TV presented Renée Bargh is letting go of the rough ride known as 2020. Here she reveals the lessons she’s learnt from the past year, and exactly how she’s entering 2021 fearless.

When the clock strikes midnight each year on December 31, the champagne toasts, warm hugs and carefree dancing signal the hope that no matter how the previous 365 days may have panned out for you, the dawn of a new year holds new promise.

But this year? Well, it’s hardly lived up to anybody’s great expectations.

Ushered in by a catastrophic bushfire season that saw more than 17 million hectares of land around Australia go up in flames, the remainder of 2020 has been marked by a historic run of challenges sparked by the pandemic that caused and exacerbated widespread economic, political and social unrest around the world. It’s little wonder, then, that most

Australians are eager to see the back of a particularly trying 12 months.

COVID-19 has impacted the mental health of people across the globe like never before,” psychologist Jacqui Manning tells Body+Soul.

For many there has been a sharp spike in anxiety relating not only to health concerns, but also other aspects of their lives, such as employment, relationships and isolation from loved ones.”

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Take Renée Bargh, for example.

The Los Angeles-based TV presenter came home to Australia earlier this year to co-host The Voice with Darren McMullen. She then returned to the US, only to find herself stuck there as the pandemic took hold, feeling lonely and homesick for the relative safety of her home country.

“I spent the first three months of COVID in LA in lockdown,” she tells Body+Soul. “I didn’t have contact with another person and I was really scared. I missed my family like crazy and it was very isolating.”

Given that, like Bargh, so many of us were pushed to our emotional and mental limits this year, it feels vital that we head into 2021 with a new-found appreciation for what we have and a fresh outlook that keeps us from holding back on our potential.

Here are 10 practices worth trying that will help you greet the new year without fear.

10 practices to help you greet 2021 without fear

1. Ask for help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, speak up. “Don’t suffer alone and don’t think your issues aren’t big enough,” says Manning.

“Verbalising your fears can take their power away and help you move past however 2020 has affected you.” So make an appointment with a psychologist stat.

2. Keep a gratitude journal

“Every day I wake up and list the things I’m grateful for rather than focusing on the things that have gone wrong,” notes Bargh.

“Some people have lost their jobs and others have lost loved ones, so knowing how lucky you are to have your health and a chance at another year is really important.”

3. Start a fitness routine

“Don’t wait until 2021 to get started,” tips personal trainer Sam Wood.

“Taking small steps now will give you a head start on the new year. Whether it’s gradually increasing your step count, pushing yourself a little bit harder in your workouts or cutting out that after-dinner snack, all the little things add up.”

4. Do more yoga

According to Bargh, practices like yoga and Pilates are not only good for your physical health, they do wonders for your mental health, too.

“Pilates and yoga are my go-to exercises every single day,” she says. “But also try to do something fun. I’ve been playing tennis and taking dance classes as well, and they really take you out of your head.”

5. Book a weekender

According to life coach Claire Hall, taking time to reflect on everything you’ve experienced this year is key to moving forward.

“To truly dispel the debris of 2020 and show up as your best self in 2021, you need to use the last few weeks of the year to reassess and re-evaluate,” she tells Body+Soul. “Leave your daily environment for a weekend and give yourself the gift of time and space.”

6. Practise meditation

“I do transcendental meditation for 20 minutes twice a day,” says Bargh. “It’s become an essential tool in terms of stress management, reactivity and coping in general. In transcendental meditation, you’re given a mantra [that you can] come back to whenever you have other thoughts.”

If you’re just getting started, Bargh notes apps like Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer can help ease you into the practice.

7. Limit your screen time

“We absorb an unprecedented amount of data daily and our bodies aren’t built to withstand this constant barrage,” explains Manning.

“In 2021, prioritise your biological needs by taking regular breaks from your screens, changing your notification settings so nothing but texts and calls ‘ding’, and switching your phone to ‘do not disturb’ mode at night.”

8. Ditch the comfort eating

“Don’t underestimate the importance of a balanced diet when it comes to regulating your mood and energy levels,” notes Wood.

To improve your mental health, try adding more wholefoods to your diet. But take it slow, warns Wood. “It’s all about progress, not perfection,” he says. “You’re far better off making small and simple changes every week.”

9. Set yourself a challenge

“Your mind becomes whatever you focus on, so it’s important to set your thoughts on a new vision or goal that inspires and excites you for 2021,” tips Hall.

“The more energy and focused attention you spend on this goal, the less space 2020 will take up in your daily thoughts.”

10. Make a sea change

If 2020 made you realise that where you live isn’t conducive to the life you’ve always wanted, make 2021 the year you relocate. That’s exactly what Bargh eventually did. Over winter, she came home, reunited with her parents and sister – and ended up staying. She now lives in Byron Bay.

“If you feel like you’re ready for a simpler life, I say go for it, but take time to figure out if the move is realistic for you,” she says.

3 lessons to take from 2020

It wasn’t all bad. So before you write off the year completely, consider these learnings from Renée Bargh.

1. Work to live, don’t live to work

“I packed up my life in LA from afar and stepped away from my full-time job. I didn’t ease into the decision – it was very sudden and it’s something I’ve been grappling with ever since. [But] this year has shown us we can work smarter, not harder. We can be really efficient and work from home and still take care of ourselves.”

2. Community is everything

“Being isolated and away from community is really hard. That’s what I realised when I was living so far away during the pandemic – I just wanted to be close to my family and friends.”

3. You can’t control it all

“I tried to control everything in my life for so long, but we realised pretty quickly this year that Mother Nature has other plans. I’m trying to trust the process. That’s what this year has shown us – you can’t expect anything to go the way you expect it to go.

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