You Don’t Need to Start Something New in January

fresh start in the new year

The New Year can bring about a sea of emotions: excitement, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, overwhelm, and shame.

On the one hand, new beginnings can give the illusion of having a blank slate. Talkspace therapist Joanna Filidor, LMFT, finds that January is a time when many people are motivated to create change. On the other hand, January can also feel stressful because people may feel pressured to set big, elaborate goals or are stuck dwelling on the goals they weren’t able to accomplish the year before.

Personally, I usually find myself in both camps — feeling both down about not hitting a home run on everything I wanted to accomplish the previous year and also inspired to reconnect with my bigger mission and vision and press refresh on my goals for the year ahead.

If you’re feeling pulled into the stress camp, here are four tips and mantras to help you step into January with a greater sense of ease.

1. Slow Down

It often feels like January is the only time to make a change or start something new. In fact, as Filidor points out, the health and wellness industry specifically reinforces this narrative as a way to encourage people to buy more during this time of year. But, as she said, “the reality is goal-setting can and should happen throughout the year as most goals require short and long term components to achieve.”

As someone who constantly feels like there are never enough hours in the day, days in the week, and weeks in the year, I have to intentionally slow down and remind myself that there is enough time to get done what I need to get done. While prioritizing what’s important is key, taking time to nurture your mind-body-spirit is just as important. It is counter-productive to try to accomplish your goals if you are exhausted.

Mantra: There is enough time.

2. Watch Out for Comparisonitis

I struggle every single day with “comparisonitis.” Sometimes it’s just a little itch of wanting something to be different in my life — for example, more newsletter subscribers — and other times I feel consumed with envy — for example, seeing a friend buy a house that’s completely outside of my budget. Especially with social media, it can be hard to stay compassionate with yourself and your own individual journey when you are surrounded by everyone else’s perceived successes. Remind yourself, social media rarely shows other’s struggles, only their successes.

According to Filidor, a great way to remember not to compare yourself with others is to remind yourself that everyone struggles with change and creating new habits. While it’s normal to fall into old habits or behaviors when you feel anxious or insecure, Filidor finds that as long as you can pull yourself back up, you can keep moving forward.

Mantra: Everyone is on their own journey.

3. Pause And Reflect

In this era of information overload, it can be easy to think that if you have the latest technology, find the perfect partner, or land the perfect job, you will assuredly be happy. I call this “shiny object syndrome.” Filidor said this phenomenon can also be the result of our “immediate gratification” culture, the idea that a person needs to have something now and is unable to wait to get it. “When we engage in immediate gratification,” she explained, “we avoid slowing down to make an educated decision about a particular purchase, relationship, job, etc.”

Instead, when you feel the impulse to go after the “shiny object,” Filidor recommends taking a moment to pause, breathe, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want this particular item/relationship/job/etc.?
  • What am I getting by doing this now?
  • Can it wait?
  • What are the pros and cons of getting this particular item/relationship/job/etc.?

By allowing yourself time to pause and reflect, you will be able to make a decision from a more grounded place.

Mantra: I am enough.

4. Enjoy The Present Moment

I have a hard time balancing the desire to achieve my goals and simply enjoying the present moment. If I’m not careful, I’ll race from one goal to the next without resting, celebrating, or checking in with myself about whether I’m even aligned with this goal anymore. But, by meditating regularly, I consciously practice appreciating and accepting whatever life stage I am in without judging or attempting to change it.

Filidor finds both the practice of mindfulness and gratitude to be helpful to avoid getting overly focused on your goals and instead enjoying “what is.” As she explained, “mindfulness is a practice that reminds us to slow down and stay connected to the here and now.” So, when you feel the urge to seek out the next, next best thing, Filidor recommends taking a second to notice what is around you and become aware of what you do have instead.

Mantra: I am grateful for what is going well in my life.

I get swept up in the heat of January goal-setting as much as the next person. However, I find it’s important to give yourself space to pause, reflect, and assess whether your goals are still aligned so you can move forward from a place of authenticity. Perhaps instead of jumping into the fire of New Year’s resolutions this year, you’ll join me in taking a moment to celebrate all that you have accomplished this year just by being you.

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