• Alexa Scher

It’s the new year, aren’t I supposed to be [insert motivational quote here]?

While the concept of a new year being a fresh start with all the previous year’s challenges behind you is appealing, unfortunately life doesn’t work this way. No quote could describe this more aptly than:

“The new year arrives, which of course never means as much as you hope unless you happen to sell calendars”

- Fredrik Backman, Anxious People

The point is, even though it’s a new year, you’re still the same self you were a matter of weeks ago. Yet despite this fact, many suddenly expect a lot more from themselves in various areas of their lives, escalating their stress and anxiety, instead of leaving them with the motivation needed to meet all these ambitious expectations.

The narrative of needing to re-establish routines to be your healthiest best self at the start of the year has been internalised for years, but is this actually realistic for the majority of people? I think not. Especially as we enter our third year of a global pandemic.

It’s not easy letting go of such appealing goals, but it’s helpful to realise that the more you pressure yourself to meet unrealistic expectations, the more stressed you become; and the more stressed you become, the further away you get from meeting the expectations. Which can result in becoming stuck in a cycle of stress, which is extremely de-motivating.

So… how should you be managing this?

1. Acknowledge that just because it’s a new year, this doesn’t mean you have to be where you aren’t. While many take leave in December, the two or three weeks often aren’t enough to magically rejuvenate you. Especially not after a very challenging year.

2. Take a moment to breathe. If your tank is running on empty, try giving yourself a bit of a break, instead of pushing your foot down harder on the accelerator.

3. Take a moment to notice how you’re doing, instead of just focusing on the whole year ahead and all your goals and expectations.

4. If you’re not okay, try not judge yourself! If you do, you’re

a. Judging yourself for something you can’t control. If you could control how you felt, of course you’d never feel difficult feelings.

b. Adding extra difficult feelings into the mix, like guilt, shame and frustration. Which isn’t helpful.

5. Try being patient, kind and compassionate with yourself, in the same way that you probably are with others when they’re not okay.

6. Identify what you’re expecting from yourself and ask if it’s realistic, considering where you’re at, or if perhaps you need to shift it to an expectation that’s more achievable? This doesn’t mean letting go entirely of your goals, you’re just breaking them up into steps, which if reached, increases your motivation to keep going.

7. Ask for support – especially if some expectations can’t be shifted. It’s not always possible to manage on our own, so if you’re struggling, reach out to a friend, a colleague, a family member, a counselor and/or a therapist!

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