We are entering yet another new year with new intentions, fears, and expectations. Perhaps we’re carrying some baggage from the pains of last year too. Wherever you find yourself this season, consider taking a moment to look back and reflect. To look forward and plan. And to name where you are right now, so you can discern your next right step with courage. If you feel anxious or discouraged as we enter a new season, a new chapter of this crazy story we call our lives, may the words to follow be a gentle companion in navigating the change. Here are two ways to alleviate anxiety this new year.
- Be Kind. I often remind myself of this, but we tend to be our biggest critics. Maybe things look different this year. You may be in a new stage of life, surrounded by a new community of people. Maybe you recently got married or had your first child or started a new job. Or perhaps you’re recently widowed, divorced or were given a new diagnosis. Whatever the newness is, consider being kind to yourself this new year as you navigate the change.
It could be that nothing on the outside has changed at all, but there has been an internal shift. You have new interests, ideas, passions, or desires. May you hold them all in the presence of God and be gentle as you discern what it all means. Because even though others may not see the change, you do. It affects you. Sometimes the internal work can be more difficult, but it leads to growth and renewal.
Next time you want to pull your hair out, scream at your kids or cry in the middle of your kitchen floor because something just seems off, ask yourself, what’s new? What has changed inside and around me, and what affect has it had on my feelings and actions? Be patient with yourself, and be patient with those around you, because they don’t understand it either. Take a walk, take a shower, or eat a meal. Take care of your body and allow your mind to rest.
- Be Present. As we reflect on the past year and look ahead to the one before us, we may balance a sense of anticipation and sadness. I’ve heard it said that dwelling in the past leads to depression and focusing on the future leads to anxiety. Looking back allows us to reflect, but if we stay there too long, we may yearn for what was, leaving us discontent with what is. Looking ahead helps us plan and prepare so long as we don’t get wrapped up in all the details because there is so much room for things to change.
One timeless practice that can ease the never-ending thoughts and memories swirling around in our brains is mindfulness. By mindfulness I mean the simple practice of becoming more aware of the present moment. Because when I think about all the to-dos, that conversation that went terribly wrong, and all my worries, I miss what’s happening right in front of me. I miss quality time and meaningful connection with the people that matter most.
Next time your mind feels overwhelmed, consider this practice of mindfulness. Focus on your breath. Notice the rise and fall. You may even repeat a few words to yourself. Think of the words as a blessing or a mantra to carry you through your day. Maybe it sounds like this:
May you be safe.
May you be gentle with your body.
May your mind be at ease.
May your heart be at peace.
Anxiety can lead us to a place of loneliness because we convince ourselves that no one understands and there is no way out. I think of our teens in what seems to be a never-ending season of transition, change and adapting to new ways of thinking, studying, and connecting. Nothing feels safe which can leave behind a feeling of helplessness, and quite often hopelessness is not too far behind. Which leads me to a special announcement.
Brave is returning this January.
Brave is a group Heritage offers that addresses anxiety among kids and teens. It provides an opportunity for young people to learn coping skills through interactive activities and process their emotions and fears among their peers.
Brave will meet on Saturdays at 2:15pm, and we are kicking off this year on January 15th!
If you are interested in learning more about Brave for your child, teen, or student, click here for more information. You can also fill out an interest form or call Heritage at 815-577-8970, and one of our therapists would be happy to connect with you!