Courage, compassion and clarity: advice for a better 2023

The sun rises over P.E.I.  (Patrick Morrell/CBC News - image credit)
The sun rises over P.E.I. (Patrick Morrell/CBC News - image credit)

With 2022 over, people are thinking about their relationships, their work and how they want to live in 2023.

We reached out to three experts who work with Islanders on their mental health to get some advice for the new year.

Kayla Breelove Carter is counselling therapist, Alice Curitz is a mental health clinician and Kailea Switzer is a counselling therapist and coach.

Kristy Nease/CBC
Kristy Nease/CBC

Curitz calls her ideas for 2023 "non-New-Year's resolutions."

"New Year's resolutions come with a lot of pressure. Most of us feel like, 'Well, I know I'm not actually going to stick with it. It's probably going to last a couple of weeks.' And so we go into it with this sort of subconscious intention that we're not going to stick with it," she said.

"Then we tell ourselves for the rest of the year that we're a failure, and I think that's just not a great way to start the year."

For Breelove Carter, 2023 is all about intentionality.

"This is really our opportunity for 2023 to really have this sort of overarching theme of intent and curiosity, and not being afraid of leaning into that discomfort," she said.

"We've kind of had enough experience of unknowns and discomfort in the last couple of years. So this is really our opportunity to step into being like, 'OK, let's do this.'"

Submitted by Kayla Breelove Carter
Submitted by Kayla Breelove Carter

Stop aiming for perfection

Switzer talks about this in terms of "can I soften and release the grip?

"That many people are fixers, myself included…. For us, the best thing to do is often nothing at all. And I think that's one of the hardest lessons I've come across for me, anyway," she said.

"It ends up creating more anxiety and it ends up making us create beliefs about the world where it's like if I didn't do it, nobody would, and then that increases anxiety. So learning how to tolerate the discomfort of just leaving it a little bit longer ... just sit in that discomfort of seeing what happens."

Submitted by Kailea Switzer
Submitted by Kailea Switzer

She said practising that tolerance can lead to more permanent change.

"It's like an elastic band, like you stretch it a little bit and then all of a sudden it's a tiny bit bigger," she sid. "You stretch it a little bit bigger until your tolerance for that discomfort is just expanding."

If it feels like it's something worth doing, just do it to whatever ability you have that day. — Alice Curitz 

Curitz agrees with the idea of easing expectations of ourselves.

"Anything worth doing is worth half-assing," she said.

"Perfection really is our enemy in a lot of ways ... we get frozen in this fear of not reaching perfection, and so if it feels like it's something worth doing, just do it to whatever ability you have that day."

Submitted by Alice Curitz
Submitted by Alice Curitz

Think about your mind and body 

Breelove Carter said it's helpful to think about nourishing ourselves not just physically, but emotionally and cognitively as well.

"Think about having fun eating new foods … choosing foods that will nourish you. Put some recreation in your life. Exploring the outdoors, playing board games, using your imagination."

Tom Steepe/CBC
Tom Steepe/CBC

Curitz encourages a switch from a food diet resolution to a brain diet resolution.

"Most people have some kind of a food diet resolution and I think there's a lot of really unhealthy narratives that are attached to that," she said.

"Thinking about what you're putting into your brain is really important. So what books are you reading? What podcasts are you listening to? What news sources are you relying on?"

Play is so nourishing for our heart and our body and our mind. — Kailea Switzer 

Switzer encourages people of all ages to play.

"Play is so nourishing for our heart, and our body, and our mind," she said.

"For some people it's actually sitting down playing cards and not on their phones, totally immersed. Or it could be cross-country skiing, or anything that gets you laughing and present."

She said people should think of play as a regular, health-oriented activity — not a "nice-to-have," but a "must-have."

Shutterstock / Morakot Kawinchan
Shutterstock / Morakot Kawinchan

Say 'sorry' with courage and self-compassion  

Switzer suggests people ask themselves if they could be more courageous with apologies.

"It's especially hard the more fragile our self-worth is," she said.

"People who are more comfortable apologizing, whether it's 'I'm sorry I left my toothpaste over the sink,' to a larger hurt, you have to have a bigger bank account of self-worth."

She said everyone makes mistakes and they don't erase all the good qualities of a person.

"If you can have that compassion for yourself, we can build the courage and strength to own the part we played and be able to say to somebody directly, 'I'm so sorry I hurt you. I messed up when I did that specifically x-y-z, and I'm going to really work on that moving forward.'"

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

Curitz suggests considering doing an inventory of the people in your life.

"Who do you spend time with and how do you feel when you're around them? How do you feel when you're not around them? And then, who do you actually want to invest in relationships with?" she said.

You may notice that some people you've been friends forever don't actually share the same values anymore, she said, or maybe you don't feel like your best self when you're around certain people in your life.

"There may also be people you really like and want to spend more time with, and invest in those friendships."

Show yourself more kindness 

Curitz suggests focusing on positive aspects of yourself — not just the things you might not like about yourself.

"How about picking up on some things that you do really like about yourself or some things that you really enjoy doing, and then nurturing those things about yourself," she said.

"Maybe it's, 'I have a fun sense of humour and I'm going to make it my mission in 2023 to laugh more and I think I'm really funny ... or, 'I really enjoy doing this activity. It makes me feel really great. I want to do more of that,'" she said.

Do the things that bring you calmness, that bring you creativity, that bring you curiosity, that might push your courage. — Kayla Breelove Carter 

Breelove Carter said after a rough couple of years, 2023 is a new opportunity to step into your worth.

"Do the things that bring you calmness, that bring you creativity, that bring you curiosity, that might push your courage, bringing you clarity ... and most importantly, compassion for yourself and others," she said.

Switzer said people should practice feeling their feelings more.

"The world has been through a lot in the last couple of years … and I think a lot hurts," she said. "If we just do that in bite-sized pieces, we can move those feelings through us."

Switzer said you can process feelings by talking through them in therapy or with close people, or you can cry, write in a journal ("rage on a page") or sweat it out.

"Anything that we can do to help move it through us and not deny what we're feeling is going to be helpful."

Breelove Carter said 2023 is a time for leaning into the unknown.

"There are so many opportunities for new meaning making for growth," she said.

"Maybe you find yourself being able to be more intentional about taking days off. Maybe you step into a new role in your career, or maybe you give yourself an opportunity to be more intentional about how you experience this new year. I think remembering that we woke up and it's 2023 is refreshing compared to some of our 2022 moments."