After years of this familiar routine of madness I’ve found that somehow, it rarely ever happens that way for me. Far from my ideals of spending a wonderfully relaxing Christmas with my family, with ample time for long walks and reflection, I instead find myself maniacally working, shopping, wrapping, packing, travelling, driving, drinking and eating to excess. And then, one bleak mid-winter morning, I wake up bleary eyed and it’s the 5th of January. It's the day before I'm due back to work and I'm still knee deep in unanswered emails and late invoices! May as well give up on any hopes of a personality and spiritual upgrade, right? No time to stop and reflect now, the race has already started without you!
Well, after years of living like this I now think I've found a simple solution to help slow the snowball of life (and panic) that rolls us off the cliff of last year and hurtling headlong into the new one.
Rather than be disappointed with my lack of serenity and peaceful end-of-year planning, I let December be what it is: a complete whirlwind and catalyst of end of year chaos and I invite you to do the same. Throw up your hands and embrace the madness!
Then, when January arrives without me noticing, instead of feeling panicked by my lack of action and change, I now allow myself the whole month to cleanse, reflect and reset my routine; thinking calmly over several weeks about what might lie ahead for me in this new year that just couldn't wait to scamper out the door like a puppy with a full bladder. Let it go (let it gooooooooo!), you'll catch up soon enough.
No one ever said everything had to change on the stroke of midnight December 31st and that you had to have had a miraculous, Cinderella- like transformation. Well the 'gram' insinuates it, but it shouldn't! Let's call a spade a spade. January is a pretty crappy month; it’s cold and dark and no one has any money and everyone feels like they haven’t taken care of themselves. We mostly start the year exhausted after the much awaited ‘holiday’. So why not take the whole month to sort yourself out and get your affairs in order? Make your own life rules and run to your own time frame.
How to get started
It doesn't matter at what point in the month you start but you will be instantly killing two birds with one stone if you start with some repetitive exercise; walking, running, biking, swimming, yoga. This gives your thoughts time to roam, reorder themselves and mull over what the new year has in store for you personally. While you gently condition your body after the abuse of festivities, ask yourself questions and meditate on them as you train.
What do you want to achieve from this year?
What are your new priorities?
What mistakes did you make last year that you can try to learn from?
Who do you most want to spend your time with?
I personally like to walk and listen to acoustic music that sets a tone but isn't intrusive to my thoughts while I mule this questions over.
Take your time. Be gentle with yourself. Ask yourself- what ended up getting rewritten on every to-do list last year? Was it really important after all, or can it be dismissed as to-do list 'fluff'? For me, it was the health column that fell unlovingly aside. A hearing check up, physio rehab as well as failing miserably at getting a longed for and much needed massage every month. Set up a new and realistic self care plan and then freshen yourself up. Do your hair/nails and get a wax/ massage/ go to a fitness class or two. So that when you emerge into February you can do so as the cool, calm and collected person you knew you were all along. Or at least with the foundations in place to become this person. Baby steps are key!
Setting a routine in the new year is also important. Routine grounds us and gives us direction as well as comfort. It's the rhythm of your life- don't set the tempo too fast. Set a pace you hope to follow consistently. Don’t jump into a million new projects all at once just because it’s January. The chances are you won’t be able to complete any of them well and you’ll be left feeling disappointed and disheartened by February. Take your time to decide what really matters and don't overwhelm yourself with goals and to do lists. What might you do in the first 6 months and what can you leave for the second 6, or even for the next year?
Once I get back on solid ground, the Christmas sparkle has settled and I’m back to work; the new year panic slowly fades away.
I carve out some much needed solitude each morning by lighting a candle after I wake up in the winter darkness. I sit on the sofa, slowly sipping my hot coffee, staring into the flame and thinking whatever thoughts I want to think. It calms me for the day ahead and gives me the illusion of having more time.
Give yourself not just a moment, but a month (or longer if you need) to collect your thoughts on this New Year and I'm sure you'll soon be taking it by storm!
Happy New Year everyone!
May 2020 (update 2022!) be prosperous, peaceful and as joyful as possible, and, may you go through this fresh new year at your own speed, staying true to yourself and not allowing life to whisk you along in a uncontrollable frenzy!