Outreach: Happy New Year (Yes, it’s possible)

A young teenaager celebrating New Years with gold confetti with a pink background.


is here! Hooray, we made it! Happy New Year to all! Typically, we use the New Year to reflect on the past year and create new habits for the upcoming year. But we all know there was nothing typical about 2021, a year filled with continued efforts to navigate living, working and socializing during a pandemic, and which continued to bring various challenges.

Living through a pandemic will create mental health challenges that emerge as we transition out of pandemic times. Top of the list: increased anxiety; invisible burnout (the result of carrying too much for too long); financial stress; domestic violence; survivor and/or thriver’s guilt.

Transitioning to a new phase of the pandemic is a positive step. However, this shift may lead to new and unforeseen challenges. How can we shift our mindsets to be more prevention focused as we continue to navigate this unprecedented time?

First, we can admit that it’s OK to acknowledge that you are not OK.  Recognizing how you genuinely feel is healthy and therapeutic. This can be done through journaling your own thoughts and feelings, or sharing in meaningful conversations with people you trust.

Next, whether you are feeling the effects of burnout from school or work, or from life’s never ending to-do list, it can be helpful to think about setting aside some decompression time. Take the dog for a walk; play a board game with the family. Even though many of us have been working remotely for nearly two years, resist the urge to work longer days; the same goes for spending hours scrolling through social media. Research suggests that finding ways to implement meaningful time doing something you enjoy within your day can be a protective factor against burnout and anxiety.

Finally, while stress is a normal part of living and being human, and something we all feel throughout our lives, we need to prioritize finding healthy ways to manage our stress, so it does not lead to distress or chronic stress. To help, find three things that you can do every day for yourself; yes, just for you. An example of three things could be spending time with your pets; five minutes of mediation before bed; writing down one thing you’re grateful for each day in your phone or a journal.

By recognizing some predicted mental health challenges, the hope is that we can all strive for prevention and proactive behavior. The new year should be a time for self-reflection, identifying one or two ways to help improve your mental health, so you can be prepared and confident that no matter what 2022 has in store—pandemic or post-pandemic—you can handle it!

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2022!

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth ages 5 to 21, parents and families, in a welcoming, supportive environment. 412-561-5405. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.