Down with the start-of-the-year stress trap

New year, new luck!

2020 is over, the year that will go down in history as a non-year. A year that shook up our lives; that brought change, upheaval and newness; that threw all plans out the window. And already the expectations for 2021 are piling up. This year will be better/worse/nicer/more relaxed/more profitable/… This year I will finally lose weight/fall in love/find a new job/start exercising/… These or similar thoughts will have run through the New Year’s heads. The magazines are full of tips and tricks to make these expectations come true, whether it’s losing weight, finding a new love or eating healthy. No matter where you look, you can’t avoid the topics on self-optimisation. But is that necessary? You’ve barely digested Christmas (in the truest sense of the word), the hectic last days of the year are still in your bones and now the hamster wheel starts all over again. No wonder many people feel stressed. People always talk so nicely about spring fatigue and yes, there is probably a hormone balance explanation for this, but no one looks at the time before. I am convinced that springtime fatigue is shaped by the start of the new year. The more stress you put on yourself and the new year at the beginning of the year, the more tired you are, the less you can enjoy the reviving rays of the sun, the longer days and the spring awakening.

A Stress-Concept

Perhaps it is important to define the word stress. Google spits out almost 1 billion results. In general, stress is an absolutely sensible reaction of our body to certain situations. It ensures survival. And the first definition by the zoologist Hans Seyle in the 1930s was formulated rather positively as a “non-specific reaction of the body to any demand”. He based his research on the stress concept of materials science, which defines stress as a change in a material caused by external force. This change occurs in humans through the central nervous system, which processes the stimuli that humans perceive sensually. The processing of stimuli therefore makes absolute sense and has to happen so that we can classify our experiences and learn from them. It becomes problematic when everything that the body has to process becomes too much.

The Finite-Theory

And here we are again at my stress theory for the beginning of the year: too many expectations, too little time for regeneration, too little energy for too many goals, too little vitamin D due to too little sun, too much energy for virus defence… Now you’re probably thinking, that’s just how it is in winter. We’ve known it since October, what’s the difference? The difference lies in the finality. In October we know that the year will soon be over. We look forward to the holidays, the lights, the biscuits, time with family, time to sleep in,…We have the finality of the year in front of us. We enjoy everything to the fullest – by the way, that also costs energy – because we know it will soon be over. And then the new year comes. Suddenly there are 365 days ahead of us and we don’t know what they will bring. After 2020, even less than the years before. That’s why we make a plan, formulate resolutions, hand out working titles. Although we know that the plans will probably be thrown out and the resolutions will end up in the bin after 4 weeks and everything will be the same. And we are probably additionally stressed by this fatality of life.

Escaping the trap

But how do we now escape exactly this beginning-of-year stress trap? For me, it is the trinity of happiness: gratitude, intuition and responsibility

  • Gratitude

If I manage to become aware of all the things I can be grateful for in my life, I consciously focus on the good things that have happened to me. You can do this in the evening or in the morning. I’m a fan of the morning routine as it gives my day a positive touch from the start. Wake up, stay in bed for a moment, breathe deeply and ask yourself “What am I grateful for today?”. Alternative: Look at yourself in the mirror after brushing your teeth and say to yourself the 3 things you are grateful for today with a smile.

  • Intuition

When I manage to listen to my gut more, I do more things that are in line with my values and strengths. I have learned to tune out the voices in my head, to pay more attention to what is socially acceptable or what you should be doing according to others. I negated my wants and needs and adapted. Now, before making decisions, I take the time to feel inside myself for what feels good. I visualise myself in the future and how it feels to live in that decision. A question I also often ask myself: Does it fit with my values and will it make me happy?

  • Responsibility

When I take responsibility for my reactions to events, I control how I feel. In the word responsibility, there is also the word response. I decide how I respond to something. With anger, with rage, with frustration or whether I let myself get stressed. Or with excitement, happiness, wonder… The first thing I look at here is whether what has happened is within my sphere of influence or outside it. If I then shift the focus to what I can really actively influence, I minimise the “noise”, which is less stress. Then I see what other perspective I can take on what is happening and if there is a positive angle here. (By the way, this is one of the “7 Habits of highly effective people” by Steven Covey).

But make sure you don’t do too much, otherwise the new resolutions will pile up and it will degenerate into stress!

I’m curious to hear about your experiences in the new year and how you manage to avoid falling into the stress trap. Feel free to write a comment or contact me directly via Email.


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