What to Do With End-of-the-Year Emotions

Jordan Brown

It’s the last day of the year, but you already know that.

What you may not realize is how much the end of the year can impact emotions.

And this year is a big one.

It’s not just the end of the year. It’s the end of the decade.

Even for the superhuman emotional wranglers out there, it’s hard not to have some strong feelings with a milestone like this one.

But what do you do with those emotions so that they don’t distract you from your day-to-day tasks?

You read on for an end-of-the-year emotional strategy.

What is It About the End of the Year?

The end of the year is about finality. It’s about turning a page to start all over again.

Sure, you could say that it’s arbitrary and it’s only as a big a deal as we want to make it. But there is still something momentous about making it through another full rotation of the globe.

I think it’s more complex than that, though.

I think the end of the year is a natural stopping point to consider everything that transpired in the year past. Goals left unaccomplished. Resolutions looming in the year ahead. It’s one of those rare points in time where we sit among two poles — one beckoning to where we’ve been, one pulling us forward to the great unknown and beyond.

It’s anxiety-provoking to say the least.

But time marches inexorably on, and we can’t stay stuck in the moment. The great, glistening new year’s ball drops once — and that’s that. Life goes on the very next day when the sleep-deprived majority must get back to their normal routines.

And I think that’s part of it as well. These momentous occasions feel so large but, in the end, they are part of the normal fabric of our everyday existence. Our challenge is to put great days and momentous milestones into their proper place.

The same logic applies to our emotions.

Changing My Thinking About Big Changes

I realize now that a lot of my anxiety from big changes came from pressure imposed on me by society. I thought I was supposed to make a sweeping resolution to change my life. And because I thought that my resolution had to be grand, it became all-consuming in a perverse kind of way. It warped my thinking.

What I mean is that because I thought I had to make a big change, my perspective became unnaturally skewed. Not only did I think I had to make massive changes to be happy, I thought that I had to make them right now, or else I wouldn’t be keeping up with others and their massive changes.

Now I know it’s not about the big change. It’s about something else.

It’s about a mindset shift.

Now I treat milestones as a way to reassess my thinking. Are my priorities in line with who I want to be? Am I working on the right kind of things?

It’s not losing weight, accomplishing more, or being more social that will make me happy — it’s a definitive commitment to pursue something that is true to myself. The new year provides me with an opportunity to make a firm declaration in my mind, to corral the emotions fighting for my attention, and solidify them into a pronouncement of who I will be in the year ahead.

What Are Your Emotions Telling You?

You can also use the new year to make a mental commitment for the year to come. How you do it may not be the same as how I do it. In fact, I recommend that you make it your own.

Questions to Consider

What are the strongest emotions you feel as you think of the year ahead? What do you think they are telling you? Why those emotions and not other ones?

If you were to follow the strongest emotion and truly live the path that is setting down for you, where would that path go?

The answers are always in the questions you ask yourself.

So use the end of 2019 to think about what transpired in the last year, the last decade. What were your most formative experiences? Could you see them coming, or did you just act and step into the role that only you could play?

There will be times that try you in the next year. But that’s what your emotions are for. They’re signals. They alert you to something important happening in your life. Don’t run away from them — because they are there for a reason.

Instead, seize this opportunity as a moment in time where you can better understand your true self.

The new year doesn’t have to be a turning point. But then again, maybe it should be.