Columnist Michelle Elman on how to handle ‘new year anxiety’

Michelle Elman
By Michelle Elman,
updated on Dec 31, 2023

Columnist Michelle Elman on how to handle ‘new year anxiety’

Why it might be time to reject the idea of a ‘New year reinvention’, and instead embrace simply taking a step in the right direction

Without fail, as the year draws to a close, there is so much pressure put on us to reinvent ourselves. The expectation that we have to make the coming year (and ourselves) better than the last, coupled with the fear of falling short, can lead to what’s commonly referred to as ‘new year anxiety’.

As the clock strikes midnight on 31 December, we are meant to enter 2024 as a whole new person, complete with unrealistic resolutions that often set us up for failure within the first week. Shaking up how we approach this season is long overdue; we need to do the new year a little differently, and ease the pressure on ourselves. New Year’s Eve should fill us with excitement, not fear, anxiety, and dread.

The first step in achieving this is to let go of all the negativity that was in the past year. It can feel disappointing to look back on what’s transpired if you feel like it was a tough 12 months, or life, as it tends to, didn’t go as planned. You are allowed to feel all your feelings around that.

In order to go into 2024 with a fresh start, actually give yourself some time to feel anything that you might still be holding on to. When life doesn’t happen on the timeline we would like, or it seems like everything is stacked against us, it’s understandable and human to feel down about it. But avoiding this emotion actually just prolongs it. Emotions are designed to be temporary, but this is only the case if you go through the painful process of feeling them and then healing them. Denying that you have these feelings often compounds the emotion, for example adding guilt to the fact that you feel sad.

Once you have found time to feel your feelings, create some space to reflect. Give yourself a chance to celebrate and acknowledge all the good that has occurred in your year. It’s very easy to think or even say ‘This year has been awful,’ but a lot of the time, we are filtering the year through our current mindset, and by the close of December, most of us are exhausted, which taints our perspective.


In order to look at 2023 as a whole, with clarity and a big picture lens, examine all the different areas in your life. Your work life might not have flourished this year, but how about your family or your social life? Ask yourself what were your top five proudest moments. Look at all the things that happened that you wouldn’t have believed would have been possible a year ago. Take a moment to be grateful, and actually be proud of yourself for all that you’ve accomplished, and even if 2023 was a difficult one, take a moment to congratulate yourself on surviving so many challenges.

When I do this exercise, I often also find it helpful to go through my diary and calendar to ensure I remember everything. A year is a long time, so when December rolls around, it’s natural to need a little nudge to remember what happened back in January.

As you look forward to 2024, in order to do things differently, be careful about the expectations you place on yourself, as sometimes they are unrealistic, and if your goals are unachievable, you could be setting yourself up to fail from the beginning. One of the ways we do this is through the cliché of setting new year’s resolutions. The way we make plans around this is part of the problem, often setting the bar to be a drastic 180 degree turn on our current behaviour, creating a harsh line between passing and failing.

Instead, focus on small increments and know that even a 10% improvement is a move in the right direction. If setting goals is important to you, make them as specific as possible, and ensure multiple check-ins throughout the year to track your progress. We need to remove this idea that you either pass or fail a goal, and instead understand that failure is part of the progress. It isn’t a reason to give up, it’s simply feedback to re-adjust.

Personally, I don’t even like to set resolutions. Instead, I pick a word for the year that I like to focus on, and then I pick another specific word each week. At points this year, my word has been ‘communication’ in order to practise having better connections with others. At other points, my word was ‘fun’, because I was lacking balance. By doing this every week, we take away pressure from this finite point that only happens once a year, and instead allows for every Monday to be a fresh start, and, to a certain extent, every day!

Love Michelle x

Michelle Elman

By Michelle Elman

Michelle Elman is a five-board accredited life coach, most known for her campaign ‘Scarred Not Scared’. Her new book, ‘The Joy of Being Selfish’, is published by Welbeck in February.

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