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January 7, 2021

Why we’ve entered the New Year as Big, Miserable Grumps.

Is it just me? Or is everyone super b*tchy right now?

I have some theories on the matter.

First, I have no doubt that so many of us have made uncomfortable new year resolutions. These promises to ourselves were set at the end of 2020, when we were all in a place of optimism and enthusiasm. We were all excited to launch into the new year full of health and vitality!

But I don’t think we stopped to consider the inevitable crash we were setting ourselves up for.

Do we ever? How many times have we fallen for the old adage “new year, new you?”

Every year, we decide that we’re going to stop smoking, stop drinking, start exercising, and start eating healthy. We face January 1st bravely, positive that this is going to be the year that we make it stick. We have visions of beach bodies and happy faces with little thought of the work it will take to get there. We seem to think that with a little luck and maybe a touch of magic, we will fairy ourselves into our new lives with little effort.

January 2nd: No smokes. No drink. A sad wilted salad for lunch. Day one, we were miserable, and day two, it’s worse. Somehow, we power through day one because day one is supposed to be miserable. We get that. We aren’t happy—but we get it. By day five or maybe day seven, possibly even day 105—that’s it. We chuck the brown, soggy head of iceberg lettuce and search the drawer for that “emergency” cigarette. We’ve had it. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard! We’re angry that we’ve denied ourselves our guilty pleasures, we’re angry that we’ve let ourselves down, we’re angry that we are weak and have no willpower.

We end up in this cycle for a number of reasons. Setting New Year’s resolutions is one of the worst of the culprits because we tend to set ourselves up to fail right from the beginning. It’s so easy to slide back into our old patterns because in some sad way, we’re meant to crash and burn with our resolutions, right? Doesn’t everyone? I mean, it’s no doubt a matter of time before we’re back to stuffing our faces with that cheeseburger and pint, with our only exercise being stepping outside for that cigarette. We can all heave a collective sigh and figure, “Ah well, maybe next year.” We get together and have a laugh and ask each other, “How long did you make it this year?”

Let’s compound that inherently negative mindset with the stress that 2020 brought so many of us. Maybe this year we really did harbor an extra secret hope that when that clock struck midnight on December 31 that the world would magically be a different place. The pandemic would be managed. We would get our jobs back. We would pay our bills. The sick would be healthy. Angels would sing. It would be the dawn of a whole new life.

No doubt we were pissed off when that didn’t happen. Here we are with the first week of January coming to an end and no angels to be heard anywhere. Some of us are back to work and don’t want to be. Some of us are out of work and don’t want to be. Some of us are still in that first week slog of denying ourselves our food and our cigarettes.

We turn to Facebook to find some good news, forgetting that Facebook is inevitably a bad news generator. We read the comments on the hot topic posts that we know we shouldn’t read, and we soon find ourselves with twitchy fingers wanting to get eyeball-deep into that argument with strangers about things that most likely don’t even matter. Everyone’s fuse is short right now, and it’s no wonder why.

I want you to do something for me right now.

Wherever you are, stop reading for a minute and take three deep, deep breaths.

I know you’ve been speed reading this article trying to get through it so you can flick to the next thing, and the next, and the next. Seeking…what? A bit of happiness or support or encouragement? I look for someone—anyone—to tell me that everything is going to be alright. When I couldn’t find anyone saying that, I finally realized that I needed to be that person for myself. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that hey, it’s going to be alright. It really is.

Here are my thoughts on where to start:

Understanding why everyone on social media seems to be more tense than usual, I have adapted a more forgiving attitude than I might usually have. I try to be more understanding. More compassionate. I make myself wait before I comment on things, and many times, I type out the comment only to delete it without posting it. Not everything needs to be said. Especially if you find you are about to argue with someone who is clearly not interested in hearing your point of view. Trying to sway someone who has a closed mind will end in nothing but frustration and irritation. Don’t waste your time or theirs. Disengage, and if you can, go so far as to disconnect. Maybe it’s time to take a break from social media.

As for your resolutions, let’s take a step back. If you’re someone like who I described above who goes all in with great intentions but maybe not realistic immediate goals, I encourage you to take a step back rather than give up entirely. There is way too much pressure on “new year, new you.” You have the whole year to get yourself there. Take it easy on yourself, and take steps to set yourself up to win. Read, research, listen to podcasts, watch videos. What is it you want to do? Break it down. Set realistic goals. Work with mentors and coaches. The great thing about 2020 is that a lot more people are working from home via email and video chats. This means that so many more people are accessible to you than might not have been ever before. Seek out those you admire and those who inspire. And in those areas where you might have some knowledge and power, offer your help and support to others.

There’s a great quote from Ram Dass: “We’re all just walking each other home.” I love it because it reminds me that we’re all in this together—and also that there is not only someone that I can lean on, but something that I have that can help others as well.

2021 is going to be a year of recovery on so many levels.

Let’s take that extra little bit of care for ourselves and also for each other. While we find our way through this particularly tense first month of a new year when we all have so many hopes for a bright future, I encourage you to find it within yourself to extend that extra bit of understanding, that extra bit of compassion, that extra bit of empathy. To others, but also to yourself. This way we will, no doubt, all make it home safe and sound.

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Christina Swanlund  |  Contribution: 610

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