Happy New Year!
Across the world, the clock strikes twelve, signalling the end to a hectic and traumatic year. And now, as the fireworks fade and the year begins anew, I find myself wondering what the next twelve might bring.
Will they be better?
Will they be worse?
Even though I spent the year in an area less affected by the spread of the Coronavirus, I still found myself feeling its effects in ways I hadn’t expected. For example, as an introvert, I’m used to being at home, but I didn’t expect to miss an important connection with nature (also affected by the bushfires in Australia) as much as I did. Travel restrictions meant I couldn’t get out to see my colleagues in person as I had in past years, making it difficult to maintain closer connections. And, as a highly sensitive person, my feelings of anxiety over the state of affairs in the world and my worry for those in my life grew to a steady, constant stream that made it hard to focus or relax.
If the challenges I encountered were unexpected, however, then my response to them was equally so. Instead of turning to new things or making great changes in the way things were, my refuge came from questioning things I had long taken for granted instead. Was my work environment at home set up in a way that was actually comfortable and conducive to being productive? Was I reaching out to people in ways that helped me feel connected, and just what were my communication preferences, anyway?
In an uncertain world, my antidote was to make small changes, not take giant leaps.
Perhaps this goes a ways in explaining a problem I’ve always had with another curiosity of the change in calendars – New Year’s resolutions. On the one hand, the perennial list maker in me has always found them a great way to focus on the things I want to achieve in the coming year. But on the other, well… let’s just say I’m keenly aware of how often I fail to meet them.
(Then again, is there any surprise that it feels hard to suddenly get up and start going for runs in the morning when you never did so before? Just the thought of it makes me want to hit my alarm and get five more minutes in bed.)
What I’m coming to realise about New Year’s resolutions is that they are a change, just like any other. And that, just like any other change, I need to plot them out as a journey rather than treat them as a set of goals to achieve right away. And so, this year, I’m making the small changes that saw me through the previous year into my mantra for the coming one. I’m viewing the start of the year as exactly that – the first step towards goals that can take a year to achieve, measured in one small, incremental step after the other.
Here’s what I’ve got:
I know, I know – I already moaned and complained about getting up and going for runs earlier in the post, but that’s not entirely what I had in mind. I already walk and jog, do some martial arts, but these are merely disconnected dots in a life spent mainly in front of a computer, typing away at a keyboard.
Late last year, at the recommendation of my wife, I began doing a series of stretches after waking up and before going to bed. I’ve never been particularly good at incorporating physical activities into my daily routine, but when the start is as small as a few seconds on one or two stretches, things get suddenly easier. Once that becomes familiar, another can be added, and so on until a routine takes shape in full.
I’ve never been a very big user of social media, so when I started this website and became more active in other forums such as Twitter and LinkedIn, it was a bit of a shock to the system. What did I have to say? Would anyone read it, and how could someone who is not good at self-promotion get the word out?
What I’ve come to realise is that even though I feel emotions quite strongly, I don’t always connect them to what’s going on at the time. When I’m upset, there’s usually a specific reason, but it rears its head as a generalised sense of frustration at first. And even though I have many interests and many things to say about them, most of it ends locked up in my head in a similar way.
Although this is a problem I personally struggle with, I suspect it’s something other introverts and highly sensitive people deal with as well. Over the coming year, I plan to get better at telling myself to stop and think before reacting. In doing so, I’m hoping to find better ways to deal with situations that tend to feel overwhelming, and get better at articulating myself.
This brings us to my third and final point – giving thanks.
Throughout the challenges of the previous year, I found there were many things that I was grateful for as well. Not just the big things either, but being able to wake up in a safe place, to greet the dawn once more, and to feel the change of seasons. They say that sometimes, you don’t fully appreciate some things until you lose them, and last year made me painfully aware of the many things I enjoy each day, but took for granted.
I’m also eternally grateful for the many people who have shown me support over my own journey. As much as writing a story or creating articles is a personal activity, it’s a form of communication like any other, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without your support. In the coming year, I want to not only show gratitude for the small things, but connect this with my goal above and be a better person to you all.
And with that, this feels like a good place to wrap things up.
To all of you who have followed my work over the previous year, who have supported my journey in any way, thank you. It has been a great pleasure to be there and take part in your lives as well in some way, shape, or form, and I hope the coming year is a good one for you.
I’m sure we’ll connect more directly some time in the coming months, but until then, take care, and may your days be long.