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Health and Wellbeing

Happy New Year! Now let’s review that new year pressure…

By QMAdvice 04 Jan 2021


This post was written by Frankie Edwards who is an Integrative Counsellor working in the Advice and Counselling Service at Queen Mary.

Hello 2021! I don’t think I’ve ever felt more excited by the passing of a calendar year. But this passing of time can be misleading – what does it really mean for us? It can indeed be a time for reflection on our year and lives more generally. But it can also be a time for putting pressure on ourselves to be new and improved versions of ourselves in a way that doesn’t do our emotional and mental wellbeing any favours.

Just because it’s a new year, it doesn’t mean you need a new you, or that you should be doing lots to work on yourself. In this post, I want to think about some of things that may be part of the start of 2021 and how we might support ourselves with them while resisting the pressure of creating resolutions.

fireworks in the background

The pressure of the resolution

That trusty website Wikipedia describes a New Year’s Resolution as: a tradition in which a person resolves to continue good practices, change an undesired trait or behaviour, to accomplish a personal goal, or otherwise improve their life.

While all potentially admirable goals, these can be taken on at any time. While the tradition gives lots of people the opportunity to come up with things they want to change – it can also feel like a lot of pressure. And if we don’t manage to achieve them, we can feel additionally rubbish about ourselves, and guilty for not managing to change.

I would offer another option – which is to continue to reflect on these things without putting a time pressure on yourself. Also, maybe you’re okay just as you are. Change can be a positive thing, but we’re not always in a place to engage with it. If you need to, think about filtering the messages that may be flooding in via email/ social media/ media more generally about making changes. Remind yourself that many of the people targeting you are doing so for financial gain, not with your wellbeing in mind.

Of course, if you find fulfilment from setting resolutions, that’s great, but sometimes it’s worth thinking about whether these practices are always helpful.

someone writing their new years resolutions in a book

The exam period

Do read our other blog posts on Managing exam stress and Taking care of your emotional and mental wellbeing during the exam period which we are re-publishing in time for this exam period. This, of course, is a stressful period, and may feel like it’s coming too soon after you’ve just been trying to recover from the first semester! So pace yourselves, and remember to take time out for regular breaks – and for rest and fun where possible. 

a laptop computer sitting on top of a wooden table

The impact of COVID

There are some things to be really hopeful about after a difficult year that in many ways has been taken over by the pandemic. The vaccine is here and it has started to be distributed to at-risk groups. But the severity of rising cases increased further over Christmas, and there is concern from scientists about the impact of people meeting others over the holiday period. As we await more news on our recovery from COVID, it’s worth noting its impact is still very much around and it may be for some time still.

Take care of yourselves. Given the anxiety you may be experiencing related to the pandemic, you may need extra comfort and rest than previously, and that’s completely understandable. Also, classes continue to be largely online this semester and we realise for many of you this has been challenging. Do use the learning resources provided by the university to support you if you’re struggling with this type of learning.

face masks on a table

The pressure to be happy

January can be a particularly difficult time for many people. It’s not totally clear why but it probably includes dealing with the shorter, darker days along with the financial, mental and physical recovery from a big holiday period. It will be even more important than usual to check in with how you are emotionally – and, if you’re struggling, to think about ways you may be able to support yourself during a challenging time. We have put together some resources below to help with this so do take a look through them.

Support options

an orange telephone


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