"2021 New Year ANXIETY & You"

By Jomel Bajar, PT,DPT,MS

Year 2020 was such a weird time for all of us. Therefore, needless to say, we try to be optimistic for 2021. This year, we hope that we can finally hug our friends safely, travel the world, and run around town, pandemic-free. We also have expectations and goals for ourselves just as we do every year. For some reason, maybe because of how rough 2020 was to us, we have a greater determination to make this year a good one. Since January 1, we are full of so much hope and excitement of what the following months would bring. In fact, we have been celebrating since the end of last year. However, there are also some of us who feel about the New Year and are experiencing the new year anxiety.

Every time we experience new beginnings just like a new year, we either feel excited about it or worried. For somebody who is experiencing New Year’s anxiety, it can mean the end of the world for them. It can also mean another year of no progress and more coronavirus. Our new year’s anxiety can make us believe in the worst-case scenario, and trick our brain into thinking that we would not be able to live up to our new year expectations. As a result, we pressure ourselves into accomplishing unrealistic goals and timetables in order to have some sort of control. Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, doing this does not make us on top of things. Instead, it just demotivates us and forces us into burnout. Putting ourselves in the middle of overwhelming goals does not guarantee anything. The truth is; nothing is in our control. The only thing that we do have control over is the way we react to situations.

Almost all of us at a young age, we were trained at home and at school to dream BIG. Moreover, as we grow up, we see how our society encourages us to live BIG. This mindset translates when we are doing our goals. People always say that we should think BIG. As a result, it influences the goals that we set for ourselves as well. It also inspires us to strive for the BIG things like fame and money. The thing is, bigger does not always guarantee better. Every year, we are so caught up with the New Year’s resolutions that we forget what it is really about. New Year’s resolutions are not about having the most ambitious goals, but are about self-improvement. Instead of following somebody’s idea of a good goal, we should listen to our own needs and act from there. We are all different. It is only natural that the things that we want for ourselves are also different.

Our personal goals should be based on our personal wants and needs. A slimmer body or a richer bank account may be on everyone’s list, but it’s okay to acknowledge that we want different goals for ourselves. Following somebody else’s idea of goals is already a failed set-up waiting to happen. We would be more motivated to progress if we choose goals that we really want for ourselves. With that said, it is perfectly okay if we prefer smaller, but sustainable & manageable goals versus big ambitious ones. Small manageable goals are much easier to achieve and less overwhelming. Saying that we prefer small manageable goals is not saying that big ambitious goals are bad. In fact, not at all. Dreaming big keeps us going and gives us something to look forward to. Nevertheless, this is just saying, that we are allowed to take things at our own pace and take things by the day. At the end of the day, we all have our own idea of progress and success. It is up to us how we should design our way into it.

In designing our way into progress, it is also important to know the importance of establishing healthy boundaries. We all know New Year’s Day as a time for hope and new beginnings. However, deep inside, we know that it is also a time where our insecurities come to life. It is also a time where we realize that we have let another year go by. Due to the fear that we would not improve, we take on more than what we can handle. Establishing healthy boundaries prevents us from making this mistake. Healthy boundaries reminds us of our limitations. At the same time, it makes us aware of the qualities that we have that we still need to improve on. As a result, it helps us save our energy and set our focus on the goals that we want to achieve. Setting healthy boundaries does not only prevent us from setting overwhelming goals but in a way, it also helps us create and shape the life that we want.

Another possible reason why we feel anxious about going into the New Year is that we still have unresolved resolutions. When we reflect on the goals that we were not able to fulfill, we instantly feel guilt and regret for not being able to fulfill them. We also beat ourselves emotionally for procrastinating. This is the main reason why it is very important to set goals that motivates us. We are more likely to take action if our goals inspires us. When we choose goals that we are really passionate about, achieving goals does not feel like a chore but more like an exciting challenge. At times, we not only procrastinate because of our laziness. We also procrastinate because of our fears. We put off checking things out of our New Year’s resolutions because we fear how the outcome would affect us. Instead of hiding behind the fear of disappointment and change, we must be open to the possibility of it. No matter how hard we try to control it, change is inevitable. The more we embrace change, the more we would be in a healthier state of mind. No longer are we going to wonder about the things that we should have done or the things we still could do. Instead, we learn to focus on the things that is important and meaningful to us.

Stress affects everything we do in life. It can affect how we feel about things like movies, or activities that we usually feel excited about. It can also make us a bit of a pessimist, and an overall negative person. Stress can also worsen our New Year’s anxiety. Our New Year’s anxiety is something that we cannot avoid or remove completely with a click of a button. However, we do have the power to manage it, which we can do through self-care. Self-care is more than a day at the spa. It is about providing what our mind, body and spirit needs. If we would start taking care of ourselves like getting enough sleep and eating right, our body will be more able to withstand all the stress that life throws at us. At the same time, it can influence our mood and our perspective in life positively. So, instead of thinking immediately about the things that we want to achieve this year, how about we think first about what our body needs.

Being peaceful with New Year’s anxiety is easier said than done, but we can manage it. If we take the time to provide what our body needs, and learn about what triggers our new year’s anxiety, we would be able to handle our New Year’s anxiety better. Healthy goal setting is also an important factor in managing our new year’s anxiety. Remember, it is not always about the BIG things, but what’s more important is providing what our soul and body needs. It is also not shameful to get help if we need it. If there is one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it is that nothing is in our control. So, instead of letting the bad days of our past scare us from living our life, let us live with what we have today. Our year would be so much peaceful if we are in constantly mindful of being grateful.