It’s fair to say that 2020 was different than we all expected – this year was a hailstorm of unforeseeable events, forming a chasm between us and our regular routines. While some people were lucky enough to only feel a small ripple in their emotional well-being, most of us instead developed a deep-seated weariness, a fatigue that reached communities in cities and small towns alike.
With 2021 materializing in front of us, you might be thinking towards the future and wondering if now is a good time to start therapy. Perhaps you tried therapy in the past and it didn’t quite meet your personal goals, or maybe you aren’t sure if you have the bandwidth at this point. Maybe you’re in shock from the tumult of the year, and unsure how to move forward with growing your mental health.
No matter where you're at, here are 10 tangible reasons to start meeting with a therapist in the new year – and how to find a therapist that’s just right for you.
1. To recover from COVID-related stress
Safe to report that the largest world event of 2020 was the extremely wounding pandemic that not only affected people’s physical health, but also led to a communal sense of insecurity, a chaotic and unpredictable economy, cancelled travel plans, and families’ inabilities to see each other (to only mentioned a few areas of impact!).
Seeing a therapist is a great way to openly discuss the agonizing twists and turns of the coronavirus and gives you a therapeutic space to do the following:
Process through the wide scope of the pandemic
Even if you yourself did not get sick with this virus, you likely knew someone who was impacted or heard about the effects of the pandemic on your community, your country, and across the world. Because of the gravity of this world event, your current state might show symptoms of trauma - which are incredibly important to speak about with a licensed professional.
Talk about your anxiety for the future
One of the toughest components of this pandemic is the sense of uncertainty, instability, and whiplash-inducing change that swept over us (and continues to!). Because of the rate of change, you might feel anxious about the future. What will the post-pandemic world look like? What changes will be permanent? Speaking with a therapist about this anxiety will help you determine where your fears lie and how you can cope.
Discuss hygiene-related fears
Even though this is a topic that at first sounds nontherapeutic, talking with a therapist about what you need to feel safe touches not only on your physical sense of danger but also your emotional needs when it comes to reentering your community.
2. To soothe political anxieties
And the pandemic wasn’t the only world-changing event filled with uncertainty and anxiety! While the US presidential election was at the forefront of most American’s minds in the fall, we cannot forget the incredibly powerful racial injustices and movements that evoked a sense of distrust in our political and city systems over the summer.
With your therapist, you can discuss topics such as:
What the impact of the governmental transitions will be on you and your loved ones
While we don’t know what it will look like, we know that change is coming. This uncertainty links up with the already-established uncertainty of the pandemic and we might not fully know how policies in our area will change or how it will impact us.
Your reaction to the Black Lives Matter movements across the country
Perhaps you participated in protests or maybe you read a perspective-changing book about race - feeling emotional about these issues is a completely valid reaction and one to process through with your trusted therapist.
Who you are
Speaking about your identities to explore how they inform the way you act and how people treat you is an incredibly productive conversation to have with your therapist and may lead to further insight into your values and how you live your life.
No matter what is on your mind, the current events of 2020 have likely touched your personal life - and it’s all fair game in a therapy session.
3. To address skyrocketing anxiety or depression
According to Mental Health America, our rates of depression and anxiety symptoms are trending upwards at a significant scale.
The combination of change, fear, anger, disconnection, etc. impacts our ability to cope with feeling sad or anxious - while normal coping skills like watching TV might have helped you get through a bad day in the past, it might not be able to get your mind out of a negative space in the present. The research shows that many more of us feel hopelessness, sadness, a lack of motivation, some fear of the future, or growing discomfort in social situations.
A therapist would help you explore the reasons behind your increased symptoms and support you in finding ways to feel better.
4. To mend your relationship that went through the 2020 wringer
One of the biggest changes in daily routine in 2020 was the sudden and enormous increase in the amount of time spent at home. With many companies switching to a work-from-home model and schools closing, couples had to work alongside each other - every day for months.
Relationships take intentionality and balance. The new home-life situation did not do favors for either - now, instead of a previous healthy independence, couples spent nearly the entire day together, week after week, all while trying to fulfill work roles and parenting roles. Not all couples developed issues but it certainly isn’t an uncommon occurrence that this new state of living threw off the balance.
Finding a couples’ therapist to open a conversation about the new way of life may be beneficial in supporting healthy communication and building intimacy, as well as processing through change and the resulting stress.
5. To address and alleviate feelings of hopelessness
A very common reason that people feel sad or down is the heaviness of hopelessness. Feeling hopeless might occur after you experience terrible thing after terrible thing despite best efforts or intentions and can certainly impact your mood.
Therapy can help with this feeling by bringing your awareness to your thought process, behaviors, and resulting emotional state. This is a large element of a therapy technique called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), an evidenced-based style that helps people change thought patterns, banish negative self-talk, and challenge cognitive distortions.
6. To try it out, if you’ve always been curious but weren’t quite ready to commit
While we usually think of sitting on a therapist’s couch each session, most therapy is now online. This is useful when you aren’t sure if therapy is for you - you don’t need to commute, you can attend sessions from the comfort of your own home! This is a low-stakes way to ease yourself into therapy sessions and determine if you are ready to work towards your goals.
To prepare for your first therapy session, familiarize yourself with the different types of online therapy and how it might benefit you. (Hint: more accessibility and more flexibility!)
7. To help you deal with career-related stress
This year has not been a kind one for the economy, as many companies unfortunately had to execute massive layoffs, reorganizations, and abandonment of projects or plans. If you were impacted by the turn of the economy, therapy can help you process through the feelings of loss - loss of your work, your relationships with coworkers, perhaps a sense of direction.
Many people also experienced financial stress without having a steady income. If you are worried about how to pay for therapy, ask about less expensive options for therapy including sliding scale payment or group therapy.
Even if you maintained your job, many workforces switched to work-from-home models or asked their employees to complete their responsibilities all online. This huge change in workflow could create stress or deter you from feeling your usual fulfillment in your work - both topics to bring up with a therapist.
8. To break loose if you’ve been feeling "stuck" or noticed the same issues arise, time and again
Without the ability to enjoy past hobbies or leisure activities like traveling or going out to concerts, time is passing in a strange, incoherent way.
When the normal routine of our lives becomes monotones - same thing every day - we might feel stuck in both our personal or professional lives. You might notice the same patterns happening again and again, and if this bothers you, speaking with a therapist might help you feel unstuck and take a step forward. In your therapy session, you might discuss these patterns, their origins, and how they impact your mood.
You might discuss what being stuck means to you, how it impacts your self-worth, or why it manifests as conflict in your relationships. Opening up about feeling stuck with a licensed professional is a productive way of figuring out strategies to feel better about the flow of your life.
9. To try out a new support system, especially if your usual go-to's just aren't cutting it right now
Our social interactions are different now, many of them happening online instead of in-person, some of them involving face-coverings and most of them causing at least a little anxiety about risk. Hanging out with friends is an extremely common way to relax - and unfortunately, the way we hang out has changed.
If your current friendships or relationships aren’t quite supporting you, it probably isn’t to any fault of the people around you - it might just be a product of talking on the phone instead of across a dinner table!
For this reason, you might find yourself searching for another source of support as you experience the stress of the pandemic. Finding a therapist that’s right for you may be an effective way at finding the support that you need to grow your emotional well-being in this moment.
While a therapist will not replace your friends, having someone else to talk to may help you feel more grounded in your daily life.
10. To process a personal loss or significant change in your life
Because of the severity and the long duration of the pandemic, many people have experienced some type of loss- whether this is losing a loved one, losing a sense of normalcy, losing employment or money, or any other type. With children and teenagers unable to attend school in-person, many parents feel a loss in their independence or ability to focus on work - an extremely difficult situation with many dimensions.
Speaking with a therapist about your losses and how they impact you may help you cope and find ways to move forward while honoring the significance of the loss.
Whatever your reason is for starting therapy, the beginning of 2021 is a great time to begin your journey towards a higher emotional well-being.
Zencare makes it easy for you to find a therapist in your area! Because we vet our therapists, you can find a high quality therapist that’s a right fit for you and your personal goals. As the new year unfolds, remember that there’s no wrong time to start therapy and that your mental health is important not just for the present but for the future as well. Here’s to a healthy 2021!