How the Anxiety Monster is messing up your New Year's Resolutions (and what you can do about it!)

By the time I post this blog entry, it will be a week into 2019. By now, the resolutions have been sitting out for a few days, getting a little stale and dry around the edges, just like those Christmas cookies you had planned to throw away. They’re less appealing, more difficult to digest.

And easier to ignore

The forgotten resolution is a story as old as time. You make the plan that this will be the year that you (fill in the blank here: lose weight, find a new job that you love, start spending more quality time with the family, quit drinking, whatever). You’ve sat down on December 31st and created your vision for what you want the year to look like, and how you’re going to get there. You have big plans! Big dreams! The excitement builds for the year ahead because this time, this time it’s going to be different. This time, you have a real, tangible plan. 

So, what happens? Why is it so common for people to abandon their big hopes and plans? 

Consider what’s going on while you’re creating your resolutions. You’re safe. Safe as can be. You are in your home, perhaps, reflecting quietly on what you plan to do.

Now, visualize this: while you’re doing this introspective work, your anxiety monster sleeps in the corner.

What does your monster look like?

Mine is actually rather cuddly, a big furry blue thing with a bright red tongue and a weird horn. During the quiet planning moments, he's curled up in a ball in the corner, resting. He’s not upset yet, because making plans is not at all the same thing as executing them. He might open his eyes and watch me, sniffing the air, but he knows that there’s no action behind my thoughts yet. No need to waste his anxious energy on this moment.

The Anxiety Monster’s job is to keep you alive. Not happy or fulfilled, just alive. But he is very pessimistic and very short sighted. He doesn’t comprehend long term goals. He is aware that you are alive, and if you try changing anything in your life, there is a chance that it will kill you. If you have been sitting on the couch, not exercising and eating Pringles every day, Anxiety Monster’s gonna be pretty pissed when you change that routine, because it has kept you alive this long. Why fix what isn’t broken?? 

He is patrolling every corner, barking about the potential for shame or pain or failure. So when you put action behind your resolutions, and change starts happening, the monster really gets to work, protecting you from the potential consequences of your plan. You might fail. It’s hard. Why bother. Oh by the way you have no time for this.

Listen hard. What does your anxiety monster tell you?

Trust the December 31st version of yourself. She wasn’t bothered by the anxiety monster, and she was thinking clearly. She was tuned in to long term plans and taking brave steps. She had faith. When she made that plan for you, she knew beyond doubt that you could do it and that it would be worth the trouble. It can be hard to remember all that when the Anxiety Monster starts barking at you. So now you have to take the actions you planned out, even while you’re listening to barking. 

Think about it. What does your Anxiety Monster look like? When do you notice him getting the most upset? What does he fear? Give him a chance to really talk to you, thank him for trying to keep you safe. Then, go take the steps that he’s afraid of. Show him that you can handle some positive change.