Monday, 15 January 2018

New Year Anxiety

We’re two weeks into 2018 now – the excitement of Christmas is long gone and the positivity and motivation of a fresh new year lasted about two days before we started feeling flat again. I don’t know about you, but it’s around now that I start to get New Year anxiety. Sure, in the first few days of a new year I feel that pressure that ‘this year is going to be MY YEAR!’ But in that first week, I actually believe that! But now, that positivity and excitement has turned into anxiety and I’m feeling pretty wobbly about the prospect of having to make it through another 351 days. So I thought I would share a few little tips that I use to ease that anxiety and help myself manage that overwhelming expectation of making it a year to remember (for all the right reasons!) 

Take it a day at a time

I think this is the biggest tip I turn to whenever I’m having trouble with my mental health, and it’s something I would recommend time and time again. The worst thing you can do when you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the future is to look too far ahead. When your brain is doing somersaults wondering how you can possibly get through to December, fit in all the necessities and do all those amazing things that everyone else is doing (they’re not, but you think they are!) it can often feel like you’re running out of time before you’ve even started. Either that, or it can feel like you’re looking out at an expanse of desert that goes on and on and you wonder how on earth you’re going to reach the end when there’s so far to travel. Obviously some things need to be planned in advance, like hospital appointments, work commitments etc, but as long as those are in the diary when you need them to be, I find it a lot easier to just get through one day at a time. Generally on a Sunday I will look at my week ahead, just so I’ve got an idea of anything that’s coming up, but after that I will just think about my Monday. What things do I need to do – do I have any appointments or deadlines that have to be met? And what things would I like to do? If I’ve got a completely free day, I like to try and plan something, even if it’s just small, so that I have a reason to wake up in the morning. Doing things this way makes me feel much less anxious and much more in control of my ability to keep going.

Make mini goals not huge resolutions

Especially at this time of year, it’s really easy to set yourself big resolutions like eating more healthily, exercising more or being tidy. There’s nothing wrong with resolutions like these if you feel able to keep to them, but for a lot of people setting goals this big just ends in feeling like a failure after two weeks. It certainly does for me! I find it much better to set myself smaller, more achievable goals either daily or weekly. They can be as tiny as going to bed before midnight or eating one piece of fruit a day, but usually I will only set a week’s worth of these little goals because I’m more likely to keep to them and therefore end up feeling better. I like to use things like a weekly planner or post-it notes like these where you’re able to make daily to-do lists – I do much better when I have tasks written down in front of me, and there’s no better feeling than being able to tick things off (does anyone else ever make a list of things they’ve already done, just so they can tick them off?!) I think it’s also important to try and make your goals positive ones as well. It’s all very well writing a list of things you don’t want to do or can’t do any more (Don’t go to bed late, don’t eat junk food etc.) but how rubbish does it feel having to follow all these instructions not to do the things you actually want to do!? So I try to reframe them and turn them into a more positive goal – instead of saying ‘Don’t go to bed late,’ why not say ‘Go to bed earlier so I can read my book for half an hour?’ Instantly it feels more appealing – one, because you don’t feel like you’re being told off every time you read it, and two, because you’ve given yourself a positive reason to go to bed earlier. Just little things like this can really help with sticking to your goals.

Factor in self-care

When you’re setting yourself goals, it can be easy to forget looking after yourself. And especially when you’re feeling anxious about getting through a whole year and making it the best year possible, you can become so busy trying to cram everything in that self-care doesn’t even factor in your day-to-day life. I feel a little bit hypocritical talking about self-care, because it’s something I still struggle a lot with. But at the same time, I’m beginning to understand how important it is. I used to believe anything to do with self-care was just self-indulgent and a waste of precious time and energy. But actually, now that I’ve started to make a bit more time for it, I realise that it actually puts me in a better place for everything else I do. I’ve seen what happens to people who focus solely on everyone else and neglect themselves – they’ve become run down to the point they can’t help anyone. So it’s really important to make a bit of time for yourself regularly and look after your needs as well. When you say self-care, people often think of painting your nails or going for a massage. And while these things are most definitely self-care, it can also be more every day things like making sure you eat three meals a day or ensuring you get a decent night’s sleep. Anxiety can feel so much worse when you’re feeling burnt out, so looking after yourself as well as those you love can really help you to address the year feeling a little more equipped.

Reflect on the good things from last year

When you’re looking at a whole year ahead of you with anxious anticipation, I find it can really help to look back on the year that’s just finished and remember the good times from then. One way that I like to do this is by looking back through my photos, mainly because the majority of my photos are of nice, happy moments that I don’t want to forget. If I just reflect back on the year, I will often go straight to the bad times – my mental health crisis, being in hospital… But if I look at my photos, I realise there were so many good things, little things, that got me through those difficult times. And remembering all of those good things help me to believe that, even if 2018 isn’t ‘The best year of my life,’ and even if I have some really difficult times, I can still get through it and there will still be light in the darkness. Because I find photos so powerful, one of my goals for this year is to get a lot more of my photos printed off and put some time in to starting a Project Life album. Ideally, I want to have an album for each year – that way I have something physical that I can look back on whenever I’m feeling doubtful about how I will manage to get through another year.

Plan some things to look forward to

I think it can be really difficult to look at a year ahead and feel like you have nothing to look forward to. Now, I know my earlier point talked about taking things one day at a time, but I do think there is an exception to that tip and that is planning some things to look forward to. Depending on how you best like to manage your time, you can either do this for the whole year or just do it for a week at a time. I tend to sit in the middle though. I like to try and have a few bigger things set up throughout the year to look forward to – so things like a holiday, perhaps a few days out, visiting friends that don’t live near-by. But then I will also look a couple of weeks/a month at a time and plan some smaller things to keep me going. So, if I look at my calendar on a Monday and see I have a quiet day on the Friday, I might see if my Mum fancies going for a coffee or if my sister-in-law is free so I can go and visit her and my new nephew. Plans don’t have to involve other people either – sometimes I might just plan a film or TV programme I would like to watch, or put a morning aside to write a couple of penpal letters. But knowing I have these little treats to work towards helps me to get through the days that perhaps aren’t so fun.

Use something like a Happiness Planner

If you’re not a planner person, then this last tip probably won’t be your kind of thing. But, if like me, you’re a bit obsessed with planning and journaling, you’re going to love using something like the Happiness Planner. This is just an example, as there are so many planners and journals out there to choose from depending on what sort of thing you want to record. But I find it really helpful to have a place where I can just do a bit of a brain dump – whether it’s a blank page notebook that I can just write essays in, or this Happiness Planner, which asks you all kinds of questions to help you get a better idea of what makes you happy (and sad) and how you can plan around this. If you love this kind of thing and are looking for a journal or planner to try out, I found so many options simply by typing in ‘journal’ or ‘planner’ into the search bar on Amazon. As well as helping you gather your thoughts together, these can also be a great distraction when those anxious thoughts take over.

I hope these little tips will help if you’re struggling with New Year anxiety, but I think it’s important for me to acknowledge the fact that this doesn’t have to be ‘your year’ or ‘the best year ever!’ There’s so much pressure, especially when you look at social media, for everyone to be doing amazing things and living their best lives, but sometimes simply getting out of bed and getting dressed is enough. Chances are, most of the people you see posting amazing photos on Instagram have pretty dull lives, just like the rest of us!

How do you cope with New Year anxiety? I’d love you to share your tips for managing anxiety and getting through another year


  1. I am LOVING that Happiness Planner, I definitely need one myself!

    1. Ah you should definitely treat yourself to one! They have different colours and a few different designs etc :) xx