New Year and Its Pressures

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At New Year there seems to be a lot of pressure — to have a good time, to make New Year’s eve a perfect night, and then to top it all with a fresh start in life. Does it have to be this way?

All the pressure of New Year comes about, at the end of the day, because of an arbitrary number on the calendar. Of course we can consciously try to let up on the pressure to have a perfect night, and not make any New Year’s resolutions, thus saving us the bother of breaking them and being disappointed in ourselves. But in a sense, this is to ignore the energy of what everyone else is doing around us. Maybe we could surf the wave instead?

Another way of handling the time is to use it as a moment for introspection and reflection on what has happened in the past year. Journaling or just making a list of the main events, and what you consider were the high and low points, things you did well and mistakes you made, can be a helpful way of plugging into a sense of your life as a whole. You can see the narrative patterns, trace cause and effect, gain perspective and distance on events, and a sense of control, albeit in retrospect. Looking at life this way, from the outside and in a chunk, as it were, can be both manageable and meaningful. This chunk of life, containing the four seasons, can then be compared with other chunks if we feel so inclined, and we can draw lessons from it about how to plan and proceed in the next year. We can also spot themes, or missing elements — what it seems to be time to concentrate on now. Some people choose a word as a focus point for what they would like to cultivate, or use as a touchstone, in the coming year.

This all sounds very constructive, and I know it works for many people, but I tend to use the turn of the new year in a more intuitive way, not so much chopping the year into bits and evaluating it, but just taking advantage of the opportunity to make a break in the normal circuit of things — whether that means using the holiday time to forbid myself to look at the diary or go shopping, and instead drop down inside myself to see what is going on, or whether it is partying like crazy and using the spaced-out feeling and/or hangover the next day as a kind of reboot. What I find interesting, and potentially useful, is that so many people are going through some kind of experience of looking at their lives, putting themselves under some pressure, and thinking about newness, at the same time.

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I am writing this from terrealuma, the eco-retreat centre and healing refuge I am helping to set up. There are plenty of dreams and plans for next year, and they are wandering through my mind at the pace of the snowflakes meandering down through the air outside the window — as if someone had shaken a snow globe very slowly over the blank sky and bare branches. I am seeing the burst of crowdfunding we need to do in the new year in order to get an access road built. I see the road being built. I see the planting season and the harvest, and the start of building work. I’m sitting by the stove with the cats who arrived in the attic one day as our first volunteers. I wonder what they plan to bring to the table.

The fire seems to be mumbling to itself, and the snowflakes are thickening and falling at an ever slower pace. Whatever day is written on the calendar, nature doesn’t know about it. The seasons go around, you could stop or start anywhere. There’s always the next thing to be done.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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