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Experts decode New Year anxiety and share ways to cope

Updated on: 09 January,2023 11:08 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Sammohinee Ghosh |

As the world looks at adjusting gears with the start of 2023, a psychologist and a social impact consultant unpack the case of #NewYearAnxiety

Experts decode New Year anxiety and share ways to cope


The pressure is real. Although three-fourth of the world eats, dances and makes merry over planet earth completing one more revolution around the sun; not everybody shares that joy. A new year might not instinctively usher every human into happiness.

For some, the enthusiastic optimism can be overwhelming. And with a majority celebrating the event with gusto, the anxious kind feels alone in their apprehensions. On December 30, 2022, this writer noticed trending #newyearanxiety posts on social media. The Reels and posts have continued through the first week of 2023. However, the only heartening detail about this trend is — at least virtually — a community of counsellors and sufferers are reaching out.

Throwing light on the reality of this state of mind, two city-based experts walk us through its triggers and management strategies.

Accept yourself

Hoori Shah Deshpande, psychologist

Hoori Shah Deshpande, psychologist
Before we analyse what fans the fear of new beginnings, it’s important to understand how and why people feel its pressure during this time of the year. 

For any anxious person, the new year suggests another blank canvas. We do not know what’s in store for us. And whenever we face something unknown, we fall back upon similar instances in the past to gauge accordingly. The past few years haven’t been kind to most of us, and right before Christmas, a new variant of the COVID-19 virus showed up. The link to these occurrences should not 
be ignored.

Some of my clients have confided in me about how this time of forced positivity spurs disenchantment in them. I have been able to connect this kind of anxiety to a general duress that springs from any kind of resolution or promise made to oneself. This unnecessary duress can be avoided if one starts off with realistic goals. Demand only what you can get from yourself. By following that tip, you won’t end up giving up on your goals midway. I suggest appreciating yourself for every big and small effort you have put into your purpose. 

Remember that no two journeys are the same. We should refrain from attaching conditions to our value based on what others are doing or exhibiting on social media. Our value can’t depend on a trip or car we have strived to achieve. We have to accept ourselves and another person’s growth as separate events. If we try to cultivate this mindset, we would also encourage empathy, where we are happy with our progression and with the success of our peers, too.  

An inward gaze

Tanisha Guin

Tanisha Guin, social impact consultant and life coach
I think anybody who is able to identify a worrisome mental state, especially during the initial months of the year, should stop comparing themselves with their peers. In my professional capacity, I have observed that we constantly pit our aspirations against those of our friends and co-workers. We tell ourselves that their ambitions are our own by repeating a make-believe story in our heads. Apart from creating a stressful atmosphere, we also set out to achieve unrealistic ideals. Instead, we should pause and take stock of our growth so far. It’s vital to ask why we want what we think we want. Once that’s answered, we will know who we truly are.  

Try these tips 
. A new year encourages fresh starts. It allows us to see things from a new perspective. But come to think of it, it’s just another day of the year. Do not ascribe the quality of “an only chance” with this day. You don’t need to figure out the rest of the year in a day or even a week. In fact, focus on giving each day equal importance and work slowly 
but steadily. 

. The human mind thinks too highly of its future selves. It’s funny how during the last week of the year, we want to chill and soak in the festive cheer and suddenly — 10 days into the year — we expect to function at our best. That’s improbable. Try to focus on a patient journey and set the bar 20 to 22 per cent higher than your current performance. We create the problem by setting the bar 80 per cent higher that our abilities. 

. To deal with anxiety, some people prefer planning in advance. I do that myself but we must accept that we can’t plan everything to the T. Leave scope for life to take you on its spontaneous journey, and prepare to realign your goals — albeit on a different route — when that happens. By following that you let yourself live in the present. 

. Check on yourself more frequently. If you think you have not been able to meet a desired end, find the reasons. Was it because you fell short or was it because you procrastinated? Could you have avoided procrastination? If yes, try doing better next time. If not, give yourself another chance. Never play the blame game with yourself.

. Those who are comfortable doing regular things at home even on special days like the New Year’s Eve, should own their experiences. Later on, when you see pictures of your friends partying, you shouldn’t feel bad. You should rather check if you feel FOMO or JOMO. If it’s the former, then you could find some time for revelries that you can keep up with. Track clarity of intent. Before feeling your day wasn’t as good as somebody else’s, analyse if they share the same responsibilities and likes.
. I strongly recommend a strategy called WOOP. W stands for your wish, O stands for the outcome you wish for and how your life would look once it has been met, the other O represents the Obstacles you might pose for yourself [based on factors or traits that have sidelined you in the past], and P means Plan. These are the basic steps to have pragmatic expectations from the year and yourself. Start planning by setting rational time frames to each job.

. Missing your goal doesn’t mean you’ve failed, even if it was your 50th try. 

Case study

Communication manager, Preanka S, has seen her anxiety levels rise during the turn of the year. The 33-year-old shares, “It usually peaks before Christmas, and persists through the first few weeks of the year. I feel annoyed with everyone ascribing so much importance to one date. The resolutions keep piling on one after the other. It’s just too much pressure for me because it keeps reminding me that I need to have a list of things I have either achieved or will achieve,” she explains. She adds that staying away from parties and spending quality time with her family help her cope. 

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