Reimagining Anxiety in the New Year
The beginning of a new year can provide an opportunity for one to reflect on past experiences, while charting a course for new possibilities. However, when past experiences involve coping with social and political unrest and a global pandemic, maintaining a healthy sense of balance may seem unattainable and a New Year's resolution may seem pointless.
Countless stories of individuals isolating from normal social outlets have been increasing stress levels. In addition, heated family debates relating to religious and political preferences can cause more stress. It may come as no surprise to learn that incidences of anxiety and depression increased this year beyond typical rates in past years.
Given our new normal, there is a need to reimagine how we cope with our anxiety or life’s circumstances. This new coping strategy involves being intentional in how we face our anxiety.
If we choose to live our lives without a sense of intention, the anxiety that we feared to face from the beginning can grow into a monster too overwhelming to face at all.
Some individuals may find comfort not facing their monsters head on. Unfortunately, this comfort results in our becoming stagnant, potentially yielding negative outcomes. It is those who lean into their discomfort/anxiety and employ healthy coping skills that are more than likely to expect positive outcomes.
Steven Pressfield provides an excellent template to facing anxiety in his book Do the Work. Pressfield states:
Here’s one thing I can tell you and you can take this to the bank: Slay that dragon once, and he will never have power over you again. Yeah, he’ll still be there. Yeah, you’ll still have to duel him every morning. And yeah, he’ll still fight just as hard and use just as many nasty tricks he ever did. But you will have beaten him once, and you’ll know you can beat him again. That’s a game changer. That will transform your life.
When we adopt a posture of being more intentional in our lives, regardless of what we're facing, we can reimagine our anxiety as something that drives us to better cope with our current state, positioning us to achieve a better outcome. When we move from passive to intentional in one area of our life, this intentionality tends to bleed over into other areas of our lives, creating positive change on multiple levels.
Reimagining anxiety entails looking at our current condition as an opportunity to radically pursue change. I believe if we want to see change in our lives, we can not be passive. Change does not occur in or lives without intention. Anxiety can stir us to action when we pay attention to it rather than ignore it.
Fostering intention in our lives helps us to better face our anxiety and all the challenges it presents. When we choose to be intentional about areas of our life that may be causing stress, we can reduce levels of unhealthy anxiety that have yet not been addressed. Instead of looking at our anxiety as being that which defeats us, being intentional gives us focus to look at anxiety and reimagine it in healthy ways to motivate change in our lives.
This year may not involve the typical New Year resolution, but perhaps this year we can commit to intentionally focusing on our mental health as we navigate the challenges of this season.
Pressfield, S. (2015). Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way. New York, NY: Black Irish Entertainment.
Smith, R. (2011). The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good? Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
BIO: Carl Wilson is an MA Intern at the MTS Counseling Center and is currently studying Clinical Mental Health at Moody Theological Seminary. He is passionate about counseling and helping clients develop strategies to overcome addiction and trauma. He desires to engage communities and individuals around the concept of multicultural awareness and inclusion in wellness.