We totally get it: Making lofty New Year’s resolutions are almost always a guaranteed way to end up somewhere in the space between disappointed, annoyed, and thoroughly discouraged. After all, how many times have you made promises to yourself about the things you planned to achieve in a new year, only to end up feeling like you’ve failed at changing your life in some big, meaningful way? Who came up with the horrible idea to seek growth and evolution by biting off massive chunks of change at the same time every year?
If you’ve been struggling with anxiety, you might feel even more encumbered by the thought of a new year. All the chatter of “new opportunities” and “starting a new chapter” can have you feeling like you’re supposed to exert all this energy into becoming a brand new person — which can be downright maddening when your brain is already working overtime as it is.
So instead, we propose a different idea: Instead of making big promises that trigger and exacerbate your anxiety this January, dive headfirst into seeking peace with it.
With that in mind, we put together some promises you should make to your anxiety as the new year begins, because it really is OK to put your needs above all else, no matter what anxiety tells you to the opposite. Whether you’ve been experiencing anxiety for a long time or it’s a newer battle, it can feel overwhelming — so here are a few go-to mantras to help you feel slightly better in the year ahead.
1I hear you and I acknowledge you.
Anxiety can often make you feel as if you’re overreacting, at best, or “going crazy” at worst. But even if the rational part of your brain is telling you that you have nothing to be anxious about, there can be an unexpected power in simply acknowledging how you’re feeling. Even just taking a few minutes to truly listen to your thoughts can help you feel better about them, or at least feel like the noise is not so deafening.
2I will not downplay you or dismiss you.
We’re socialized to believe that any amount of anxiety is “all in our heads” or that our mental health struggles aren’t “real” health problems. The truth is, anxiety is a big deal, and when you suffer from it, you know that it can affect everything from your mood to your physical health, impacting your sleep, appetite, and ability to concentrate, while also bringing on a host of other side effects that can pop up without any warning at all. Downplaying or dismissing your anxious thoughts does nothing but make you feel worse for having them, when what you really need is to be gentle with yourself.
3I will acknowledge (and believe) that my feelings are valid.
Judging yourself for your feelings is something we all do, but one easy way to help combat anxiety is to remove all judgments, criticisms, and blame. Whether your anxiety makes you feel stressed, scared, sad, or even angry — it’s all OK. You have every right to feel how you feel.
4I will not judge myself (or you) for existing.
Similarly, it’s easy to feel as if there’s something fundamentally wrong with you for struggling with anxiety. After all, the terms mental “illness” and anxiety “disorder” bring inherently negative connotations, plus the added societal stigmas that come from being open and honest about mental illness… None of this helps when you’re in the depths of it.
Don’t let shame or fear stop you from getting the treatment you need to heal, and don’t let unfair stigmas surrounding anxiety trick you into believing there’s something wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you.
5I will do what I need to do right now to get through this moment.
Sure, we could go on and on about the good habits you could pick up in the new year that have been known to help ease anxiety. Experts recommend some combination of talk therapy and/or medication, and tout the benefits of exercise, meditation, and certain diet and lifestyle changes. That’s all well and good, but the bottom line is there is no cure for anxiety, even when there are helpful tools to manage it. We encourage you to find what tools work best for you, but sometimes in the heat of the moment, you just do what you can to get through it. That’s OK. You can begin the work when you’re ready, and that likely won’t be in a moment of acute anxiety. In fact, getting yourself through those moments is a key part of the work.
6I will put my own needs first, even when it’s tough.
So often we’re lead to believe that acts of self-care are selfish or indulgent, and that taking time for ourselves every day is a luxury most of us can’t afford. We’re calling that out as bullshit — it is absolutely crucial to take some time for yourself every single day, no matter what.
Some days, you might only have five free minutes, and other days, you might get the whole afternoon. Either way, you need to find at least one thing that truly calms you down and makes you feel relaxed, and figure out a way to work it in to your schedule. Maybe it’s listening to music, writing in a journal, going for a walk, doing some light yoga stretches, or practicing meditation. It doesn’t really matter what it is — find something you genuinely enjoy doing and make time for it this year.
7I will be patient with myself even when it feels impossible.
When you’re suffering from anxiety in any form, it can be hard to feel like things will ever really get better. Even if you’re in treatment, there will likely never be a morning where you wake up and suddenly feel cured. Anxiety has a way of showing up when you least expect it, like a bad house guest that drops in unannounced and starts lighting your sh*t on fire.
If you do decide to make a resolution this January, maybe just make it to be kind and patient with yourself. When it feels like your stress and panic levels are at an all-time high, remember that you’ve been through worse before and managed to make it out on the other side. You can do it now, too.