From Christmas dinners to New Year’s fireworks, the year-end is considered the world’s ultimate festive break.
But despite all the caroling and cheering, many of us also experience a looming sense of anxiety. This heaviness creeps in as we finally have time to reflect on the past year while making hefty plans for the new one.
You may also feel stressed and anxious because your holiday plans look different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regardless, it’s okay to acknowledge that this time of the year isn’t the easiest for you. To help us ease the year-end glum, let’s better understand why it occurs. Then, we can take practical steps to help us end the year on a lighter and more enjoyable note.
Reasons behind your end of year anxiety
Between stressful end-of-year deadlines, changes in eating and drinking habits, and “New Year, New Me” messages blaring around the media, it’s easy for the holiday season to feel not-so-merry and bright. Here are a couple of reasons why your anxiety has probably heightened as we close off another big year:
1. You feel like you didn’t accomplish anything this year
People tend to experience feelings of regret and failure as they reflect on the past twelve months. Perhaps you frown upon yourself for not achieving the resolutions you set at the beginning of the year. More so as the pandemic has created more friction and setbacks, preventing us from hitting certain milestones. These feelings may even exacerbate as we’re constantly bombarded with everyone else’s celebration reel on social media.
2. Your new year’s resolutions overwhelm you
Excited to spearhead into a fresh new year, you’ve perhaps set yourself an extensive resolution list. However, the excitement quickly wears off and you begin to feel an impending burden because there’s just so much work to do to reach those goals. This creates a lack of emotional engagement with our goals and a loss of motivation. All of which can leave us with a sense of defeat and hopelessness.
3. You’re burnt out from the past year
With less than a month left of what has been yet another challenging year, it is expected that even the most hard-working of us are physically and mentally exhausted. End-of-year burnout is a common fatigue that manifests itself towards the end of the year. It is a direct result of being overworked and stressed and can leave us feeling anxious and restless.
Tips to manage end of year anxiety
Upon acknowledging the reasons behind our year-end anxiety, it’s no wonder why the holidays often present a dizzying array of confusing emotions. But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress and anxiety that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more and have a smoother transition into the new year.
1. Acknowledge but avoid rumination
It’s natural to take inventory of where you’ve been and what you’ve done as the year wraps up. But for many of us, we somehow feel that no matter what you’ve accomplished this year, it’s never enough.
Hence, if you find yourself ruminating in regret or shame, it can be a good idea to take a step back and examine your patterns of thought. You can do so with a therapist or through a journaling practice. The key is to be mindful of negative thinking cycles and focus on the small positive steps.
2. Go light on resolutions
The pressure around self-improvement nearing the New Year can make the year-end really stressful. While self-improvement is an admirable goal, genuine and sustainable change comes with being realistic. And when it comes to leading a genuinely happy life, self-compassion is far more important than self-punishment.
So rather than bringing your hefty resolution list into the new year, focus on small and actionable commitments. For example, rather than resolving to lose thirty pounds and punishing yourself when you eat a slice of cake, explore mindful eating or join an exercise class that you enjoy.
3. Rest, relax, and be present
Instead of ruminating on the past and worrying about the future, take advantage of the year-end break to truly rest and relax. This requires being present and spending each moment without the push of yesterday and the pull of tomorrow.
Find something you enjoy that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring inner calm. Calming the brain’s stress response is critical to the clarity of thought and emotional regulation. All of which does wonders in easing our fight or flight systems and reducing anxiety.
Don't let the year-end become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and anxiety that can descend during this time of the year.
Learn to recognize your anxiety triggers, such as financial pressures or personal expectations, so you can address them before you tumble down. With realistic planning and some positive thinking, you can definitely find peace and joy during the holidays.
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