During the first few months of the New Year we can often feel low. This might be because it is a cold and dark time of year; because the fun of Christmas and New Year is over; because our festive period was perhaps not as pleasant as we might have wished, or we might feel overweight or unfit, or have financial, relationship or employment worries.
What is the secret of feeling calmer and happier in the New Year?
The New Year brings stress because of our own expectations of ourselves. We often make new ‘resolutions’, which implies that there are things we feel we need to change about ourselves, in order to feel happier.
‘It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere’.
Society seems to suggest we should constantly want to be thinner, fitter, richer, or ‘better’ so that we would feel happier. This quickly leads to self-criticism if we believe in these ideals and judge ourselves to be lacking in some way.
The first part of the secret to feeling happier is to take control of your own priorities and expectations of yourself.
Those who cope best are those who don’t panic about new years resolutions. They acknowledge that they are not perfect, but they don’t expect themselves to be, they focus on being gentle on themselves, whilst also prioritising their lives and re-focusing their efforts on what is most important to them.
When we feel happy and ‘at our best’ is when our self-esteem is good. We usually feel confident in our ability to cope with life even under challenging circumstances.
We feel ‘stressed’ when we perceive the demands being placed on us as exceeding our ability to cope with them. In this situation our self-esteem (a combination of self-confidence, self-worth and self-belief), is being ‘threatened’ and so our physiological fight or flight instinct kicks in. This causes physical changes such as an increased heart rate, sweating, nausea, or agitation.
We will describe these physical experiences as negative emotions such as frustration, anger, fear or anxiety.
If we are unaware that threats to our self-esteem generate our negative emotions, then we will also be unaware that our subsequent actions are attempts to protect or repair our self-esteem.
We instinctively do what makes ourselves feel more in control or ‘better’ at the time, maybe become angry or defensive more quickly, or argue with our spouse or children, or do something to ‘take our mind off it’ such as throwing ourselves into a new gym regime or hobby, and then quickly berate ourselves if it doesn’t work or we fail to keep it up.
If we are being critical to ourselves or others then it is a clear sign that our self-esteem is being affected.
Top Tips to reduce stress.
– Take responsibility. You are the only one responsible for how you feel about yourself, no one can ‘make you’ feel anything you don’t want to feel.
– Challenge your own priorities. What really matters to you? What makes you feel most content and happy? Do you spend time on other ‘priorities’ because you have picked up from others that you should be doing those things?
– Maintain and build your own self-esteem by choosing activities which build your self-confidence and which truly fit in with your beliefs and values. Choose people to spend your time with who accept you as you are and help you to feel good about yourself.
– Focus on other people. Those around us are likely to be feeling just the same as we are. Be gentle on others, recognise that their self-esteem can also become affected at this time of year so help to build them up. Supporting others is the surest way to find support in return.
– Instant self-esteem. When you start feeling stressed, or start ‘getting at’ yourself or other people, find somewhere to be alone, even for a couple of minutes. Take slow deep breaths and imagine you are breathing in a warm, bright light and breathing out self-doubt and self-criticism. Say to yourself, out loud if possible, – “I am okay, I can only do my best, I can cope with this, I believe in myself”. Smile and stretch your arms to relieve your tension.
– Be careful around difficult people! Those we care most about have the most powerful influence over our self-esteem. Remember; you, not they, decide how you feel about yourself.
If someone is unpleasant to you then he or she will be feeling low about themselves for some reason and are attacking or criticising you to try to feel better. Don’t take it personally, their behaviour is about themselves not you, try to understand rather than criticise them in return.
– Encourage and praise your partner, your family, friends and children. Giving praise and recognition shows healthy self-esteem and is the most likely way we will receive the same in return.
“Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how”
Good luck, and remember I am here if you need me.
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