Wondering where to begin with New Year’s resolutions after a life-altering 2020?
You’re not the only one – 56% of women say their general wellbeing suffered last year and a further 42% confessed to feeling lonely.
And thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, lockdown and continuing restrictions, it’s no surprise that a quarter of us are feeling the strain on personal relationships.*
But it’s also been a time of reassessing priorities, with one in four women saying they have an increased focus on what matters most in a partner.**
From relationships to relocating and confidence tips, here’s how to get 2021 off to the best start.
How to… Boost your social life
If your confidence has plummeted because of a lack of everyday interaction, go easy on yourself, says psychotherapist Ruairí Stewart.
“It’s unlikely anybody knows you feel awkward, however you’re certainly not alone in this, so don’t be afraid to bring it up in conversation. Many people will relax when they hear you speak about it as they feel out of sorts, too.”
Anxiety UK can offer social anxiety support, while The Calmer You podcast has advice on everything from regaining confidence to making friends.
Also, think about what you’re wearing. While it’s been a lockdown favourite, try to avoid wall-to-wall loungewear on days you need a self-confidence boost.
“Even if it’s just once a week, make an effort to dress up in clothes that leave you feeling good,” says Ruairí.
Now is a great opportunity to take control of what you put in your calendar.
Lifestyle medicine and wellbeing coach Joie Risk says that after being forced to scale back our social lives for the past 10 months, many people are reflecting on what patterns work for them.
“Take some time to decide which friendships you would like to nurture in the future and commit to making one call each day to a friend you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while,” suggests Joie.
“Small gestures – such as sending a card or telling someone you are thinking of them – can help bridge the gap.”
And plan further ahead with pals, whether that’s a walk, dinner or even a trip away when possible again.
It’ll give you a focus if you’ve felt disconnected, and cheer you up after a whole year of cancelled plans in 2020.
How to… Reduce your stress
First, switch off all your notifications and resist reaching for your phone as soon as you wake up.
Ruairí recommends establishing a simple 15-minute morning routine to start your day.
“Don’t pick up a device and go into instant ‘reaction’ mode.”
Instead he suggests making a cup of tea and reading a few pages of a book.
“Or just sit in silence and check in with yourself before checking in with the world. Wake up to a song you like rather than a radio station.”
Muting accounts on social media that stress you out is also key to protecting your energy. “Choose what and who you want in your online personal space.
You will become what you consume,” he adds. And consider a screen time limit on your phone.
Business psychologist Michelle Minnikin says you need to think about what you can control.
“Draw three circles inside each other,” she says.
“In the middle of the circle write things you can control. In the second circle write things you can influence and in the outer circle write down things you can’t control. Visualise all the things in the outer circle floating away like clouds.”
She adds: “The only thing we can actually control is ourselves, our behaviours and what we do. When we know our personal values and understand our boundaries, the process of moving forward is much easier
as we can make decisions and plans based on values and goals.”
Check out audio-based mediation and exercise app WithU, as well as Insight Timer for sleep struggles. Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast focuses on de-stress coping techniques.
“Drinking enough water, reducing alcohol, sugar and other stressors, as well as getting enough sleep is key,” Joie says.
“Eating fresh fruit and vegetables, enough protein, and supplementing your diet with a multivitamin that contains minerals such as magnesium and zinc, is all going to help.”
How to… Make a big move
House prices increased by 4.7% towards the end of last year, a sure-fire sign that lockdown made people re-evaluate where they live.
Then act now, because if you exchange contracts and complete the sale before March 31, there’s a stamp duty holiday for all properties across England and Northern Ireland.
This tax is usually charged on properties over £300,000 for first-time buyers or £125,000 for everyone else, but the threshold has been raised to £500,000 until the deadline.
There’s never been such a huge tax break on offer, according to property developer David Price, and you could save up to £15,000.
“There’s still time, but a normal buying process can take three months, so expect delays, plan for the worst and hope for the best,” urges David.
“Get your documentation ready, make sure you have a mortgage offer in principle and don’t skimp on solicitor fees – you get what you pay for and a proactive legal team is key.”
When changing areas completely, ask yourself what your reasons for relocating are.
“Whether you need the best school or to be within a 30-minute commute to work, whatever drives your desire or makes you happy is your starting point for the search,” says David.
He suggests talking to friends or family who have made a similar move. “They can advise on the pros and cons, plus what they’d do differently,” he adds.
Relocation Agent Network can also provide advice covering school catchments and local amenities in your chosen areas.
And type postcodes into Checkmystreet.co.uk to find the closest travel links, crime rates and broadband speed.
How to… Embrace dating again
Single and suffering from online dating fatigue?
Get your mojo back by having a flirt while out shopping or getting a coffee.
“The best way to boost your confidence is to ease yourself into being social again,” says psychotherapist Nasif Nijabat.
“While queuing for that coffee or takeaway (even though you’ll be socially distanced) start a conversation with a stranger about the general weirdness of it all.
"Mention you feel strange talking through a mask, as a way of breaking through any awkwardness. You could even ask what they’re looking forward to when it’s all over.”
When planning a date, picking a place where you won’t just be sitting down can help with nerves, says psychologist Wendy Dignan.
“Walk and talk, and that way you can chat about things you see. It can be helpful to discuss nervousness as a talking point, as you will both be feeling it and if all else fails, reframe those emotions as excitement – ultimately, they’re feelings with similar characteristics.”
Should big build-ups stress you out, Thursday is a brand-new app that once a week allows users to match and meet for the first time that same day (restrictions permitting).
This means less pressure building up to a date, and you don’t waste time or energy chatting for ages before not actually connecting in person.
Or search Eventbrite.co.uk for real-life mixers and speed-dating events.
Find singles’ events, from fitness classes to bar nights and virtual dating at Designmynight.com.
‘WFH means we can finally afford to buy our own family home’
Copywriter Gabriella Griffith, 36, lives in Brockley, south-east London, with her husband Deva, 36, and their 12-month-old son Otis.
“After an IVF struggle to have Otis in December 2019, it was doubly devastating when we couldn’t share his first milestones with family last year.
"And unable to afford a home of our own, we had to spend lockdown in our cramped two-bedroom rented flat, which was when we realised we really wanted to get out of London.
"Deva began working from home in his design director job when the first lockdown hit in March.
"Then when Otis started nursery in September, I combined my freelance copywriting work with other projects from home – including my podcast Big Fat Negative.
"I was so relieved to give up my exhausting three-hour round commute to the office where I worked in south-west London.
"Deva’s company then said he would be able to continue working mostly from home even when restrictions are lifted, with just the odd day commuting to the office, so we decided to look into moving out of the capital to buy a home of our own.
"Pre-pandemic, we’d saved about £15,000 towards a deposit, and we managed to put aside an extra £5,000 during lockdown by not using the Tube, going out or on taking holidays.
"Three-bedroom properties on our street in London go for a whopping £900,000, but on the coast in Ramsgate, Kent, we found a three-bedroom Victorian terrace house with a garden for £270,000, and are due to move in the next few weeks.
"Having coped without a support network over the last year, starting somewhere new isn’t scary.
"We’ll miss being able to pop over to a friend’s house for a glass of wine as we did before coronavirus, but London is only about an hour away. And being more active as a family is important.
"I want to run by the sea and for Otis to grow up with all that space around him. We can’t wait to begin life in our family home at last.”
‘I’m studying for a new qualification and feeling positive about dating again’
Student Alison Bell, 29, lives in Newcastle.
“I was heartbroken when my year-long relationship ended in February.
"My then-boyfriend had become increasingly distant before breaking up with me, saying his feelings had changed.
"Three days later I lost my business development job, thanks to budget cuts – and the combination of both situations left my self-esteem at rock bottom.
"Because of Covid, any interviews I secured were put on hold and then cancelled.
"When the first lockdown kicked in, I knew things weren’t likely to improve, so I applied to start a one-year cross-cultural communication and international management Masters degree at Newcastle University in October to give myself more opportunities in a scarily shrinking job market.
"I’d love to go into management consultancy after I’ve qualified.
"Already living at home with my dad Robin, 64, I sold old clothes on eBay and used £5,000 of my savings to cover food, phone bills and living costs until my postgraduate loan landed in September.
"After seven months of being single, I also took the plunge and finally joined Bumble.
"I’d previously found the idea of online dating daunting – all my single friends had horror stories, from men not being who they said they were to guys who were just plain sleazy.
"Just before starting my course, I was feeling much more positive about life in general, so decided to give the app a go at last.
"I was really chuffed with the response, getting lots of profile matches straightaway.
"A week later, I went for a coffee and walk along the coast with a 32-year-old man I’d matched with in the app.
"However, as the new local lockdown restrictions kicked in immediately afterwards, I decided to simply concentrate on myself, but it was a really big boost for my confidence.
"I’m going to give online dating another go this year, when I’ll also turn 30.
"After a rocky 2020, I’ve finally built my confidence back up and am looking forward to a whole new 2021.”
- Sources: *ONS **Bumble UK
- Visit Bigfatnegative.com, Getthursday.com, Instagram/Ruairi Stewart, Michelleminnikin.com
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