a friend if you know someone who’s been going through a challenging time and could use a little boost.
And I want to leave you with one last question – if change is always a gain as well as a loss, what is it that you have gained over the past year and a half? It might feel good to take a moment to be grateful for these unexpected gifts.
Would you like to read my free short guide to the important self-development tips I wish I’d known when I was younger? You can sign up for your copy here.
Finally, I am so pleased to be able to share with you the cover for my picture book Perfect: a Self-Love Adventure!
I have finished the manuscript and even had some reviews start to come in, you can read the first one below. And with no further ado, here is the cover:
What do you think?
I have heard from my advance readers that the little ones they are reading with are enjoying the book and also having some interesting talks about the topics covered. Here is the very first review, from a parent who enjoyed reading it with her little girl:
Review from an advance reader:
‘My husband and I are both British Born Chinese and we are now parents to an almost 2-year old toddler. Both my husband and I absolutely loved growing up in this country but we both grew up questioning our identity for at least part of our childhood because of our culture and how different we looked to all of our other friends. Now we are parents, we’ve been thinking ourselves about how to talk about these important themes of culture and diversity with our extremely chatty daughter and ‘Perfect’ is the first book I have read to her about these topics. Although she’s only 2, I was personally really impressed at how much she engaged with this book from the first read. The pictures are beautiful, colourful and original and the text engaging and thoughtfully and sensitively put together. As with ‘open-ended’ toys, I see this book also as being ‘open-ended’ – at a younger age you can use it for vocabulary, the rhymes and to look at pictures and colours. As my daughter gets older, I can see myself using this to ask her questions about the various scenarios being presented, to reflect on how different characters might be feeling and how we might react ourselves if we were in their position. The activities in the book as well as the colouring sheets are also genius ways of making the book even more fun and to reinforce the learning!
‘Perfect’ is a great book that offers a safe space for ourselves and our daughter to start having these important and sensitive conversations about diversity, self-acceptance and emotional regulation. It deserves a space on every child’s bookcase and I know that we will be revisiting this book with our daughter time and time again.’ – Lily Lai
If you’re interested in buying a copy or even recommending it to a friend, pre-orders are available on Amazon for the ebook in the UK, US and Australia among other countries, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Thalia, Bolde and other sites and shops soon. The paperback and hardcover copies will be available to buy from the 7th July.
I will also have some signed copies I can send out directly, feel free to sign up to the mailing list on this page to be notified when the book is released, and to receive some free colouring pages.
In my coaching and alternative therapy practice I have noticed a sharp increase in demand for tools for mental wellness in both children and teenagers. I have always felt that there are some things we should learn from a young age, such as how to deal with difficult emotions and feel centred, which would help people to feel confident and stay connected to themselves as they grow. The pressures today’s children face make this more important than ever.
Last year I decided to use the time I would normally spend on in-person work with clients (paused by the pandemic), to write and illustrate a children’s book called Perfect. It is an inclusive book with children of different ethnicities, some with different challenges and features including; a disability, visual impairment, a limb difference, a port wine stain, Down Syndrome and a cleft lip and palate.
However, the book is not about any of these things, it is all about self-love, resilience and staying true to ourselves, while accepting each other.
Writing this book was a huge challenge for me, and it really pushed me to work on my artistic abilities also as you can see from this progression of one of the characters in my book!
There are a variety of different situations and characters responding to challenges, which will give you a lot to talk about with the reader (including a handy small glossary in the back in case you get stuck for a correct term).
And there are some very simple exercises you can do together, which the child can remember and use by themselves when things feel difficult.
If you’re interested in buying a copy or even recommending it to a friend, pre-orders are available on Amazon for the ebook in the UK, US and Australia among other countries (paperback will also be available). I will also have some signed copies I can send out directly, feel free to sign up to the mailing list on this page to be notified when the book is released, and to receive some free colouring pages.
This is a guest post written and kindly shared by Michael Arnold of FEAT Acupuncture. and a topic I resonate with strongly having helped many people of all genders rediscover the feminine within them.
Shortly after my parents divorced my mum announced that she was going to join an organisation called SCUM – the Society for Cutting Up Men. She was joking but underneath there was a deep anger towards men.
At one point I started to internalise this and wonder if I was bad for simply being male.
Many years later I read Eckhart Tolle talking about what happened during the middle ages when millions of innocent women were killed and tortured (1):
“Nobody knows the exact figure because records were not kept, but it seems certain that during a three-hundred-year period between three and five million women were tortured and killed by the “Holy Inquisition,” an institution founded by the Roman Catholic Church to suppress heresy. This surely ranks together with the Holocaust as one of the darkest chapters in human history. It was enough for women to show a love for animals, walk alone in the fields or woods, or gather medicinal plants to be branded a witch and then tortured and burned at the stake. The sacred feminine was declared demonic, and an entire dimension largely disappeared from human experience.
Who was responsible for this fear of the feminine that could only be described as acute collective paranoia? We could say: Of course, men were responsible. But then why in many ancient pre-Christian civilizations such as the Sumerian, Egyptian, and Celtic were women respected and the feminine principle not feared but revered? What is it that suddenly made men feel threatened by the female? The evolving ego in them. It knew it could gain full control of our planet only through the male form, and to do so, it had to render the female powerless. Other cultures and religions, such as Judaism, Islam, and even Buddhism suppressed the female dimension, although in a less violent way. Women’s status was reduced to being child bearers and men’s property. Males who denied the feminine even within themselves were now running the world, a world I that was totally out of balance. The rest is history or rather a case history of insanity.
In time, the ego also took over most women, although it would never become as deeply entrenched in them as in men. We now have a situation in which the suppression of the feminine has become internalised, even in most women. The sacred feminine, because it is suppressed, is felt by many women as emotional pain. In fact, it has become part of their pain-body, together with the accumulated pain suffered by women over millennia through childbirth, rape, slavery, torture, and violent death.”
Eckart also says:
“If the balance between male and female energies had not been destroyed on our planet, the ego’s growth would have been greatly curtailed. We would not have declared war on nature, and we would not be so completely alienated from our Being.”
You only have to look at our current situation to see why losing touch with the sacred feminine principle is so dangerous. An international group of scientists recently reported that the Covid pandemic was a “direct consequence of human activity – particularly our global financial and economic systems, based on a limited paradigm that prizes economic growth at any cost.” (2).
Growth belongs to the Yang or masculine dimension and care and nurturing belongs to the sacred feminine or Yin dimension. Get the balance wrong and the planet (a highly intelligent being) is forced to try to correct the imbalance.
As Eckart points out men also have access to the sacred feminine. It is also fair to say that women have access to the sacred masculine. A healthy society values both equally. This might translate as motherhood being valued equally highly as being a film star or a successful business person. Or the health of the planet being valued as highly as GDP. Unfortunately this is not yet the case.
Many women who come to my clinic describe feeling under enormous pressure not only to be a successful mother but also to be successful in their career and to be successful as a supportive wife and a great friend. They often feel the need to embrace the masculine principle of growth, striving and becoming over the feminine principle of presence, peace and nurturing. The corporate world and the corridors of power are still dominated by men and by Yang ideology and energy. Many women feel they have to adopt a hard Yang approach to even compete with men. And yet often when they express themselves forcefully they face a backlash from men who feel threatened by them. Greta Thunberg is just one such woman who has had to face brutal assault for standing up for her beliefs and the environment. Meanwhile men like Donald Trump legitimise sexual assault and are still allowed to run the world’s most powerful nation. I don’t want to get into the realm of politics but I feel these examples show that we still have a long way to go.
But things are shifting. They have to, otherwise our obsession with growth will surely kill us off as a species. The huge rise in popularity of mindfulness, meditation, yoga, natural medicine and spiritual teaching is a clear indication that people are starting to go inward and connect with the subtle power of the feminine principle. The huge global popular support for the environment movement is another testament to this shift. And thanks to the popularity of people like Brené Brown more people are talking about vulnerability, without which no true loving connection is possible. Men are also getting in touch with their emotions and the power of the Yin dimension within them. This can be seen (among other places) in the rise of men’s sharing circles and the beginning of awareness of toxic masculinity (as opposed to healthy masculinity).
The Dalai Lama has said that:
“The world will be saved by the western woman”
Again Eckhart Tolle is extremely enlightening on exactly why this may well turn out to be the case. He says:
“But things are changing rapidly now. With many people becoming more conscious, the ego is losing its hold on the human mind. Because the ego was never as deeply rooted in women, it is losing its hold on women more quickly than on men. I believe this is why women will lead the way.”
References: 1. Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose 2. IPBES Guest Article: COVID-19 Stimulus Measures Must Save Lives, Protect Livelihoods, and Safeguard Nature to Reduce the Risk of Future Pandemics: https://ipbes.net/covid19stimulus
Recently I did an interview with Authority Magazine on optimising mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness. Although it was not really about motivation for creativity, as part of it I mentioned one of my favourite quotes:
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
I went on to say: “I have found that following a whole project or idea through to completion helps me to develop my muscles of endurance and resilience. This has enabled me to cope with the difficult feelings that often arise when working on a project, such as hating what I’m working on at times or feeling unmotivated“.
I think this is something that is important for people to understand because I meet a lot of people who have difficulty finishing projects, or in some cases even starting them in the first place. And I understand – it can be scary. I am an author but I grew up reading Austen, Dickens, Frank Herbert, Nabokov. I am not comparing myself to mediocre authors! And I already know I am not in the same league as them, but I am kind of OK with that because I know I have some information that can help people. I don’t have to be the best writer in order to write.
We all have unique gifts and talents which may go unexpressed for years or even forever if we do not commit to both finishing them and to bringing them out in the world in the right way. Finishing a project might mean taking enough time, asking for help, backtracking to fix an error and generally slogging through the murky middle to get to the end. Bringing them into the world in the right way for us might include collaborating with the people and companies that both resonate with us and have similar goals (not just people or companies that look good on paper or which have worked well for other people), setting it in front of the right audience, identifying and overcoming our self-sabotage habits or marketing that fits with our values, for example.
In some instances people can create something beautiful, useful or important and then fail to market it well so it does not take off, and in some instances this can be a form of self-defence against criticism or even the discomfort of success. We get to think “I tried my best, but people did not want it/ appreciate it” and go back to our normal lives.
I just want to say that all of these feelings are normal. Creating something, putting it out into the world, inevitably ruffling some feathers (bearing in mind some feathers are bored or lonely and are just hoping to be ruffled!), being criticised, being admired – a lot of it can be hard! But if you know you have something to offer the world, something that could make the world a better place – surely that is worth it?
So, I recommend that if you find yourself feeling unmotivated or like you’ll never get to the end, just focus on what you can do today. Something achievable, small perhaps, but useful. And with every forward step take the time to feel good about that small win. It may also help you to regularly connect with your vision and the “why” of it.
For example, I need motivation for creativity right now because I’m currently working on an inclusive self-help picture book for kids. I want lots of different children from different walks of life to be able to use it to feel better about themselves and hopefully to see a child who looks like them also. While it only took me about 3 hours to write the text, it has taken me about 8 months of working on the illustrations and they’re not finished yet! On top of that I have no idea if it will help a hundred children, thousands or five! But when it gets a bit hard I remember that I’m doing it because I love kids, I want them to feel happy in their own bodies and selves, and I want to teach them some basic skills for self-love and self-acceptance. The feeling of solidity and warmth I have when I contemplate my goal lets me know how I want the reader to feel and it connects me to a natural source of motivation that makes effort easier.
It also reminds me that books and other projects are more than just things, they are an expression of someone’s love, intellect or unique gifts and when I think about that I realise how many people in the world genuinely want to make it a better place. And that’s good to remember because the people behind those things are often not the ones shouting the loudest on social media. I think it is can be healing to turn down the volume on that and focus instead on all the goodness we are already surrounded by.
So question for you: what is your eye (or mind) drawn to first when you wonder what someone has made from a place of goodness? And why do you think that is the first thing you thought of or noticed? What meaning does it have for you? And if it is relevant – how do you want to bring that quality into the world in the way that is authentic for you?
I made a little video to help you feel better in 5, with 5 tips you can use to improve your overall wellbeing fast. They are quite eclectic because this is about the our whole self, why not have a try and let me know how you get on!
If you prefer to read my tips instead, here’s the video transcription:
Hi, my name is Suzanne Wylde. And here are my five tips for cultivating total wellness.
1. My first tip is movement, whatever kind of movement you like to engage in, it’s so important for our bodies. In fact, our bodies are designed with movement included. So if you’re not moving your body is not functioning optimally. But it’s not just about looking and feeling good. It’s about thinking clearly, and feeling emotionally well as also, because movement is good for all aspects of ourselves. So whether that’s dancing, having a stretch out, going for a run, going for a walk, try and includes movement in every day. So whether that’s dancing, running, going for a walk, having a stretch out, just generally moving, try to include some form of movement in your day, every day.
2. The next tip is recognising unhelpful thinking patterns. I think we all do this, you know, you get into a groove of worrying about a certain thing, having negative thoughts, or even excessively positive but unrealistic thoughts. And this will usually be a pattern that you’re quite familiar with. Most of us try and fight fire with fire – so when we’re worrying, for example, we try and tell ourselves is nothing to worry about. But when we’re being too optimistic, too positive, it doesn’t really feel real. Instead, try and introduce a positive yet realistic thought. So let’s say you’re worried about going to a party, and feel nervous about socialising. Instead of saying “I’m the most going to be the most popular person at the party”, just say, “I’m going to go, it’s going to be a bit tough, but I’ll meet someone interesting probably, and I’ll find out something interesting. I’ll have an okay time”. Managing your unhelpful thinking patterns this way by interrupting them with a more positive yet realistic thought is a really good thing to do for our mental well being.
3. My third tip is learning to expand your capacity to feel uncomfortable emotions. I didn’t say negative emotions, because a lot of us can even be uncomfortable with joy, excitement, love, for example, depending on the quantities. Our ability to feel emotion dictates our ability to experience ourselves and the world. But this doesn’t mean we want to get thrown into emotions, or wallow in them or let them be completely in control. What it means is when you have a feeling, see if you can just feel it as fully as you can, for as long as you can, before attaching a story to it or trying to argue with it. And this is the same whether it’s emotional pain, or excitement, love, joy or fear. Try and just feel the emotion first, and then get to the root of it by listening to what it has to say. The only emotional state I would not recommend this for is depression, although that’s a different thing than these other pure emotions.
4. Try to be completely honest with yourself. Now I know that we all do things that are a little bit on the edge in terms of our own morality and values. Sometimes maybe we argue with a parking ticket that we know that we deserved, or try to get some free stuff and break a couple of competition rules or something or even maybe worse than that – telling outright lies. Aside from extolling the benefits of being moral, which I believe in and living according to your own values, aside from that, it’s also really important to be honest with ourselves. So let’s say that I told a lie. That would be fairly bad, obviously. But I want to be honest with myself about what I did, I don’t want to lie also to myself. The reason that this is really important for mental well being is it means that you’re quite integrated as a person, it means that you’re not fighting against knowing something all the time or fighting to suppress parts of you that know something. Because when you lie to yourself, you create a divide in yourself with one part that says “I didn’t do anything wrong” and the other part that knows that you did do something wrong. The clearer you can be with yourself in your awareness of your reality and the way that you act and speak and feel, the better.
5. My fifth tip is a really important one. And it’s one that none of us do enough, probably me included. And that is to ground yourself, and be in the present moment fully. This has been talked about a lot and is something that we all need, because the more that we’re looking at screens, and thinking about complex concepts, the less we’re being in our bodies in the present moment. Not many of us are athletes, or, well – I suppose many of us are construction workers. But most of us don’t have physical jobs. And even those of us who do have physical jobs, we are not connected with our body in terms of listening to it, we’re sort of dictating to it: “run really fast, do this, do that, pick up this, pick up that” – but not listening to our bodies.
When we come back into our body, when we really are aware of the sensations it gives us a moment of peace and resting within ourselves. And this moment is really, really important in terms of letting go of stress. Not overthinking, and over-worrying all the time, not pushing ourselves beyond our natural limits in terms of our energy levels. And just for feeling relaxed and happy. So to ground yourself, I have a couple of meditations that you can do, but one really easy visualisation is to picture roots going down through from your feet through down into the earth and drawing up that earth energy into your body. But if that’s not your cup of tea, just going out in nature, gardening and trying to be mindful day to day, things like that can really help you ground yourself.
I hope you enjoyed these five tips for total wellness! For more information and advice and self development and well being just hit subscribe to my YouTube channel, or check out my books, and self development resources.
Doing a personal annual review is a great way to look back on the year drawing to a close and take stock of how far we’ve come – but we probably need to do it a different way this year. Many of us will not have achieved the goals we set out for ourselves at the beginning of 2020, but we have achieved a lot in other ways. We have all also lost something and experienced hardships that most of us had no way of preparing for. So I’m going to set out an annual review roadmap specifically for this year.
Many of us might not feel like looking back, only looking ahead to the year we hope will be much better. But I think there’s gold in them thar hills – we owe it to ourselves to acknowledge what we have survived, how we have adapted, how we have made sacrifices to keep others safe. We have literally given up our normal lives so that others can keep living theirs.
So in this post I’m going to look at some ways that we might be able to do an annual review for a year like nothing we’ve seen before. To recognise our effort and our growth and to mourn the things we’ve lost. We could put these feelings and thoughts off until later, but if you feel up to it I think it could help you.
While you do this I recommend that you sit somewhere quiet, use a notebook or diary to write down your thoughts and be kind to yourself. We’ve all made mistakes and not always been the people we have wanted to be at times, but a sense of self-compassion can help us to see ourselves as we are and to change if we need to.
The Things we Overcame
This is a great place to start, to get the obstacles and challenges off your chest. We will be using three columns, so you can draw those on your page.
a) Make a list on the left side of the page of all the tough things you’ve experienced this year – these could be around work, relationships, feeling disconnected or others.
b) Then in the middle column, write all the positives that came about through this obstacle. They might be hard to think of at first, but stick with it. It could include things you learned about yourself, the ways you adapted, the strength you discovered in yourself, values you realise are important to you. Try and find the most real positives you’ve gained and if you really can’t think of a positive for a challenge that’s ok, you can come back to it later.
c) Now think of how these positives may benefit you in the future and write these in the right hand column. Why not also take a moment for each one to feel good about how you rose to meet a challenge. And if you feel like one or more defeated you, knowing that you’re still here and still going is evidence that you got through it.
2. Acknowledging What we Have Lost
Some of us have suffered extreme losses such as the death of loved ones, while others of us have suffered other kinds of loss – long separation from friends and family, losing a job, loss of our peace of mind, maybe even the loss of innocence in a way.
This is a personal annual review for yourself only – so try to give yourself permission to feel grief for the things you’ve lost, even if others have lost more. Even those of us who have been fortunate have lost something, and taking the time to name it and to acknowledge our feelings can help us to understand ourselves and our experience.
We will be using four columns.
a) Write all the things you feel grief over losing on the left hand side.
b) Then in the second column write down your emotions around each one. I know it can be tough to dwell on negative emotions, so only do as much as you can handle right now, but it can also be very healing to get it all out in the open and on paper.
c) Then in the third column write what each loss and its emotions means about you. For example, if your loss was “meeting up with friends”, your feelings were “frustration, restlessness, boredom, anxiety” and you think about what this means about you as a person deep down (and with an open mind) you might realise “I need human connection and stimulating conversation because I like to be challenged intellectually. I am also a caring person and I miss time spent around people”.
This is a very individual process and it would be almost impossible to predict what someone else would put in that third column because it is something you know about yourself deep down. And this is what we are really grieving the loss of.
d) If you would like to, you can then go through each and be grateful for times when you did have that person, thing or activity.
e) In the final column you can create an affirmation of something positive you can do now and/or the future, that includes the deeper meaning. For instance, using the example above; “when it is safe to meet up again, I am really going to appreciate my friends and show them that I care. For now I am going to connect with them in the ways I can and enjoy the mental stimulation of challenging conversation”.
3. Looking at What We Want to Carry Forward
In step 1. we looked at things you gained through experiencing hardships. Take some time to think about anything else you gained this year, maybe; time to be creative, resilience, compassion, patience, better communication, more zoom skills or others.
In this freestyle exercise, jot down what you have gained this year that you want to carry into next year and how it might make your life better.
4. Letter to 2020 You
I think that this simple exercise might be a good way to gain some closure around the difficulties of this year, to acknowledge everything we’ve been through and the ways we have grown as people.
So in this very freestyle and kind letter, write to yourself from earlier this year to say what you are grateful for and proud of.
Take care of the emotions of that earlier self, acknowledge their experience fully, maybe offer them some encouragement and love. Also, acknowledge kindly what could have been better this year as well as what you did that was great. This can include anything that is significant to you, perhaps being grateful for all the thousands of tiny things you did to keep yourself and loved ones healthy, being proud of helping someone, making someone smile, being understanding about losing your temper, knowing how you’ve been strong when you had to be.
Write the letter that would have made the biggest difference to you to read this year and try to write it from the heart. You may be surprised at what comes up, you may even find that some resolutions for the next year naturally come to light.
I would write the date on it also, because it will likely make an interesting read when you come across it in years to come.
Whatever you discovered about yourself from looking back at this year, I hope you have found that you have gained something special from a very difficult time, and it is something you can carry forward to help you in the next year and in life. I wish you a peaceful and fulfilling end of the year!
These times are a challenge, there’s no doubt. Moments of calm interspersed with waves of panic or anxiety, and then moments of happiness and connection.
It can be hard to find our feet.
I have been working with people to understand their feelings for a long time and I wanted to offer people a really concise process for working through these strong emotions when they come up.
And I am glad to say I have just finished writing a short book over the course of the last two weeks (rather than 1.5 years like my last one – sorry in advance if you find a typo!) to teach people how to do this.
Why should we work through our feelings?
When I work with people the start of a session is often about helping people to become calm and centred. This means that we can actually do something meaningful together – because you need that sense of centredness and safety to make a change
So the extra challenge of these times is that we are never able to completely reach a state of certainty or resolution which we can build on.
That is OK for a few weeks, but as this situation is around for a while it is really important to do the work of processing the feelings that come up. Then we can develop more and more self-control and self-understanding irrespective of external events.
What can we do in this situation?
This is not just about being stoic and “getting through” tough times. It is about using this intense situation as fuel for our own self-knowledge and quality of life.
Difficult, raw emotions hold a lot of information within them, which can teach us more about ourselves. The exercises in this book will teach you some of the basics you need to know in order to get to this information.
I know that for many people this is the scariest situation they have ever been in, while for many others it pales in comparison to difficult childhoods, past losses or other very hard times. But whatever your level of “being used to difficulty”, through the current difficult times we can become more resilient, self-aware, grounded and loving.
Of course this does not mean never being afraid, or worried, or never having a sleepless night. It is about using every opportunity we can to come out of this stronger and happier overall.
Some of the good we can find
A lot of people I have worked with had, in the past, believed that the key to happiness was in avoiding or preventing difficulties, or pushing away negative emotions.
But actually, difficulties show us what is important to us, what we really want and also negative emotions are what sane people have in hard times. They are telling us to take care of ourselves and our loved ones and often when we have listened to them fully, they dissipate.
So some of the possible take-aways from this situation might be:
Learning to feel our feelings fully and listen to what they are saying
Improving our relationship to our own emotions
Using the focus created by an uncertain situation to give us clarity (not on the future situation but on ourselves)
Using the toughness of the situation to become stronger
Using difficult times to strengthen bonds and develop meaning
Above I mentioned becoming stronger and by this I don’t mean harder or more closed-off. I mean stronger as in more: open-hearted, in our integrity, self-expressive, honest with ourselves and using our talents to help others.
I have felt a powerful urge to be useful and I know that many other people feel the same way – not just other therapists. Although this work is invisible, by working through our own emotions we will also be more available to help and support others so it can have a powerful impact.
Affordable for you and free for NHS
As I know many of us are facing either financial uncertainty, or are experiencing leaner times right now, I have kept the price very low.
I will also be offering this ebook for free to NHS workers (if you are one just email me a photo of your NHS ID and I will send you back your copy, please be patient as admin takes me some time!).
So if you could share the link to this blog article with any NHS staff you know, or the link to the book on my site for everyone else (https://www.suzannewylde.com/happyandstrong) that would be wonderful, I really appreciate you taking the time to do that! I really want it to find its way to the people who need it.
I hope you are keeping well, feeling healthy and have all the support and resources you need.
By now it’s official (irreversible) – I have a full-on love affair with tea. There is probably nothing quite as glorious as a full, fresh pot of tea waiting to be enjoyed, maybe with a book to go with it. However, recently I have noticed a worrying trend (both in the UK and the US), which is that certain places pride themselves on making the “perfect” cup. This translates as letting your tea steep for a set amount of time (timed on a timer) and then giving you only the liquid so it can’t get any stronger.
The problem with this is that most experienced tea-drinkers like their tea at different strengths. It’s just down to individual taste.
Another problem is that you remove all the beautiful variation of enjoying the tea at different stages of taste and colour. One of my favourite memories of Beijing was going for tea ceremonies and spending time enjoying the different fragrances and tastes of each cup, getting a very different experience with every subsequent pour from the pot.
And then there’s always the joy of feeling really sleepy/ unmotivated and waiting till your tea has the consistency of jam to really get you going. OK maybe not jam.. but definitely up to Northern/ industrial strength!
Now, to reach only slightly awkwardly for a metaphor, self-development is a bit like this too. New realisations, behaviours or recently-discovered parts of ourselves take time to percolate through our system and sink in. Allowing the time and space to let this happen organically means we don’t risk missing out on fully-embracing or integrating an important part of our experience. I have never seen a client or myself trying to rush this bit without skipping over or missing something and just having to circle back later. There’s something genuinely kind about giving yourself the time and space you need without any expectation of the outcome. It leaves room for subtlety and nuance and removes any self-inflicted pressure from notions we may have about being on a particular schedule or moving forward in a specific way.
… Real exploration is open-ended…
So, please enjoy your tea – don’t muzzle it. And maybe try to leave pauses where there should be pauses, honouring yourself with a spacious attitude of self-kindness.
And now I get to finish my little pot of Yunnan green tea, no timer in sight 😉