Well, it is just about over. The wonderful, the horrible, the forgettable and the memorable, all are about to be bundled up and tucked away for another year.
And that is when it hits you.
The New Year. It is almost here.
Oh boy. Here we go again. Another set of resolutions. Another New Year’s diet (after all, more than seventy percent of women nationally resolve to lose weight each New Year, and you don’t plan to be the only one still clunking around in her size-larger holiday wardrobe come next July.)
Another whole year to (take your pick) dread/look forward to.
You would really like to look forward to the New Year, but you have so many regrets. You don’t feel done with this year yet. All those resolutions you made last New Year’s, and here is a new New Year staring you down, and you still haven’t finished last year’s list yet!
What to do?
The good news is, you have spent the last several months studying Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in a group study setting, and you are learning a lot from the four DBT principles about how to stay present for your life as it is, and how to choose peace over chaos.
You wonder if you can use the four DBT principles in this situation as well – it is a big situation, with a whole year’s worth of joys and regrets attached to it – but maybe DBT can help you sort it out.
First, you start by observing mindfulness through practicing radical acceptance – the total, unresisting acceptance of what is. You observe to yourself that today, the New Year has not yet arrived, but you are aware that it soon will. You observe that your mind is telling you there is lots of unfinished business to attend to – business you will never finish before this year ends and the next one begins. You notice that your mind is kicking up a whole pile of “should haves” and “ought tos” that it thinks you need to pay attention to.
You then decide not to care. You can’t control any of that. Today, your job is to live in the present moment, with what is. You remind yourself that what happened even one moment ago is no longer within your control…and that what happens in the next moment is not yet within your control….but what happens in THIS moment IS in your control. You decide that in this moment, you choose acceptance. Peace. Focus. Baby steps. Small steps forward.
You start to feel better.
But then your mind kicks up another round of thoughts, and this time your emotions go haywire. You are feeling, well, everything! Sadness. Rage. Loss. Grief. Hope. Excitement. Anticipation. Resentment. Fear. You remember that the DBT principle of emotion regulation has taught you to maintain objectivity by naming each emotion and witnessing it before choosing whether or not to engage in it. You catalog your emotions, but then choose to allow them to continue on by after you have given them names…like clouds making their way across the blue winter sky.
Simultaneously with this process, you are practicing the DBT principle of distress tolerance, as you use your skills in emotion regulation to name and then release your feelings rather than hanging on and becoming overwhelmed by them. With your newfound skill in distress tolerance, you simply allow the day’s events and emotions to unfold, focusing on the moment, remembering the bigger picture, and refraining from getting unnecessarily caught up in the temporary ebbs and flows of daily life. You are also, slowly but surely, releasing the present year’s old unfinished baggage by recognizing it, accepting it, then releasing it – as you do so, you are realizing that in the very acknowledgement of each stressor also comes its release.
Finally, you bring your new skills together in interpersonal effectiveness, interacting with yourself and others with respect, hopefulness, a degree of detachment, and yet the assertiveness to include yourself and your needs in the mix of any interaction you are having. You feel a burgeoning respect for yourself – no, this past year did not go perfectly according to plan, but yes, it did go, and yes, you are managing just fine in releasing what is unfinished and accepting a new gift of a whole year of life, love, and new experiences yet ahead.
You are proud of yourself. You are ready for the New Year. You are looking forward to today, and also to what lies ahead. And in this, the final, unexpected gift of the holiday season, you discover that you have turned your biggest holiday woe of all into an even bigger New Year’s wonder.
If you are finding that you are struggling this holiday season to find the wonder in the midst of the woes, Southlake Counseling can help. Our compassionate and skilled staff has more than two decades of experience with guiding individuals in how to effectively use the DBT principles of mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. Learn more by visiting us at www.southlakecounseling.com.
Be Well – and happy New Year!