Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time, just like it does for you and me.
When the holiday season comes to an end and all the festivities are over, you’re left with a new year. It can be a time to set in place new things to learn and do or it can be a time of consolidation of things you’re already passionately pursuing. Another alternative might be to simply contemplate where you’ve reached in life so far. Whatever your preferred approach to the New Year, it’s nice to start feeling refreshed and focused, ready to get back into things you’re working on or to get started on new things. Here are a few ideas to give you a boost.
1. Put away the holiday decorations in a timely manner. When the holiday festivities are over, the decorations, ornaments, and other festive trappings can be popped back into their boxes and bags. If you leave this too long, it can feel like a chore and can also have the effect of holding you back from moving into the next experiences. Don’t feel like you have to get rid of it all in one day. Remove things little by little, ideally between Christmas and New Year’s.
• Ask family and friends to help tidy away the seasonal decorations to make it easier.
2. Look over your New Year’s Resolution list. (If you haven’t made one, skip this step.) Write the list out on a planner, chart or calendar where you can make notes. In order to get your resolutions underway, it’s probable that you’ll need to do some planning and organizing, and perhaps even some purchasing. It helps your focus to make notes and lists to direct your efforts in starting new habits. For example:
• Is there any gear, equipment, food, clothing, etc. needed to start your new fitness/eating/exercise regime? Or perhaps you need new hobby or craft materials or new sports gear. Write down the needed items so that you can work out whether you already have what’s needed or need to buy, beg, borrow or freecycle it.
• Do you need to book memberships, travel, subscriptions or any other service to aid the resolution? If so, write this down too.
• Write down anything else of relevance, alongside those resolutions.
• In some cases, breaking the goals into short term and long term milestones is necessary to ensure you don’t flag in your willpower. Write down any milestones you think will work for you.
3. Focus on the organization. If you’re already wonderfully organized, skip this step. But many people aren’t and this can inhibit feeling like the New Year is a fresh start.
• Are there piles of papers and books on the desk and floor? Clean them up in short bursts here and there (stealth cleaning!).
• Do you have trouble finding things, from keys to socks? Look for simple solutions, such as hanging up a key holder and setting up a special lost sock basket. One method is about training, the other is about acceptance––for example, you can train yourself to put things away but you can’t account for missing socks until the mate turns up, so have a safe-keeping zone for such items.
• Hate cleaning? You could try to convince yourself its exercise, a moment of Zen or a chance to throw out your mate’s junk but it’s better to find help. Delegate the cleaning jobs to others as much as possible and try to arrange it so that you’re doing what you’re best at. It’s overwhelming to be the person responsible for it all, so stop trying.
• Take decluttering in gradual steps. Perhaps, the first sort through your desk on Monday, organize your closet on Tuesday and Wednesday, go through your bookshelf on Thursday, vacuum on Friday, dust on Saturday, and organize whatever else needs to be organized on Sunday. Once you’ve organized specific high-use areas, you will realize it’s much easier to concentrate and find what you need with a clean room.
4. Relax more. If you’re not in the habit of relaxing, start the New Year with a resolution to add this important activity (or lack of activity) to your life from now on.
• Spend a little time browsing through books and websites devoted to relaxation ideas. What sorts of relaxing opportunities appeal to you? Not everyone agrees that the same things are relaxing––some people find adrenalin-packed activities relaxing while others would rather slump in the hammock with a good book. It’s your choice, just so long as it relaxes you.
• Almost everyone finds spa-style activities relaxing. This might mean a weekly bath by candlelight with big bubbles (and maybe some bubbly), a massage (at home with a loved one or paid for at a spa), yoga, meditation and the like.
• When you get a chance, take a relaxation break on Saturday or some other appropriate free day or afternoon. Get your rest, have some friends over for a spa party if you want, or just be alone. You can give yourself an oil treatment, manicure/pedicure, and whatever else will make you feel good and look good.
5. Clean your work or study space. Going back to work or college/school after the holiday break can leave you feeling a little out of sorts. Tidying up your desk, locker, backpack, or whatever else you have where stuff accumulates can help you to feel refreshed for the New Year. Throw out last year’s junk, file away important information where it belongs and give everything a good dust or wipe down. Refill anything that you’re running out of and if you can, place a pretty plant or photo on your desk to cheer yourself up.
• For backpacks, satchels, handbags, laptop carriers and other bags: Don’t carry around unnecessary items! Things you don’t need in the bag are clutter that increases the bulk and weight and might scratch items like laptops, phones, and valuables.
6. Reflect over the past year. Think about things you’d like to do better this year, new things you’d like to try to people you’d like to make amends with or start over with. Have you achieved the things you wanted to in the past year? What specific things would you like to change or redirect? Asking yourself questions about progress, change and where you want to be right now can help to keep your perspective fresh, giving you new motivation to make this year a more fulfilling one.
• Anything you regret saying? Anyone you wish you could apologize to? If there are people that you owe an apology to, apologize and make things right with them. You don’t want to worry or regret anything when you start the New Year.
• Was this past year so great you don’t want it to be a new year? Great, make a scrapbook or diary entry about how great this year has been. But tell yourself the New Year will be even better. Build on the lessons you’ve learned and keep the good things coming.
• Was this past year such a terrible year for you, that you worry the New Year will be more of the same or even worse? Thinking that way may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nobody expects you to fly when your wings feel broken, but it’s important for your own well-being to start finding small ways to mend your dreams. Treat yourself with greater compassion and hang out more with folks who have kind hearts. Focus on making this coming year a much gentler, kinder one. This might include letting go of things that are causing you anxiety––scary at first, but really liberating when you finally do it.
Stress is inevitable. It walks in and out of our lives on a regular basis. And it can easily walk all over us unless we take action. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize and cope with stress. Here are 10 ideas for handling stress without causing more strain and hassle.
1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.
Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, it seems like a big mess with stressors appearing from every angle. We start to feel like we’re playing a game of dodgeball, ducking and darting so we don’t get smacked by a barrage of balls. We take a defensive position, and not a good one at that.
Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day to day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?
By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.
2. Consider what you can control—and work on that.
While you can’t control what your boss does, what your in-laws say or the sour state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.
The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.
Take the example of a work project. If the scope is stressing you out, talk it over with your supervisor or break the project down into step-wise tasks and deadlines.
Stress can be paralyzing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.
3. Do what you love.
It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find one hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.
4. Manage your time well.
One of the biggest stressors for many people is the lack of time. Their to-do list expands while time flies. How often have you wished for more hours in the day or heard others lament their lack of time? But you’ve got more time than you think, as Laura Vanderkam writes in her aptly titled book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.
We all have the same 168 hours, and yet there are plenty of people who are dedicated parents and full-time employees and who get at least seven hours of sleep a night and lead fulfilling lives.
5. Create a toolbox of techniques.
One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.
Because stress is complex, “What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,” said Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.
6. Pick off the negotiable tasks from your plate.
Review your daily and weekly activities to see what you can pick off your plate. As Vanderkam asks in her book: “Do your kids really love their extracurricular activities or are they doing them to please you? Are you volunteering for too many causes and so stealing time from the ones where you could make the most impact? Does your whole department really need to meet once per week or have that daily conference call?”
Blonna suggested asking these questions: “Do [my activities] mesh with my goals and values? Am I doing things that give my life meaning? Am I doing the right amount of things?”
Reducing your stack of negotiable tasks can greatly reduce your stress.
7. Are you leaving yourself extra vulnerable to stress?
Whether you perceive something as a stressor depends in part on your current state of mind and body. That is, as Blonna said, “Each transaction we’re involved in takes place in a very specific context that’s affected by our health, sleep, psychoactive substances, whether we’ve had breakfast [that day] and [whether we’re] physically fit.”
So if you’re not getting sufficient sleep or physical activity during the week, you may be leaving yourself extra susceptible to stress. When you’re sleep-deprived, sedentary and filled to the brim with coffee, even the smallest stressors can have a huge impact.
8. Preserve good boundaries.
If you’re a people-pleaser, saying no feels like you’re abandoning someone, have become a terrible person or are throwing all civility out the window. But of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life.
One thing I’ve noticed about productive, happy people is that they’re very protective of their time and having their boundaries crossed. But not to worry: Building boundaries is a skill you can learn.
9. Realize there’s a difference between worrying and caring.
Sometimes, our mindset can boost stress, so a small issue mushroom into a pile of problems. We continue worrying, somehow thinking that this is a productive — or at least inevitable — response to stress. But we mistake worry for action.
Clinical psychologist Chad LeJeune, Ph.D., talks about the idea of worrying versus caring in his book, The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. Worrying is an attempt to exert control over the future by thinking about it, whereas caring is taking action. When we are caring for someone or something, we do the things that support or advance the best interests of the person or thing that we care about.
LeJeune uses the simple example of houseplants. He writes: “If you are away from home for a week, you can worry about your houseplants every single day and still return home to find them brown and wilted. Worrying is not watering.”
Similarly, fretting about your finances does nothing but get you worked up (and likely prevent you from taking action). Caring about your finances, however, means creating a budget, paying bills on time, using coupons and reducing how often you dine out.
Just this small shift in mindset from worrying to caring can help you adjust your reaction to stress. To see this distinction between worrying and caring, try this activity where you can list responses for each one. For example:
Worrying about your health involves…
Caring about your health involves…
Worrying about your career involves…
Caring about your career involves…
10. Embrace mistakes—or at least don’t drown in perfectionism.
Another mindset that can exacerbate stress is perfectionism. Trying to be mistake-free and essentially spending your days walking on eggshells is exhausting and anxiety-provoking. Talk about putting pressure on yourself! And as we all know but tend to forget: Perfectionism is impossible and not human, anyway.
As the researcher, Brene Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth and it’s not self-improvement.”
Nothing good can come from perfectionism. Brown writes: “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life-paralysis [‘all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect’].”
Plus, mistake-mistaking can lead to growth. To overcome perfectionism, Brown suggests becoming more compassionate toward yourself. I couldn’t agree more.
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” — Anais Nin.
Friends add meaning to our life, they enrich our experiences, bring joy, and share our problems. If there were a fourth need besides food, water, and shelter, we could say it would be the need for human interaction, closeness, and friendships. After all, what if great things happen in your life—you got a new job, a promotion, or fall in love—and there is no one to share the news with? What is the use of getting that new dress, purse, car, or house if there is no one to tell you, “I’m so happy for you!” And what can give you more relief in time of frustration, grief, sadness, or “the blues” than talking to a friend? Our friends are an important part of our lives, and also a necessary part; they are our mirrors, and our sounding boards.
Choosing a friend is not an easy task, for we all had one or two experiences in our life when a person who we thought was our friend let us down. Those lessons were hard to swallow, yet necessary to our inner growth. Later we learned that it is better to be alone than to be in wrong company.
It is of utmost importance to carefully choose the people we will associate with, for they will have great influence on our life. ‘‘Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.’’ (Assyrian proverb). We are the average of the five people closest to us, and that relates to their lifestyle, manners, income, etc. If you make friends with someone who is always looking for an easy way out, tells “white lies,” makes excuses, is envious, sarcastic, and avoids taking responsibility, it is only a matter of time before you start slacking off in those areas and justifying your own behavior as acceptable. Somehow what seemed unthinkable before, will gain a new perspective and become the norm, for if you run with the wolves you too will learn how to howl, and just like a mirror you will start to reflect the behavior of your friends—the good and the bad.
Stop for a moment now, and take a little inventory of the person you are right now compared to the person you were a year or two years ago. What qualities have you adopted from the people you surround yourself with? What character traits, attitudes, vocabulary, even quality of your self-esteem, confidence, acceptance of yourself and others? How did your friends (consciously or unconsciously) influence you in those areas? If the change is positive, and you feel yourself moving toward more, that’s great! How about if the change is negative, slowly but surely getting you down, making you feel that you are less instead of being more?
It is up to you to make the change, for as long as you tolerate mediocrity from others, you too will find mediocrity in your own life acceptable. Know, however, that this will be one of the hardest changes you will have to make, for your friends will not want you to grow. They have spent months or sometimes years getting you to a point where they themselves are, and now they are feeling comfortable with you right there, and it will not be of benefit to them if you should decide to change that. They don’t want you to grow, for the result of your personal growth will be outgrowing them and their comfort zone. At all cost they will want you to stay where they are, where they can continue to influence you and will not have to worry that someday you may become better than them. Their intentions may not even be based on jealousy but rather on fear, so forgive them quickly so you can go on your way to become the person you are meant to be.
Sometimes you have to leave behind those who are not willing to climb the mountain with you, if they refuse to share your vision of personal growth, then they should not try to discourage you in reaching your dream. How will you know what their true intention is for you? Look at their own lives, in which areas have they already reached the success that you are striving for? If they tasted the victory, they will want the same for you, however if their life never left their personal comfort zone they will be eager to share thoughts of fear and discouragement with you. So on your travel to a greater you, only take counsel from those who have already been there. Surround yourself with friends who are models of something instead of experts of nothing, for if you share your problems with someone who is incapable of contributing to a solution dipping in their own life’s experiences, your time and energy is wasted. Oftentimes though, it is those who never did anything who are the first with their ill-fitted advice. Know then, that at those times you can reserve the right that not everyone has the privilege to speak into your life. Instead of wasting your time with those people, invest in some time spending a few hours with people who have ‘‘been there and done that” and came out of it successfully.
It is said that there are three kinds of people in this world:
• Those who watch things happen.
• Those who make things happen.
• Those who wonder “What happened?”.
So let’s make things happen. Start today!
Choose good friendships in your life, the kind of friends who will enrich your life, pull you up when you are down, and push you when you can’t go on by yourself, who will be generous with praise at your successes and eager with encouragement at your struggles, those who will not patronize you to make you feel good for a moment, but those who will tell you the truth and help you get better for a lifetime.
Don’t worry about those who talk behind your back. They’re behind you for a reason.
Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the one nearest you.
Over thinking ruins you. Ruins the situation, twists things around. Makes you worry and makes things much worse than they actually are.