New year, new you! Well sort of. You’re still the same person you were on the last day of December just with the added optimism that comes with a clean slate. It sounds exciting, like starting a new diary, but it’s also a lot of pressure. As January ticks on, doubts wiggle their way in: What if you can’t meet all your resolutions? What if you end up repeating last year’s mistakes? What if this year will be a total disaster?
There’s no way you can guarantee that 2018 will be filled solely with the good type of change but it is possible to take little steps to make sure you’re looking after yourself. Without having to overhaul your entire life, you can change some of the habits that brought you down in 2017.
Don’t let the negative self talk win
A lot of us have an inner critic in (I imagine mine to be a thin, beardy man like Saruman from Lord of the Rings) who edits out the good things in your life and replaces them with trash-talk. Even if you’re on top of the game your own personal Saruman will be yelling from the sidelines, convincing you that you can’t do anything, you’re ugly, untalented and a waste of space.
Everything you say to yourself matters, even snide little remarks that seem like a whisper. It’s important to learn how to fight back when these statements occur. If you feel like you’re total dumbass come up with evidence for the opposite. It might be hard because your mind is cluttered with negativity but remember that great grade you got in school, or the pub quiz answer only you knew or that incredibly dense book you read and actually sort of understood.
Fuck you Saruman. You’re not welcome here.
Don’t give in to shame
When shame enters your head it anchors itself in and coils around every thought you conjure up. Sometimes shame comes from within, when we’ve internalised stigma and judgement, and other times it’s because we’ve been told by others to feel ashamed about our minds and our bodies.
You might not be able to shake shame off completely but you can diminish its hold over you. Examine where the shame comes from: what are you actually afraid of? The more you try ignore your shame the louder it becomes. Instead, put that shame in the spotlight, interrogate it and quiz it.
Stop needlessly apologising for things
Having a tendency to overly apologise might just mean you’re extremely British, but there could be something else going on. Perhaps you genuinely feel like you have to apologise for things you don’t need to. Perhaps you’re plagued by the idea that everything is your fault. Perhaps you don’t feel like you deserve to occupy space. When someone bumps into me on the escalator I automatically say “I’m sorry” when I really want to say: “Watch where you’re going!”
Break the apology cycle and make more of an effort to speak your mind. Don’t feel like you have to sandwich your opinion with a couple of sorries. Your opinion matters.
Be nice to your mind
If you break your ankle you tend to take it easy in the recovery period. You don’t keep running around. You make sure you seek medical advice, you get it looked at and treated and you might take a break from work and other responsibilities as you wait for it to heal. We have to start treating our minds in the same way. Don’t force yourself into a situation you know will hurt you more. Take a break. Go to the doctor. Distance yourself from anything toxic in your life.
Create more things
Being creative is such a great outlet but we often create things with other people in mind. You wonder what people online will think, will it get any more followers, will so-and-so think this is cool, will this get me noticed, will people think I’m lame?
Commit to being creative for yourself. Debug, declutter and surround yourself with arts and crafts supplies. Try a collage or some pottery or finger painting. It doesn’t have to look like anything, it’s more important that you’re tuning out the world around you.
Take more risks - but don’t force them to be LIFE-CHANGING
The plus-side to being incredibly anxious is that I’m scared of a lot of things: public speaking, karaoke, tiny holes, treacherously wonky pavement tiles, dark water and avalanches. I’m probably not going to deliberately seek out an avalanche this year, but I might dare myself to partake in some karaoke, last more than one song and sing properly without pretending the mic is broken.
Other risks that are well worth taking are finally asking that person out, applying for that dream job, dying your hair green, telling your friend that the guy she’s seeing is not good for her because he’s in fact a knob.
Set annual, weekly and daily adventure goals for yourself
If I were to believe all the Instagram quotes on my feed, every day should be one big adventure. Thing is, most days are just a bit dull. You go to work, you eat some food, you drink less water than you should and you go to sleep.
There’s no easy way to change the routine of your life. Big extravagant resolutions might set you up to fail. Instead, set smaller more achievable ones. Every sixth months I get a spreadsheet together with lots of different columns and colours and sheets (don’t tell me I don’t know how to have fun!). Within that spreadsheet are several goals that aim to break down my longer-term aims. I also have a reward system for achieving goals that range from buying myself a fancy plant to getting a new tattoo.
You don’t have to go all spreadsheet crazy like me. The point is to make your 2018 routine less set in stone. Have plenty of things you can look forward to that are attainable and realistic but leave space for the possibility that you could just meet Chris Hemsworth and get married in Disneyland. You never know...
Remember This When You’re Sad by Maggy van Eijk, is out on January 11th, RRP £14.99, Lagom Books.