Helpful Ways to Work Through The “Funk” And Ease Into A New Year
I tend to find the end of the year a bit difficult. I have a feeling I’m not alone here.
There are so many positive things (which I love) – but it’s all a bit bipolar, isn’t it? Not only do we face let-down from the tremendous rollercoaster-build of excitement that is the Holidays (and for many of us now, just the Holidays alone can bring on an influx of emotional confusion…), with the start of each new year, we are presented with a built-in chance to renew, a chance to “start fresh”.
Sure, on the outside this sounds great. And I’m all about self-reflection.
Still, somehow I’m in a funk.
Why do I feel as though I’m swimming through a pool of uncertainty, feeling all sorts of vague and ambiguous, every. single. New Year’s Eve? This morning I went for a lap around our block (my attempt to clear away the blah and feel some measure of productivity) and as I huffed around the second bend, I realized what was bothering me.
That’s just it.
Had I really achieved everything I wanted to this year? Did I grow? Had I improved…at all?
Quickly, I realized the dangerous trap that is the “New Year”.
I think for many of us (though it is presented as a chance to start again, to be better, a clean slate) – what hides beneath the turning year is the real question of whether or not we progressed. Whether or not we measure up. It’s a built-in mechanism that sort of forces us to mark and measure our own progress.
This got me thinking, perhaps the real issue is this: just how DO we measure our own progress? What are the standards? If we don’t know, well, this definitely seems like a fast road down to uncertainty-town.
I started to think back, what had I done this past year? What was I proud of? How was I different than at this very time last year? Could I even remember?? These questions served as a jumping off point, but I needed a more well-defined path of thinking or I would easily spiral out into a slurry of thoughts from this past year…things that I thought I wanted, things I hadn’t yet accomplished, things I think I still want to tackle – but where did I go wrong, and how can I get there…which shortcomings to focus on first…
During Hudson’s nap I sat down to make a to-do list. Even if just for the upcoming afternoon, a quick list of the immediate tasks that needed tending to always helped me to organize my thoughts, gain control and prioritize. Step 1.
Once I had my list, I set it down on the side-table next to our brown, tufted arm-chair, and I let it be.
Next, I started to do a little research. Step 2.
I spent a little time catching up on one of my current favorite sites, Wit & Delight. This got me going.
Here are a few things I found really helpful…
I read a post by Virali Dave outlining the practice she does with each New Year to ease into the year, begin on a positive note. Rather than setting resolutions (which tend to feel negative, constricting and limiting), Dave makes a list in two columns; on one side she lists things that she’d like to leave in 2019, and in the other column she lists things she’d like to carry with her over into the next year. I really appreciated this shift in perspective – moving away from the rigidity of resolutions, and instead simply identifying what you’d like to continue featuring, and what is OK to leave behind…because it no longer serves you.
I worked through the exercise on my own sheet of paper, but added a 3rd column titled “things I’d like to do more of in 2020″…because it felt appropriate. This, I thought, would aid me in fostering a gentler growth mindset and keep me within the realm of things that bring me all the good feelings.
Next I stumbled upon a blog post by TSH Oxenreider for The Art of Simple. If you are someone who likes prompts, or needs a little boost to kick-start reflection of the previous year – this is a great activity. The author compiles 20 simple questions to ask yourself at the close of the year, each with the intention of promoting review and reflection in multiple areas of life and well-being. This fun questionnaire is a great way to help us tune in; it allows for a deep, more internal reflection over a broader range, and will certainly inform us as we sit to write our 2 or 3-column list (discussed above). Step 3.
Over on themuse.com I found a lovely list of ways to beat the “New Year’s Blues” by Adrian Granzella Larssen. In this quick 6-tip list, the author addresses SAD, or “the winter blues” (something that I think we tend to forget is a thing), as well as the importance of not letting your resolutions limit you from enjoying time out with others. My absolute favorite, however, is the suggestion to combat post-Holiday let-down by planning something fun – aka an adventure to look forward to… be it a trip, a dinner out, a game night…it’s genius.
Brb. Planning our next date night. Followed by our next long weekender. Step 4.
I also like to read tips for productivity (particularly through emotional ups & downs) from another blogger I’ve read for quite some time, Jacey Duprie. According to damselindior.com, there are “5 Key Truths You Need” in order to maximize your productivity during this transition. They do not disappoint. The post describes a 5-step process that involves a quick list-making exercise, introspective questions, letting go of “someday I’ll…” and making sure that everything you are doing is supporting “the life you are trying to create”. I love this.
Very empowering. Step 5.
Then I read “10 Lessons I’ve Learned In The Past Decade” by Brittany Chaffee, over on witanddelight.com, which could easily became a 10-step Mantra for the New Year (well, perhaps primarily applicable if you’re an introverted 30-something female, I should clarify). This witty, honest look at what a decade can do helped me to take a step back – to recognize that the funk I’m feeling is a normal part of life, completely relatable, and basically, just par for the course. What I love about this piece is the plain and simple way she delivers some very insightful, very important truths. It’s like reading a quick list of affirmations that deep down we know to be true, we just need that helpful (and humorous) third-party reminder. It’s a personal, very real take on growing up, with lots of hidden gems artfully woven throughout.
I felt better.
As the day passed by and I glanced at my to-do list a few more times, I had one more thought. There is such pressure placed on both the Holidays and on New Year’s Eve to feel “celebratory”. To celebrate. But often times, when you have kids, sick husbands, laundry, work…the day can feel anything but. In fact, it feels like just another day. Unremarkable. Mundane. Devoid of meaning.
If this, too, is where your mind easily slips, my tip is this: try to create one small thing to celebrate. Anything that makes the day different, or that takes you away from your daily “to-do” list. Maybe it’s an impromptu walk, maybe it’s ordering in, or trying a new recipe. Maybe it’s popping a bottle of wine or bubbly you’ve been hiding away in a cupboard. Not only will this will give you something to look forward to, it will open you up to what welcoming a New Year is truly all about…
I decided I wanted to take a walk by the seawall to try to catch the last sunset over the water. At about 4:20pm (after a very fussy wake-up, a fruit pouch debacle and about 30 minutes of Cars 2) we threw on joggers and jackets and piled into the car. After leashing up Ella, we strapped Hudson into the stroller and arrived at the Carlsbad Village seawall, approximately 3 minutes before the sun dipped over the horizon. We walked down and back, watching the other on-lookers with their babes tucked into Ergos & their sweet pups in tow take turns snapping photos of the “last sunset of the decade”. We smiled back as passersby grinned and chuckled at Ella. We laughed as Hudson pointed with excitement at the “agua” and made assertive, yet indiscernible demands to “Bunny”. We were only there about 15 minutes, but it was more than enough. As we made our way back to the car, I stopped to take one last gaze at the glistening aquamarine waves gently painting the sand – at the streaks of tangerine sun bleeding into a neon-blue sky and my eyes swelled with tears because I knew right then – that everything was perfect. That fortune, like beauty, must in fact reside within the eye of the beholder. To be fortunate, is to have each day. To be fortunate is to embrace each experience, each tiny piece of your life –
and to live it. With gratitude.
This doesn’t always come easily for me, it’s something I have to work at. A lot.
It is currently in the number 4 spot of “Things I’d like to do more of in 2020”.
So give yourself a little grace at the close of this year, and recognize that the baby steps are worth celebrating. Even through the brief spells of funk – when we’re feeling down, when things are mundane, when adversity strikes – let us always, most assuredly, find something to celebrate.
If you can do this, well then folks, you’ve made it to Step 7.