Inside: Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn, derailing our well-drawn plans for the new year.
Note: This article was first posted a year ago on my writing website, but it resonated with many readers there and has become one of the most widely read posts. For that reason I wanted to repost “When Your New Year Didn’t Go as Planned” here in the hopes of helping those who have started the year off in hard places. If you know of anyone going through a difficult time, please pass the link along.
I had high hopes for 2017. By December I had gotten my word for the next year—“accelerate,” and I was excited. I took a class in goal setting, watched videos, filled out worksheets, and listened to podcasts. I carefully penned my actionable steps in my brand spanking new calendar. And I dreamed.
Then my dad passed away.
Barely into the second week of January, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. Priorities changed overnight. Suddenly all of those goals didn’t amount to a hill of beans. I was knee-deep in the Kubler-Ross school of hard knocks, working on my five stages of grief.
Maybe your new year didn’t go as planned, either. Maybe you lost your job or received a bad report from the doctor or recently signed divorce papers. Maybe someone you love passed away.
So now what?
Here are my five observations from the trenches:
Give yourself time to process. Whether the death of a loved one or a diagnosis of cancer, take the time to grieve the tragedy. Stuffing feelings only delays forward movement because sometime, somewhere, those feelings will surface—maybe at the wrong time. Better to take a long walk on a deserted park trail to cry rather than breaking down at the office.
Allow for changes to your schedule. This will look different for every person. Maybe you need to cut back on your busyness, drop the weekly book club meeting. On the other hand, adding in some time at the gym might be a good stress reliever. However it looks to you, respect the change in priorities. For the rest of January, I cut all of the nonessentials from my work and personal schedule. I also swapped my every three weeks grocery shopping marathon with elaborate meal plan system for a less intensive weekly shopping trip and winging the food thing. Mondays Mom and I have been spending leisurely afternoons at the Roasted Bean, sipping coffee and making sense of our lives without Dad. It’s been healing.
Take care of yourself. Dress warmly. Take your vitamins. Journal. Watch a funny movie. Read a mystery. Eat healthy, but give yourself grace for a chocolate bar, if that fits your lifestyle. January visits to The Bean included custard-filled donuts for Mom and me. Giving yourself that extra TLC is imperative.
Reach out to others. Again, this will differ depending on the individual. Maybe you are an extrovert and joining a support group makes sense. Or maybe a standing dinner date with a friend is more your speed. For me, a confirmed introvert, spending time with Mom, texting my brothers, and emailing my daughter are avenues of communication that work well.
Plan a New Year reset. So you’ve been through some pretty traumatic events, but slowly you’re starting to feel like it’s time to return to some semblance of normal. Life is calling you back. Maybe you want to tackle some of those goals you were once so excited about. It’s time for a New Year reset. This could be the first day of spring or maybe your birthday or some other milestone. Maybe you need six months to process what happened. After some prayerful consideration, I knew that February 1 would be my reset.
Regardless of your timetable, the way forward begins with you.
Ever had a rough start to the new year? How did you cope? Tell us about it in comments.