You Need Help: How Do I Become Less Afraid of New Year’s and the Expectations it Brings?

Q:

How do I go into the new year feeling anything other than dread and exhaustion? NYE/NYD has always been the most stressful holiday for me, and I’d like it to feel less scary. I want it to feel like an actual fresh start but I’m not sure how.

A:

What you’re describing is so real. Everything from the economy to politics (especially as QPOC folks!!!), and even personal stuff like health and relationships feel so much heavier in the past few years than ever before. It makes us all wonder how any of us can go on into the new year with any sense of feeling renewed or hopeful. I get that sense that you’ve held New Year’s traditions in the past that just don’t sit the same, or maybe this particular holiday holds a certain collection of memories or expectations that aren’t serving you. Whatever the case, I can feel even through your message that no matter what you end up doing, you might be really struggling with your mental health overall. I’ve totally been there, and I have a few suggestions you can take or leave.

You’re holding the weight of the entire new year on your shoulders. No one is blaming you, though. Western consumerism is structured to make us feel like we should have our life together, planned, and ready for action on January 1. Frankly, this is some bullshit. We have an entire year to explore and navigate what life brings us or what we’ve been manifesting. However, there’s definitely a certain sense of relief that comes with the idea of “starting over.” What immediately comes to mind is the season we’re in: winter. Winter calls us to hibernate, reflect, and settle into routines or patterns we’ve carved out for ourselves throughout the past year. I find it odd that we, as a collective Western culture, place so much emphasis on change in the middle resting seasons. It feels counterproductive. I’ve spent the past few years reconceptualizing the structure of my own year based upon seasons. For me, it makes a lot more sense to do rituals that renew and reflect as spring starts to blossom from winter. It’s the season for new ideas, warmer weather, and taking smaller steps towards action. Even though the pressure of a new year tells us to rethink our lives, the first step could be reframing why that doesn’t work for you (and honestly for most people).

We may not be able to control the cultural and social pressures of what NYE/NYD brings, but we can tailor it to our own lives in smaller steps or traditions. One way to press pause on carrying exhaustion into the new year is to wrap up this current year with some closure. One of my intimate traditions is reflecting on the year’s ups and downs and molding it into one word to bring closure and perspective. Last year, my word was “closer.” Sometimes it’s overwhelming to move forward if we haven’t processed the past. Once you’ve processed 2023, take only baby steps to picturing your 2024. I know folks who create Pinterest mood boards to capture the essence of what they want their year to look like. I know other folks who get together with loved ones and share their intentions for the new year. My cousin and I actually agreed to have a little “powerpoint night” where we throw a bunch of images into a slideshow and describe what we’re feeling about this year, next year, or in the current moment. Having someone around to just process this with can make all the difference.

Finally, another option I always recommend to folks over the winter holidays is seeking mental health support. If you have a therapist, bring all the above suggestions to them. If you don’t have a therapist, consider what steps you need to take to getting one. You can also reach out to many different help lines at any time throughout the holiday stress.

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline – CALL OR TEXT 9-8-8
Talkspace 

Trans Lifeline – 877-565-8860
The Trevor Project – 1-866-488-7386

This time of year inherently brings stress, so please treat yourself with kindness. Give yourself permission to rest, do nothing, or opt out of traditions that aren’t serving you. Seek the things or people that bring you comfort. Allow yourself to feel whatever you actually feel with the trust that a refreshing start is coming, just maybe not on January 1. I’m wishing you the type of New Year you need, whatever that is.


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

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Em Win

Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Em now lives in Los Angeles where she does many odd jobs in addition to writing. When she's not sending 7-minute voice messages to friends and family, she enjoys swimming, yoga, candle-making, tarot, drag, and talking about the Enneagram.

Em has written 71 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. Yeah, my word for 2023 would be ‘progress’. I got my teeth fixed up, started cycling and went into weekly therapy. I also cut way back on alcohol & caffeine. I sometimes feel discouraged – so far my only reward seems to be brain fog & exhaustion.

    But I’ve had positive feedback at work & my relationship is better than ever.

    My word for 2024 is Clarity, in its multiple meanings.

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