Guiding Words vs. New Year’s Resolutions
Just as I was finally starting to believe I had survived the holiday season relatively unscathed—only the usual garden-variety anxiety with a smattering of depression—New Year’s Day rolls around, and my anxiety spikes.
Why? Because January 1 is judgment day. It’s the day I am supposed to promise myself in writing what I will accomplish, relinquish and overcome for the next 364+ days. Talk about pressure.
But that’s what New Year’s resolutions are all about, no? Every year, I write down a few resolutions, which are usually pretty similar to the ones from the year before, and every year I systematically break them—usually by January 5th.
So, I start off the new year as a complete failure, having been unable to keep even a few promises I’ve made to myself. Once again, I prove that I am untrustworthy with my own goals and that—oh well, I guess I’ll have to wait until next year in order to take better care of myself or organize my closets.
As I contemplate this year’s list (last year’s with the date crossed out), I suddenly realize that, as our dear friend Rebecca would say, “That sh*t ain’t right!” This whole resolution thing is an artificial construct which works for about 10% of the very disciplined, goal-driven population. We’re talking about the marathoners, the Paleo crowd, anyone who must wear a FitBit to track everything. For the rest of us—especially those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression—it is a gigantic, albeit alluring, trap.
Here’s the thing: change can happen at any moment of our lives. We don’t need to be given a clean slate on a particular day in order to make meaningful plans. Our very calendar-driven culture, however, spends countless advertising dollars on “make this year your best ever” messages so it feels imperative that we evaluate our lives and make concrete, deliverable plans on January 1st.
As Anxiety Sisters, we know that we will often be dealing with circumstances outside our control (brain illness is tricky); this unpredictability not only creates anxiety, but also throws a huge wrench at any efforts to attain measurable, time-bound goals.
My inner rebel has decided to say “No” to resolutions for 2018. This year, I am going to be guided by words rather than by rules and prohibitions which will trigger all sorts of anxiety and angst (and which will set me up for failure). My words for this year are “practice” and “superpowers,” and I intend to use these as reminders and mantras to help me handle whatever challenges this year throws my way. “Superpowers” will help me recall my strengths (which I always forget I have) and encourage me to use them in dealing with challenges and problems (including the ones I’m always trying to fix through resolutions).
“Practice” is my other word because I need to remember that change is non-linear. Practice means a slow and sometimes difficult way forward. Practice is not perfection—it is progress, and that’s what I’m after this year.
What both these guiding words have in common is an inability break them or fail at them or otherwise screw up. They are there to help me and support me—not make me feel less-than. Already, I am feeling less anxious and more hopeful about the new year.
What are your words for 2018?