The New Year is Inherently Anxiety-Provoking

Welcome to 2018 – out with the old, and in with the new!

It’s time to sit down and make a list of all the ways that this is the year that you’ll be different than you’ve ever been before!  You’ll finally write the great American novel, run a marathon, lose 50 pounds of fat, gain 25 pounds of muscle, meditate for half an hour every day, stop fighting with your spouse, stop fighting with your mom, start setting boundaries with your nosy neighbor, work less, earn more, and go vegan.

Whew.  I need a moment after writing that paragraph.

Are you overwhelmed?  I’m overwhelmed.

The thing is, midnight on December 31st is not a magic bullet.

You’re the same person you’ve always been.  And maybe you’ll make some positive choices this year, maybe you’ll accomplish some goals and hit some milestones, but you don’t actually need a new you.  You need an aspirational, motivated, empowered version of the current you.

Because current you is pretty great.

And maybe on January 1st, you sat down and made that list.  Maybe on January 2nd, you started to create a plan for how to do some of those things.  Perhaps on January 3rd, you took a step or two to put the plan into action.

But now it’s January 4th, and you’re starting to wonder if maybe the things you wanted to do actually aren’t that achievable.

You’re looking back and feeling that you haven’t been all you wanted to be.  You’re looking forward and realizing that the path from here to marathon-runner-novel-writer-Gandhi-ish-buff-vegan you is a long and winding one.

So you’re feeling a little bit anxious (or maybe a lot anxious)… and here’s why:

Anxiety is Any Time You Leave the Present

Isn’t that a great definition?  Think about it.

If you’re spinning on something from the past, you’ll feel anxious.

  • “What if I had gone to a different college?”
  • “Why did I spend all those years in that relationship?”
  •  “I can’t believe I used the word ‘masturbatory’ in a job interview!”

If you’re worried about something from the future, you’ll feel anxious then too.

  • “Should I stay in this relationship or leave it?”
  • “What’s the best career for me?”
  • “Should I order the burger or the salad?”

I used to say that unless you’re being chased by a bear, the present is pretty non-threatening… but then I realized – if you’re being chased by a bear, what are you feeling anxious about?  The act of running?  The leaves rustling below your feet?  No – the possibility of being caught and maimed by the bear!  So actually, that’s still anxiety about the future.

(By the way, this is why mindfulness and focusing on your breathing are so helpful to calm you down.)

And the New Year is inherently about leaving the present.

Right??  If you’re thinking about what could have been?  If you’re thinking about what could be?

So take a moment to pause.

Put both of your feet on the floor.  Notice the sensation of the ground pressing up against your feet.  Try to picture the shape the bottoms of your feet are making, pressed against the ground.

Take a deep breath.  Feel it fill your chest, then your abdomen.  Exhale, and feel first your abdomen and then your chest release.

Now , to ring in the New Year, say these words:

“I am enough.”

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