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Will 2021 be a better year?

How to mentally prepare for a New Year
Published: Jan. 3, 2021 at 11:00 PM EST
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(WJRT) - What is your mental state heading into this New Year? They year 2020 had a major impact not just on people’s health and finances, but also their well-being. Is it foolish to think there are better days ahead in 2021?

A recent Gallup poll reveals Americans’ latest assessment of their mental health is worse than it has been at any point in the last two decades. No surprise, right? But one mental health expert says it is important to realize your inner strength and focus on lessons learned in 2020.

There were so many hopes going into the New Year that was 2020.

“The new year represents for everyone, hugely, a fresh start. a new start,” says Dr. Recco Richardson, a clinical therapist in Flint with Hurley Medical Behavioral Medicine.

But a major curveball named COVID changed all that.

“It should be a time of anticipation and hopefulness and excitement and a time of rest, ‘I’m ready to move into a new year.’ However, we had some things unexpected waiting for us in 2020,” says Richardson.

Richardson has performed mental health counseling for more than 25 years. He has seen firsthand how 2020 impacted his clients.

“I’m finding people ages 5 all the way up to 90, it’s affecting us all. It’s affecting white clients, Black clients, Hispanic clients. It’s affecting us all in one way or another,” says Richardson.

He says nearly every person he knows was touched by the anxiety brought on by the virus itself, lockdowns, and uncertainty.

“I’ve talked to a lot of high school athletes who needed a breakout season this year to get a division one scholarship offer,” says Richardson. “I’ve talked to business owners who are now struggling because the clients just didn’t come, the money was tight, there were restrictions where we could go and who was open.”

So many had to make life-altering decisions, like wedding planner and owner of ‘Happily Ever After Events,’ Darcie Johnson, who says 2020 was the ultimate wedding crasher.

“People didn’t feel safe. Brides didn’t want to look out at their entire guest list and see people in masks, they didn’t want grandma and grandpa not to attend because they didn’t feel safe,” says Johnson.

She was forced to reschedule 15 weddings, all while reassuring her brides.

“They’re saying to you, ‘What do I do? Tell me what to do?’ I have never wished more for a crystal ball than I did in the early months,” says Johnson.

“We started planning back in 2018,” says Midland bride-to-be Leah Markowitz.

Markowitz hired Darcie before fiancé, Dustin, even gave her a ring.

“So I hired a wedding planner even before he proposed,” she says with a laugh.

Markowitz is that much of a planner.

Leah and Dustin were supposed to get married in May of 2020.

“We had invitations out, we’re getting RSVPs, and then it kind of came to a screeching halt,” she said.

The wedding was canceled.

“It was hard. There was lots of days of being super stressed out, trying to figure out what to do. A couple days of crying in my fiancé’s arms,” says Markowitz.

With the help of Darcie, they were able to reschedule the wedding to this May, with a few speed bumps.

“As the pandemic went on, we actually lost our transportation company because they unfortunately went out of business,” says Markowitz.

Through it all, Leah relied on Dustin for emotional support.

“I’m a little bit more of the, when things go crazy I kind of let my emotions get the best of me sometimes, so he was a big rock for me during that time,” she says.

Leah and Darcie remain positive they can still put on a dream wedding, come May.

“We still think things may be done a little bit differently, and that’s okay. We’re willing to make those adjustments. We’re just very optimistic that things will be able to go as planned in the new year,” says Johnson.

Richardson says having a support system like Leah’s is key to making it in the New Year.

“Processing things and letting it filter through our emotions is one of the healthiest things we can do,” says Richardson.

He says it may sound cliché, but we must look for the silver linings in life.

“We can not allow our emotions to get backlogged, to get clouded up. Because they’ll stay there and they’ll grow,” says Richardson.

Richardson says living through a hard year like 2020 can force change, sometimes for the better. He has witnessed friends start businesses, some have bought houses, and made other life-changing decisions.

He says leaning on our immediate community for support will help, whether that is family, friends, or a counselor.

“This is not the end of it. If we can get through this, there’s help, there’s support, there’s opportunity, there’s ways, there’s means. But we gotta get through it,” he says.

Richardson says overwhelming challenges can bring a positive outcome.

“It causes us to dig deep down inside, find out what’s important to us, rearrange ourselves, reassess our goals and our commitments and our relationships, and then from there spring forward.”

Richardson says there’s no shame in reaching out to a counselor. You can search for a Certified Counselor by clicking here.

As for Leah, she and her soon-to-be husband were also supposed to go on a two-week Honeymoon in Italy last year, but she says thankfully they had not booked it yet. She says she is choosing to focus on the positive they did not have money tied up in a failed trip.

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