New Year, Same Me?

I began 2019 feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach after taking 5 shots of espresso.

This is often what my anxiety feels like.

The holidays are meant to be a time to relax and have fun. Especially as a student, winter break serves as a celebration for surviving yet another round of finals. My mind, however, struggles to take full advantage of this break, and often during the winter season I fall victim to unexplainable anxiety.

This past week was especially difficult: I woke up with shaky breaths, a clenched jaw, and nauseousness that often only worsened as the day progressed. I had stress dreams from which I woke with a pounding chest and shaking hands. Even at a New Years Eve party, surrounded by friends and family I loved, my mind couldn’t escape its spiraling thoughts, and soon pools of stress sweat drenched my black turtleneck sweater. Unlike Cinderella, I had to change clothes far before the clock struck midnight.

There’s rarely a direct reason for my anxiety—it swells and recedes with little announcement and less explanation—but there’s always ample frustration over it: after all, January 1st doesn’t feel like a fresh start when you wake up with dread of getting out of bed.

I had worked hard to combat my anxiety in 2018, and during my first semester of college I’d noticed a significant improvement in my mental health, my response to stress and triggers, and my ability to handle the inevitable “bad days.” But starting 2019 felt like a step backwards. As my Instagram filled with both peers and celebrities boasting their 2018 gains and 2019 goals, I felt like a failure. I was hardly able to motivate myself to leave the house, let alone find the drive to reflect back or look forwards.

While this anxiety has been frustrating, forcing myself to take a step back and acknowledge my frustrations has helped me sculpt a new mentality for the new year. Because, try as I might, I didn’t wake up January 1st ready to drive to the gym and mix up a protein shake. I didn’t wake up with the energy to write down goals into a color-coordinated list in my shiny new journal bought solely for such a purpose. And I definitely didn’t start the new year feeling like a new me.

And that’s okay.

I know there are already many posts out there discrediting the “New Years Resolution;” however, there’s often still pressure to start the new year with a renewed vigor. While I fully advocate finding motivation and re-organizing one’s goals and mindsets—and think that January 1st can be a great time to start—I want to share a message to anyone struggling with any sort of mental health concern that it’s okay not to feel your best, even after school gets out, even over the holidays, even on January 1st. You don’t have to bounce out of bed ready to take on the world, even if there seems to be pressure all around you to do just that.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from battling anxiety, it’s that you have to be understanding with yourself. You have to be patient. You have to be kind.

Everyone works at their own pace, on their own time-schedule, and if your motivation isn’t at peak levels at the beginning of January, don’t sweat it. If you just need to rest and recover, give yourself the time to do that. Don’t let any blog post, media guru, or even your own thoughts pressure you into pressing forward before you’re ready. Just listen to your mind and body’s needs, and you’ll be off to a great start in 2019 regardless of how many times you head to the gym.

So as the new year begins, I encourage you to work on the new you—but at your own pace, not anyone elses’.

Gretta Kissell