Happy New Year: 2016!

It's amazing how time flies...I cannot believe that we are entering into the year 2016! Happy New Year to all of my friends, family, and readers!

The New Year is a great time to reflect on our blessings, our past year, and our goals. I know this is stated a lot, so I apologize if you're tired of hearing it. But bear with me...because what I am about to say may surprise you a little bit.

I think that welcoming in a new year allows us a time to think back about the past year: what went well, what we struggled with, how we coped with problems, any joys or blessings, any goals accomplished, and more. That is truly an important part of starting a new year, because it helps us learn from our past experiences.

However, one problem that many of us face, myself included, is when we start to think about the upcoming year. We start to think about what we want to change, or new goals we want to achieve. Often, people call these 'resolutions'. Now, don't get me wrong: making goals is IMPORTANT! And what better time to start fresh than a new year?

The issue begins when we get overwhelmed with all the things we want to do in the new year. We start to create lists of things we want to change, goals we want to work on, things we plan on doing, etc. But, we rarely actually make SOLID, ACHIEVABLE, REALISTIC plans on how we are going to accomplish these dreams or goals. And that is where the problem lies. We become so caught up in the idea of making goals (and of course, the media doesn't help with this. It fills our minds with commercials and articles about weight loss resolutions, money-saving ads, new technologies and products that we 'MUST' have, etc...) that we do not stop to think: what am I REALLY doing here? Is this even realistic? Is this important to me, or am I doing this for others/because of what others are saying? Can I really follow this plan, or will I get lazy/tired/frustrated and stop after the first week?

Before this happens to you, here are some things to keep in mind. Personally, I have found it helpful to begin the new year by identifying many things that I want to work on. But then, I prioritize them. I choose the item on my list that is most important to me. For example, this year, I'm going to work on keeping my stress levels down, even when I get overwhelmed by all the craziness around me. This is the number on goal I have chosen to work on first (there are many more, but this is the one I have decided on to be 'number one' for the year).

Next, I've thought about how I am going to achieve this goal. While I know many tips to reduce stress,  I find that (ironically), I forget to use them when I am actually stressed! So, I have tried to list a few ways that I KNOW I can use (ex. deep-breathing, eliminating catastrophic thinking, etc). For this year, I am going to use these tips to work on handling my stress. Once I have a good handle on that, I can continue to add more goals to my list, and work on those too.

Of course, a long-term goal like managing stress will never be 'fully accomplished' because this is a lifelong journey and skill. BUT, I will know and feel when I am ready to move onto other goals because I know that I can assess my current stress levels and compare them with how I am feeling after trying to use more coping techniques. It is important to remember - with ALL goals and changing habits - that these are usually long-term. So please, do not get overwhelmed if it takes you along time to change a pattern of thinking, acting, speaking, etc. DO NOT GIVE UP. A hallmark of maturity and resilience is that you keep pressing towards your goal because you know that it is worth it - regardless of how difficult or impossible it may seem. Usually, the worthwhile goals or habis that you need to change are (ufruantely) the hardest to work on.

But it is worth it. Remember to give yourself a break. There will be times when you may want to give up on your goal or dream. You may make mistakes or feel that you aren't making any progress. And that's okay. We all have times like that. The important part is to pick yourself up and try again. The worst thing you can do is insult yourself and give up. Do not allow yourself to be your worst enemy...on the contrary, be your own number-one cheerleader. And do not be hesitant to ask others for help. Surround yourself with people who love you and care for you, and are willing to support/help you. Do not negativity in - learn to let go of people and things that bring you down. And make sure you take the time to SLOW DOWN. Enjoy the simple pleasures of life, and allow yourself to simply live in moments of happiness and comfort.

From all my heart, I wish you all a Happy New Year. May 2016 bring you the best of times, fond memories and moments, many smiles and laughs, new experiences and learning opportunities, successes and blessings, and love and peace.

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