You want to minimize your anxiety as you head into another year? Same, girl, same.
I’ve always loved holidays, especially near the end of the year. As much as I’ve grown to dislike winter, there’s something so cozy and promising about Christmastime. I love buying gifts for others, and of course it’s fun to unwrap gifts myself. The bright, festive lights go up and the fuzzy Christmas songs play 24/7. There’s an alluring distraction to holiday preparations, as stressful as it can be to run around like a headless chicken buying gifts for friends and family. I really do love the holidays. However, I was surprised to note that I was starting to get quite anxious in the days leading up to Christmas.
For some reason, in my mind, I skipped Christmas altogether and was already dreading the days after that and New Year’s. I began to think, “The fun distractions will stop and normal life will resume,” and I realized that the beginning of the new year was always fraught with obligations and responsibilities. My dog goes for his annual checkup in January, which always worries me with his advanced age; tax season looms like a shadow around the corner despite the April deadline; and we plummet into the darkest depths of winter, when, sure, the days get longer but the weather gets depressingly frigid and the season feels never-ending. There are some added stresses to this coming January for me, like an important deadline and all the normal stresses that have merely been put on pause during the holidays. It made me realize… wow, things really do get less fun as I grow older, yet I weirdly correlate that in my mind to becoming an adult.
Either way, this time can be quite stressful for people. I feel the anxiety returning, seeping back into my life like how snow gets into your boots to drench your socks. I thought to myself, “Hey, it’s finally time to write this darn blog post since it’s been sitting in my drafts for like…a month.”
I initially thought of this life tweak and blog post a few months back in another crazy moment in life when I faced a great opportunity. As it was such a new experience, the primary emotion was anxiety. However, close behind that was excitement, and I decided that I would try to latch onto and focus on that emotion instead–it was positive, it was hopeful, it was much better for my nerves. And then I decided that’s what I would try to do whenever I felt anxiety–replace it with excitement.
In a way, the two emotions are closely related; it’s just that anxiety is full of negativity (fearing the worst will happen, thinking of all possible negative consequences) while excitement is positivity (looking forward to what will happen in the belief it will be something good). Just shut off that negativity valve and let the positivity flow through instead. Bam! The switch is on from anxiety to excitement.
Of course this sounds way simpler than it actually is. Let’s be real; I’m being quite quixotic here. If this were easy, no one would be anxious, at least after reading this post, but nothing in life is easy. I still struggle with this. I wonder, “How can I be excited instead of anxious about this?” but it goes with the advice, “Think what if something great will happen!” People tend to think, “What if these completely irrational yet irritatingly possible things happen instead?” Honestly, there’s no way to tell the future. It can be good or it can be bad, but why, if both are equally unreal at the present moment, choose to focus on the one that will ultimately stress you out more and give you more harm?
The only moment you reside in is the now. Neither scenario exists at this very present time. Anything that will happen or has happened no longer exists, so why choose to be upset right now? Of course, that begs the question why choose to be excited now, as well, when the positive scenario is just as fictional, but when it’s hard to maintain that stillness and mindfulness Eckhart Tolle talks about in his book, The Power of Now, I say just choose excitement! Choose the positive one!
You know how it’s easier to replace a bad habit with a good one? This is the same thing. The habit woven into your life, regardless of how it got there in the first place, is thinking in anxiety. How can you minimize your anxiety? Replace it with excitement.
Ultimately, and perhaps too simplistically, it is a choice. Of course anxiety is not something you may choose–at first–but if you let yourself dwell on it because of its comforting presence (an ego that, if were to disappear, would throw you into an identity crisis), you are choosing to remain in it. The act of doing is to choose something different.
I’m still working on it, but maybe we can work on it together. Christmas has indeed ended and New Year’s is around the corner, but I find myself bundled up in anxiety or numbness, alternating between either or, while still peeking around the corner for that glimmer of hope that is supposed to come with the promise of a fresh start.
Right now, I’m sinking into anxiety even as I’m writing this post, but that active reminder from my brain (“Be excited, Annie! You’re not expecting anything good right now but be excited anyway!”) helps, at least a little bit, to lift that fog.
I hope you all had a happy holiday and are ready for the New Year with your goals, plans, and resolutions. If you need help, turn back to one of my favorite blog posts on creating such resolutions, and remember, be excited!