Five steps to thriving mental health after a year of disruption: Psychologist’s plan for a better year
For many, 2020 is a year that will be best consigned to the wastebin of bad memories. Our lives have been impacted on many different levels from the personal tragedy of losing loved ones, loss of business, unemployment and the collapse of the housing market among many other areas, all paying a part in adding unparalleled stresses on our mental health.
‘We sculpt a version of us and a version of the world and how we operate in it. Suffering, then, is when our patterns no longer fit. Suffering eases or ceases when we create new patterns, when we’ve landed on the further shore with a new coherent story.’ (From ‘The Power of Suffering’ by David Roland).
Following a major life disruption, like the year we have had, we need to create a new life story when the old story no longer applies. Personal growth through adversity is possible.
In the aftermath of disruption, we can become stuck in rumination over what we have lost and trying to get it back. But, when there is no realistic chance of regaining what we’ve lost, this fixation prevents us from moving on and creating a new life story.
What are the five steps for creating a new life story?
Acceptance – “this is how it is now”. We need to engage in self-disclosure by writing out what has happened to us or in telling our story to others. We may have to do this over and over again until our eyes are opened to the new reality.
Deliberate thinking and taking action. We need to set new intentions and goals that align with the new reality. Even if this new reality does not feel completely real, we act as if it is real.
Find expert companions. We need to find other people as allies – those undertaking a similar journey as ourselves and people who understand our circumstances and can help us move ahead in new ways.
Testing ourselves. We need to find out what skills we already have in pushing ahead on our new life trajectory and those skills and knowledge we need to acquire. Such skills and knowledge may be technical, social and psychological. This process can take months or even years, but it leads to new insights about ourselves and the tasks we are undertaking. Eventually it leads to greater wisdom.
Reintegration of our new self with our new behaviors into the old world. We grow through the process of reinventing ourselves, but we need to reintegrate our new self with the old world. Once we have done this successfully, our new life story is complete.
The Power of Suffering is a revelatory account of how the darkest night can lead to the most profound dawn.
Published by Simon & Shuster, the book is available in paperback, audio, and eBook.
About The Author (David Roland):
David Roland brings warmth, humor and insight to his work as a writer, presenter and psychologist drawing on lived experience as well as on his professional training. He is a graduate of the University of Sydney with a BSc (Hons) and gained his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Wollongong with a research focus on performance anxiety in musicians. For more than twenty years David worked as a clinical and forensic psychologist in the treatment and assessment of clients ranging from children to adults, for the Children’s Court Clinic and the Criminal Court. He is an Honorary Associate with the University Centre for Rural Health, University of Sydney, and a founding member of Compassionate Mind Australia. He is an advisor to the Young Stroke Project with the National Stroke Foundation