The swift approach of the New Year can be anxiety inducing for even the most self assured among us. The New Year heralds in all sorts of new expectations, goals, and resolutions which can seem overwhelming. Even the word, “NEW” can be perceived as a scary entity. The reason? New-means change. For anyone who suffers from anxiety the thought of change can be downright terrifying. I think for many of us the reason is clear. Many of the changes we have experienced in our lives have been ones we could not control. For example, in my life I never dreamed that my youngest son would have autism or that I would later develop Multiple Sclerosis. When I think about a new year I always feel some dread and trepidation as to what is hiding around the bend. What life event will sweep me off my feet only to potentially knock me flat on my face? But I have decided this year to change my question to, “What good can happen this year?” Instead of waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop, I want to up the ante for positive things to happen in this New Year. I am hopeful that my question, in addition to some others I have created, will help you to feel less fear about the upcoming year. Let this be the year you feel more in control and at peace.
Questions to Answer for a Peaceful New Year:
1. Which elements of my life can I change and which elements are not under my control?
This is the basically the serenity prayer in the form of a question. Sometimes it is difficult to figure out the answer to this question because we would like to be more in control than we are. In other instances we give up our power because we underestimate the control we do have. In my life I can use the example of my chronic illness, Multiple Sclerosis. I don’t have any control over having this disease. I must accept that I have it. But I can find every way possible to learn to cope with it and manage it on a day to day basis. I also have control over finding support. I am sure all of us have examples we can share like this. It really helps to know the answer to this question so we don’t waste any precious time trying to change things we cannot and instead, invest our time and energy where we can make a difference.
2. Which relationships do I wish to foster and grow? Which relationships are toxic and unhealthy for me?
This is another question which may not be so easy for you answer. Yet the answer may save you a lot of time and heartache. There is a mistaken belief that if one simply “works hard enough” that any relationship can be saved, cured, or magically become healthy. It doesn’t work this way. Sometimes work, therapy, and even love is not enough to save a friendship, relationship with a family member, or a romantic relationship. This is particularly true if there is any abuse involved in your relationship. You only have so much time and energy. To save yourself a lot of stress and anxiety it is a wise decision to determine which relationships you wish to grow and which ones to mimimize or even let go.
3. How can I increase the odds of good things happening to me this year?
Okay so there are many life events we cannot predict no matter how hard we try. Bad things may happen this is true. But it is also true that good things can also occur. What can increase the odds in your favor is to take an active part in making the good stuff happen. For example, if you suffer from anxiety and/or depression you can take pro-active steps to prevent a relapse. You may find tons of tips on how to do this in my recent holiday post, The Twelve Days of Christmas: Anxiety and Depression Free.
4. What is most important in my life? What gives my life the most meaning?
It is my personal belief that knowing what your priorities are in life will help decrease stress and anxiety over all the little petty stuff. You may feel like you are drowning in all the little worries as they seem to snowball out of control. But here is how to stop that snowball from growing. You focus on what is really important to you. If it helps to write down your priorities-do so. I have a note card by my bedside that reminds me: Family, friends, and serving others. When I find myself devoting more time to trivial things than my life priorities I know it is time to turn myself around and readjust my perspective.
5. How do I want to spend my time and energy this year?
Answering the previous question helps a lot to also answer this question. If you know your priorities you can be more certain of how to spend your time and energy. An interesting exercise is to divide up a circle into segments of what you spend time and energy upon. You can include worrying in your pie chart. Divide the segments by percentages. For example, how much time do you estimate that you spend worrying about work? How much time do you spend worrying about the future? How much time do you spend being anxious over toxic people or relationships? Now compare these percentages to the actual time you spend on your life priorities. Are things out of balance? Then it is time for a change. I have a bedside note card to jar my memory on this topic as well. It reads: “I don’t have time for B.S. or people who give me B.S. I have better things to do.” It is entirely possible to waste one’s life away worrying, fussing, and ruminating over nonsense or nonsensical people. Stop. Switch gears. And focus on the important stuff.
What helps you to feel more at peace? Are there any questions you feel we need to add to this list? Are there things that you want to do differently this year in order to decrease your overall anxiety? Share your stories here. We would love to hear from you!
Published On: December 30, 2011