Have a New Year Without the Anxiety

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So the New Year has just begun (Happy New Year everyone!) and already my life is filling to overflowing!  Moving, trips, goals, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries and on it goes.  I am a list maker and so when I sat down to create my list of goals and all the known events and activities, like I do every year, I had an instant panic attack.  All new year with the same old anxiety…

Any one else approach each new year with utter fear and panic?  Well, stop it.  (That’s what I told myself too). There are 365 days in a year and unless we have actually managed to fill each and every one of them on our calendars already, we have plenty of time.  (If you have, filled all your days I mean, then kudos to you as that in itself is a real accomplishment!)

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Sometimes we get tunnel vision and only see the small details.  That is what causes the panic.  If I look just at my list of events, activities and goals it can be overwhelming.  There is so much already on it!  When I pull back though and see the whole picture of my year ahead, that list becomes minuscule and very manageable.  It is a list with a finite number of items on it that spreads out over the whole year.  There is plenty of time when I use it well.

Here is how I am going to manage this year and keep the panic at bay.  First, the events that already exist are going to be put on the calendar. These are the things like moving date, celebrations and appointments. Getting them on the calendar now keeps me from double-booking myself.    There is very little more stressful than either trying to be more than one place at a time while not having the time to enjoy each event or having to tell someone that you cannot be there.  I know that I hate disappointing someone else. I bet many of you do too.  The thought of it absolutely makes me squirm!

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The next thing I am going to do is look at my goals.  The goals are the big picture of what I want.  I will want to  break them down into steps and give them a reasonable timeline.  That allows me to put deadlines (horrible, stress-inducing term) on those steps so that I am always doing something to achieve them and move forward.  

This process is definitely a bit more fluid, within reason.  As I have a penchant for procrastinating when I get overwhelmed, stressed or lost, I cannot give myself too many outs.  The deal is, as long as I am doing something to achieve those goals most days, the due date can be moved.

Things happen and plans don’t always come together the way we would like them to do so there needs to be some forgiveness in the process of setting up timelines.  Rigidity causes stress.  Life happening, of course, is much different from being unnecessarily busy and making excuses.  I have found it to be true that: If you find yourself making excuses and being too busy, it is time to challenge how much that goal really means to you and adjust your year accordingly.

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way.  If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse”. 

Jim Rohn

I have, from time to time, had to truly assess why something is a goal for me.  If it is something I think I have to do to be normal, please someone else, or live up to something I said/shared, it does not belong in my goals any longer.  As a lifelong people-pleaser working towards recovery, I still find myself doing things that I do not enjoy.  “No” is not natural to my vocabulary, but I am working at being better with it.  It is a worthwhile process.

An example of one of the things that I have reassessed is my career path.  Once upon a time I believed I wanted to own a Wellness Spa.  I had the vision board and goals all lined up.  Every step was accurately scheduled and defined.  Then the excuses and busy work kept coming.  At some point I realized I was not passionate about this goal anymore. I was resetting deadlines repeatedly.   I was not procrastinating because I did not believe in my ability to achieve it. It was about not really knowing why I wanted to do it at all.  I realized that I had become fearful of what my life was going to look like if I did achieve it!   A true wake-up call!

Some honest soul-searching revealed that I was not passionate about owning a brick and mortar wellness business.  What I was passionate about was the designing of it.  I loved picking out the elements that would go into the spa.  I loved creating packages that would best help people create peace and wellbeing.  I loved teaching people how to take care of themselves and seeing them turn their lives around!  What I did not love was the day-to-day running of it all.  I did not love the routine of it.  I really didn’t like the administrative part of it all.  It turns out I love the things that allow me to be creatively helping others!  That realization is making big changes in my life as I now am making much different choices.  (That is how this blog was born.)

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The importance of sharing that part of my journey is to help you realize, your dreams can and do change.  We don’t have to hold on to things that do not bring us joy and fulfillment. That is why reassessment is a great tool.  It allows us to step back and see the whole picture.  It allows us to take stock of our behavior and get honest with ourselves.  Change of plans is not failure.  It is success when we realize we may have taken a wrong turn somewhere and we can correct our course to head in the best direction to fulfill who we truly are and want to be in this life.

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So, now my new year has been de-stressed for the moment.  My calendar is being filled in with events and activities.  I am in the process of breaking my goals down into realistic small steps with scheduled due dates.  It is allowing me to have things to look forward to as my year progresses.  I have also been scheduling spaces of time that are for “nothing”.  These are the days I can go for a hike, sleep in, read a book, play in my kitchen, among other things.  Scheduling this time is important as we do need time to rest and recharge so we do not burn out.  It is also important that we make these times in our schedules non-negotiable, short of emergencies.  We all need time for resting and recharging.

I would love to hear what’s on your calendar that you are looking forward to this year!  Please share in the comments both challenges and successes.  Also, if anyone has a better/more positive term than “deadline” I would love to know it!  It would be great to have a less stress-inducing term for my planning.

Wishing everyone a wonderful 2023 full of peace, joy and fulfillment!

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Freedom Brings Happiness

Let me start by saying that this article is in no way a political statement or discussion. There are those who are far better equipped than I for that conversation. If that was what you were looking for you need read no further. Enjoy the personal freedom, which is what I will be talking about, to go no further.

Okay, whoever is left, thanks for sticking around:

Freedom: the condition or right of being able or allowed to do whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited

Cambridge Dictionary

We all have goals. “I want to be happy” is the most popular goal of them all. Then comes the question what do you need to be happy? That’s when the wish list comes out: I want lots of money. I want this kind of house. I want to live in this certain place. I want to weigh a certain weight. I want this certain job. I think you get the idea. That leaves us with the understanding that we can only be happy when we have that wishlist met. Happiness then, it would seem, is fleeting at best. It comes and it goes as the items on our wish checklist do and changes at a moments notice based on almost anything that passes or does not pass through our lives. There are many things in this ideology that can stand in the way of our happiness.

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Perhaps then the goal should not happiness. Maybe what we are actually looking for is the space for more opportunities to be happy and that those times last longer. We may consider that happiness is then the by-product of what we are actually looking to obtain. What I have heard from most people is that we all want to do what we want to do, when we want to do it, how we want to do it and with whom we want to do it. I believe that this is the layman’s term for freedom.

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Once we decide that freedom is the goal we can start a different list. This list will be what we would be doing if we were free to do what we want. I think very few of us, if any, would choose to work more, whether that is at a job or at home. We probably wouldn’t choose to do more housework, work longer hours or spend more time away from those with whom we love to spend time. I think we might choose instead things like sleep until the sun rose, be creative, take a walk outside in the fresh air and sunshine, be with the people we love. Okay, that’s my list. Yours may look a little different.

What I’m getting at is that freedom, unlike happiness, has little to do with the things we collect. In fact our collection of things and the constant need for more of them to sustain the feeling of happiness may well stand in the way of our freedom. Don’t get me wrong, if going sailing is something you truly enjoy spending time doing, it will be important to have a sailboat or at least access to one with which to do it. We obviously will want to have the tools to do the things we want the freedom to do. More so consider how much stuff we have collected that no longer has our attention while we strive to make enough money to buy more. Personal freedom has a lot more to do with how we choose to spend our time and with whom we spend it and only a little bit about the items needed.

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I got to really thinking about the distinctions between happiness and freedom recently as I looked back over the past couple/few years. I know and fully acknowledge that many things went awfully wrong in that time and I will not disregard or make light of the many tragedies that were suffered over that time. However, when I looked back over this time in a personal sense it turned out that a lot of things had gone right. Though I had to close down the practice I had spent a great deal of time building I wound up having time with my son and my husband that I had never before had, ever. I took walks in nature most days with my pup. I woke with the sun. I had time to write and do photography. Prior to two years ago I had been busy busting my tail perpetually to have a bigger paycheck. That bigger paycheck allowed me to take a couple of “good” vacations each year. Those vacations, though memorable, only left me dissatisfied with my every other day. I was dissatisfied because I wanted more of that freedom to do, be, go and have what I wanted.

What I have learned about freedom, personal freedom, is it does look different to everybody. For some, it is to have a business that they run the way they want. For others, it is about more quiet time. Still others, it is the time to be around people having great conversations and lots of laughs.

It does not matter what you want the freedom to do. There are no wrong answers to the question: “What would you do if you were free to do anything you wanted?” It may start as simple as binge watching a show you only saw the first season of before you got too busy to keep up with it. Any place is a good place to start. When we start figuring out what we want the freedom to do, we can create the road map that leads us to that freedom.

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To get you started on a path to freedom I’ll give you an example. One of the things I mentioned wanting the freedom to do was getting up with the sun. Now, mind you, I don’t have little kids that I’m raising. If I did, I might have to put that desired freedom a little further down my priority list. For me the road map to that particular freedom was, when I was able to start rebuilding my massage practice, starting my work day later. My hours don’t start until 10 AM because I want to get up with the sun. This allows me to be more relaxed entering my work day and fully present for my clients. All the way around a win-win.

We have the power and ability to create the freedoms we crave. Sometimes it means trade-offs either with our own priorities, time-lines or with our significant others. Once we start working on what freedom looks like to us as individuals, it very quickly sorts itself out which are the most important and achievable right now. Every time we create another one of our personal freedoms we make another step to creating the overall life of freedom we want to be living. The more free we are, the happier we just may find ourselves.

Here is a suggestion to begin creating your road to freedom. Create the picture of what your absolute life of freedom looks like. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but make it concrete so you can refer back to it over time. Paint an actual picture, write a list, make a vision board. The point is to make it something real that you can look at any time you want. It’s yours, so there is no wrong answer and you can change it over time. Even better, over time you can see how far you’ve come.

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Once you have your picture, it is time to get to work. Choose the simple, most easily achievable goals first to get that immediate taste of freedom and success. Enjoy the journey. Celebrate the wins. Don’t let the challenges discourage you. Don’t be afraid to change course. Sometimes we have to take a detour to get safely where we mean to go. The only way you can go wrong is if you do nothing at all.

For me life is good and I am happily enjoying my continued journey to freedom. I can’t wait to see where your journey takes you! Please share in the comments some of your personal freedom choices and let’s celebrate each others’ wins!

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