A few weeks ago, my social media feed was full of #TopNine posts, images of highlights from friends’ 2018, and words of excitement and enthusiastic anticipation of everything a new year brings, or MIGHT bring. Don’t get me wrong, I look back on a year gone by, but my sentiments lean more toward, “whew! I survived another one!”
Perhaps it’s the consistent high energy of the holiday season (in the South, the crazy starts at the beginning of college football), but once Christmas is over, we often have more down time than we’re used to, and our thoughts for once in several weeks aren’t laden with holiday planning. For me, those thoughts are consumed by all that has to be done the months ahead. Sure, I happily created my attractive calendar of plans for the year, but NOW I HAVE TO EXECUTE THEM.
I very much like a plan. There’s something about creating that blueprint and checking things off that fills me with a sense of accomplishment. It’s that in-between part, the ambiguous bit occurring right after you first make a note on your to-do list and that satisfying moment of scratching it off, that is the most stress-inducing. So how can we embrace the uncertainty and handle it, Olivia Pope-style?
Hindsight is 20-20
Think about it: if you look back on the year with feelings of achievement, why is that? The past simply lacks the uncertainty of the new one. Hence, the “hindsight bias.” The authors of this article explain when comparing the present with the past, ” we tend to see much less uncertainty–not because there necessarily was less, but because hindsight bias drains the appearance of uncertainty.” I’m willing to bet you had similar feelings at the end of 2017, so remind yourself of all you did!
Think Best-Case Scenario
I’ll admit, this does not come naturally to me. I can remember hearing as a kid (!), “plan for the worst, and when it happens, it won’t be so bad.” If this is you to a tee (I see you, Enneagram Sixes!), when you find yourself drifting into all that might go wrong, try thinking of all that could go right. Your event sold out in a matter of hours! You raised 10% more of your fundraising goal! Your client base grew every quarter! Studies show this exercise can foster an increase in happiness and create positive emotions to give you the guts to handle whatever comes your way.
Mind your Mantra
I recently purchased a small piece of art for my office. It sits right by my computer screen and reads, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt gave us these wise words many years ago, but they are so applicable today. Having a visual or verbal mantra is a helpful go-to truth to foster feelings of growth, experience, and opportunity in times of stress, worry and uncertainty.
Let’s face it: ambiguity and unpredictability aren’t going anywhere. Each of us, at some point, will get overwhelmed by what’s to come. Find a sounding board you trust and break it down with her. This is not your first rodeo. Others are excited for what you will do this year; you should be, too! For more info about new year anxiety, click here or here.
Mary Straton Smith, Director of The Source