How To Take Anxiety out of Resolutions and How to Keep Them Past January
It’s a new year and with it comes the feeling of a fresh start or a time to reevaluate life, and who we are in it…
But for years that’s not how it was for me. For much of my life I suffered with anxiety, fear and overwhelm; and instead of the new year representing a fresh start or a time to create something beautiful, it just illuminated that the same fears and nervousness I’d been battling with for years was still there.
Still, I’d do my best to play along. I’d go out and get my brand new journal and begin the process of examining my life, writing down what I wanted to be rid of. For good measure, I’d follow it up with an ancient sacred ritual like the ones I’d read about in my spiritual magazines and books. I’d offer the old beliefs into the fire to represent my seriousness and commitment. Of course, that would work. It had to.
I was resolved not to allow myself to get stressed-out when life wasn’t going as planned. I was totally committed to never ever again worrying about being judged or not being good enough. I was clear that if I were to discover that I wasn’t invited to a friend’s party, I’d let it roll right off my back. And most certainly, I’d stop assuming people were mad at me if they left a social gathering without saying goodbye. I was 100% committed!
But by the end of January I’d be curled up in bed; anxious and worried that no one liked me. Why? Why didn’t my fire-burning ceremony work? Why, when I was so resolved did I find myself debilitated with fear, anxiety and self-doubt, again?
Through years of suffering and searching, I’ve discovered a few major flaws in my approach to resolutions, change and life overall.
The first mistake was in my focus. My goals were all fear based and aimed at getting rid of something rather than adding something good into my life. I’ve since learned that a much more inspiring approach to resolutions is to make them positive, specific and sustainable.
For example, instead of resolving never to feel left out, a more optimistic practice would be to ensure we have someone to talk to when we do feel isolated. It could be a sponsor, mentor, coach, teacher, relative or friend. I now have two people saved in my phone under favorites. They are loving life-lines when I need them most.
Another example would be, rather than committing to never getting stressed-out, develop a strategy to cope with life’s uncertainty. Commit to a morning journaling or meditation practice. Seek out a support group and participate.
The human mind and spirit responds better to addition rather than subtraction; in terms of goals it’s much more beneficial to give to ourselves than take away.
Another mistake was that my resolutions weren’t sustainable. I’d commit to never worrying about what others thought of me. Since that was my pattern for years, it wasn’t realistic to suddenly expect I’d never worry about that again.
Change is hard. But as the psychology of yoga emphasizes, if we commit to small, consistent and sustainable steps we will suffer less and have more fun along the way to our goals.
Yoga warns us that the early stages of change are the hardest. Many of us will give up and go back to our comfort zone because we can’t or won’t get past this clunky and mechanical stage of change. But as yoga promises, if we persist by taking small steps and to getting back up when we fall, we will find our way -- and have a beautiful adventure to celebrate!
And finally, a major flaw was that I was too focused on the outcome. I’ve learned it’s absolutely paramount to enjoy the journey, because that is where we live – in the moment.
Although goals and resolutions are necessary in our lives because they give us direction, so that every fork in the road doesn’t produce anxiety, or a become a time of deep confusion, they are not the point. The benefit of goals is that they help us define our lives and our values so we can live better in the now.
Without intentions and a held vision of those intentions, yoga reminds us we’re too easily pulled down by our tendencies.
The journey though is where the juice of life resides. Right here, right now. Life, like happiness, is not a destination or a place, it is a choice; it is an experience. Every moment we choose. We decide how we will travel on this journey.
If we were to drive from Florida to Seattle, we’d encounter tons of twists and turns. We might face some challenges like a flat tire or road closure. But we wouldn’t just turn around and go back home because in Seattle someone we loved and cherished was waiting for us. So, we’d adjust and assess and learn and somehow find a way to get to Seattle.
Life is change. We will all experience set-backs and failure. But if we were in a laboratory those mistakes would simply be called data. If instead we put our emphasis on growth and gratitude and the day-to-day blessings, the more easily we can embrace the moments, instead of resist them.
I have found the following questions to be extremely beneficial in helping me evaluate my own life and what I want to create and experience. I suggest grabbing a journal and a cup of tea. Sit back, relax, breathe and take time to reflect and your answers.
- What is most meaningful to me?
- What brings me joy?
- What do I most want to experience this year?
- What qualities do I love about someone I admire?
- How can I bring those qualities more into my daily life?
- What have I already learned about myself from set-backs?
- What are 2 actions I can take to practice self-care and self-love when I feel isolated, anxious or afraid?
- How can I meet challenge with curiosity instead of frustration?
- What am I grateful for and how can I express that gratitude even more this year?
Enjoy the journey! Happy New Year!
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