I think I was projecting when I gave my quotes to Today.com for New Year’s Resolutions. There are a lot of suggestions I made for this article that I had been saying to myself lately (among them, I suggest the three key strategies to mental health, reframing friendships, and a reminder to all of us about how to prioritize smarter).
I mention the word of the year. Do you choose one? I chose mine last year as a spur-of-the-moment thing and then someone gave me a bracelet with the word on it coincidentally. It was a good word for me to keep in mind in 2022. I saw this picture online to help you choose yours.
Perhaps your new word will be something calmer. This NYT article talks about all of the ANGER and REACTIVITY we are feeling, stemming from loss of control and fear… I have seen this trickle down to our kids, even college students. Competitive, angry, frustrated, and drained.
Actually, does this sound familiar: Our high-stakes and high-pressure culture has invaded our schools and our children’s lives. Childhood has been taken over by test scores, performance and competition. As a result, we have an epidemic of unhealthy, disengaged and unprepared young people. Many of my high school and college aged clients are too young to remember the 2010 message of Race to Nowhere, but the above quote was lifted off their FAQs as the main message.
(For those unfamiliar, Race to Nowhere was a documentary produced in 2009. It had become the centerpiece of a nationwide, grassroots movements to prevent a lot of what we are seeing lately. Read more here and here ).
The past semester had me thinking about this phrase, Race to Nowhere, almost every day if not during several sessions a day. Even at home when I talk to my own teens, the message has been in my head. Kids are stressed, unsure how doing something for pleasure matters when it does not produce results ie money or status, and they are burning out again. Lots of philosophical questions arise over who they are and who they think they are supposed to be, a la “fullest potential” (One of my ready responses is along the lines of how sad it would be if we are reaching our “fullest potential” already!).
Remember COVID? When we felt monotonous, when a lot was put in perspective and we were compassionate and we slowed down? It did not take us long to get back in the race, and we are out of breath (we are panicking too! Perhaps relevant is this article on treating Panic Attacks).
I am grateful that my office, physically and virtually, is big enough to hold the emotions you need to release, breathe and recharge. The seven traits of a great therapist say there should be high standards for what you demand in your therapy and I won’t stop doing my best to deliver on all of them (see blog here that discusses trait #7) and my associates promise the same high-quality responsive care I strive to provide.
Commit with me to embrace this year at a slower place. Rediscover Empathy by following the musts in this article, particularly relevant being replacing compassion with fixing, being vulnerable and attending to your own suffering. As my colleague Sam Hamburg is once quoted as saying, be curious about others. Stop trying to figure out how others feel about you and instead be curious about how you feel about them. Focus on your intentions and aspirations (and if you are stuck, we can help!). And finally, practice consistency in your values (ask me at our next session how to figure out what yours are and we will do a quick activity. For a more elementary answer, choose words that represent importance to you that you are, not a goal you are trying to achieve)
So what do we need from each other? According to the New York Times we need more conversations, compassionate listening, and empathy (!!!). Commit to be that for others, and demand it for yourself.
Take care of yourself… I have been thinking about my obligation, OUR obligation, at my practice to you. What does a “good therapist” mean? What is quality? What is exceptional? Ellen, David, Rebecca, Jennifer, Erin and I know you demand exceptional quality and as we welcome 2023 with you, we are grateful for your trust and teamwork.