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New year, new goals, same old emotions

It’s January 10 as I sit at my laptop to write. I am thinking about three groups of people. The people out there who have diligently begun working towards their new year resolutions and goals. Those who had grand aspirations for how they want the year to go and have already found themselves feeling stagnant, slipping or unsure of how to proceed. And the final group never bothered to think through goals for the new year because maybe the thought of change seems too unattainable or riddled with disappointment.

I fit somewhere in the middle. I am not a big ‘new year resolution’ type of person as my inner sceptic doesn’t feel the start of the year is necessarily any better of a time to successfully pursue a goal. Personally, I am resistant to setting any large goals and prefer to seek balance instead of any dramatic shift in lifestyle. This is more to do with my personality type than anything else and is just what I have found works for me. One of my best friends on the other hand is a goal queen! She annually reflects on each quadrant of her life and diligently sets out realistic goals to pursue in each area. This keeps her growing and moving and is probably what maintains her ‘badass’ type lifestyle. Despite my resistance to new year’s resolutions, I do get excited and hopeful with the prospect of ‘new’ as a new year opens. I am often wondering what surprises the year may hold and how I can live more aligned with my values. I find it a helpful time to honestly reflect on the previous year and to make any needed adjustments (just don’t tell me it’s a resolution! ;)).

We are all different when a new year starts and ultimately that is okay. As a collective, we have also had a shocker past few years, so I understand the nervousness and scepticism a lot of people are experiencing as they step into 2023. 10 days is enough time for a lot of good or a lot of ‘hard’ to take place. My thoughts are with those whose 2023 has already taken a turn away from what they expected.

This might sound depressing but one thing I have learnt in 2022 is that there is a lot in life that we have no control over. Anxiety is often our response when we are trying to control something that we cannot. As a society the rates of anxiety have skyrocketed in recent years. This tells us that as humans we like to have a sense of control over our lives. And as 2023 unfolds you are likely to be reminded that you lack control in some way or another, and this has the potential to increase anxious feelings and cause you to doubt those well-planned aspirations for the year!

So instead of abandoning your resolutions, hopes and dreams for 2023 after experiencing a setback, I want to encourage you to reflect on how you can support yourself through the anxiety and disappointment that might accompany it. Maybe this is something you can do differently this year? Disappointments and anxiety will inevitably happen, but how we manage these incredibly painful, yet human feelings can determine our overall wellbeing and allow us to keep progressing towards our goals. Instead of making limiting choices in order to avoid these feelings, let’s learn how to work through these emotions so they don’t need to control us. Here are a few steps that could be helpful when these emotions surface and please seek the support of a health professional if needed.

  • Firstly, I want you to notice when these emotions surface. Often we ignore or avoid these feelings for a long time before we slow down enough to recognise the emotion that is lingering. Practice labelling “I notice that I am feeling disappointed” or “I can feel my anxiety increasing”, “I’m feeling sad”.

  • Secondly, I want you to normalise the emotion by stating it is normal and natural to feel it. Allowing yourself space to feel an emotion is a healthy part of being human.

  • Thirdly, remind yourself that this emotion will pass and that it is simply communicating something to you.

  • Finally, reflect on what you need to be kind to yourself in the moment. If you are feeling sad, it might be getting cosy on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book, if you are anxious you might want to do some yoga or mindfulness, if you are disappointed you might need to have a cry and debrief with a good friend. Listen to your body.

Remember it is the norm to have these feelings and not the other way around. You are not doing anything wrong. So, when you have your first bout of anxiety or disappointment for the year, let’s look at what is in our control. Let’s practice acknowledging our emotions and helping ourselves through it so we can pick ourselves back up and keep kicking those 2023 goals and aspirations!

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