Welcome to 2019: a year of new beginnings, new resolutions, and new forms of anxiety. Goals are imperative – they keep us moving forward and reaching further than our own comfort. However, they also have the ability to make us feel guilty, frustrated, and downright stressed. There’s nothing like creating your new checklist and dreaming of what your life will look like from January to December, but there’s also a sense of loss. When you look forward, you inevitably have to glance at the past – you have to acknowledge and accept what you lost in exchange for what you gained.
Many of us are stressed out because we’ve forgotten the cost of our goals – we’ve forgotten that in order for us to move forward, we must also walk away. If you’re anything like me, your New Year’s Day was filled with excitement, passion, purpose and a bit of regret. If you’re starting to get anxious about the future, before 2019 has even begun, you’re not alone. Check out these five tips that will help you embrace this new moment, even if you’re struggling to let go of the past.
1. Take a Walk
This past New Year’s, I took the lead from Robert Frost and decided to take the road less traveled. Leaves crunched beneath my feet and crowds grew silent as I made my way past the masses and traversed further into the woods. The trees hovered above me and beckoned me to come deeper into their embrace. As I walked through Central Park, I was reminded of the simplicity of life. The beauty of having breath, having opportunities, and having choices. I put my phone on silent and refused to be bothered with everyone’s resolutions and just concentrated on being present.
Too many of us are looking to make a difference in the future, instead of being different in the present.
It starts with us. It begins with us understanding our personality, character, purpose and relationship with Christ. When we walk or take a drive to a new place, we’re forced to simply engage in conversation with our Creator. We’re not waiting for answers or seeking guidance, but enjoying His presence and inviting ourselves to know God.
2. Be Kind
It’s a simple concept, but not well executed. If you’ve grown up in the church, you’re very familiar with mission trips. The problem with this idea is that it makes kindness a goal and not a journey. We have the opportunity to be kind daily. You don’t need to spend $2,000 on a mission trip and wear matching t-shirts to spread kindness. You just need to be aware of those around you.
I was recently praying silently on the subway and thinking of ways that LOUD Summit could increase outreach opportunities. I was thinking on a big scale because I wanted it to be viral. I wanted to see a domino effect in my generation and really catch a glimpse of God’s grace being extended to the masses. However, I was reminded that it has to start with daily acts of kindness. It has to start with me being present, being aware, and being responsive. In the midst of brainstorming, God interrupted my thoughts and challenged me to simply give my $5 Starbucks gift card to a stranger. It wouldn’t go viral, it wouldn’t make a huge difference, and I would never see the domino effect of that one act of kindness. However, I would see God’s grace and His love in a child’s eyes when his family received the card. I would be reminded that purpose is a pilgrimage.
3. Choose Joy
It’s never easy to choose joy. However, it’s necessary. Now, I’m not suggesting that you can force yourself to be happy all the time or overcome depression with positive thinking. If you’re struggling with depression, I would highly encourage you to talk with your doctor and seek out some great counseling that can help you find support and resources. However, joy is different that happiness. It’s not fleeting nor is it dependent on circumstances. It’s a choice – it’s your choice.
I’ve struggled with health issues for years. It can be very frustrating to have ambitious goals and have difficult weeks of sickness. It feels like every step that I take puts me five steps back.
However, God never promised us an easy life, but an abundant life – a life spent in His presence filled with His strength.
It’s never been easy to trust God and lean on Him when I’m having heart issues or filling my calendar with doctor’s appointments, but He’s never left my side. Choosing joy enables us to see opportunities before us – it enables us to be His hands and feet because we understand His heartbeat.
4. Do Something Pointless
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the computer game, Rollercoaster Tycoon. I’m going on 32, and it’s still my first choice when I’m feeling stressed. There’s something about sitting behind a computer screen and creating a whole entire world from your imagination. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s therapeutic. Every time I get to the next level, it builds my creativity and confidence for my real task list. By completing something pointless, I’m encouraged to complete something purposeful.
Too many of us are trying to deal with stress by adding more stress to our lives.
We gather books, attend seminars, throw ourselves into events, and then wonder why we feel more drained than before we started. Look, I get it. I’m an extrovert to the extreme. I love meeting new people and networking in the city. However, just because I enjoy the interaction doesn’t mean that I’m choosing to live healthily. It just means that I’m escaping my stress with more stress.
Let me encourage you to do something simple. Play that video game that you loved as a kid or sit down at the keys again and just tinker on the piano. Do something that’s simplistic just for the enjoyment.
5. Create a Fun Playlist on Spotify
Shakespeare said it best, to thine own self be true. I love Hillsong, Planetshakers and Elevation Worship like the rest of my hipster peers; however, sometimes I just need to dance around my living room to Stellar Kart, Relient K, or Taylor Swift. Create a playlist with your favorites. Make it loud, fun and danceable. Worship music is the best, but sometimes we need to just enjoy the moment and bob our heads to old school classics.
Too many of us feel the need to be on 100% of the time.
We take our church selfies, snapchat, our devotional reading for the day, and highlight every Christian quote we can find on our Instagram story. Don’t get me wrong; reading scripture is awesome and so is taking time to check in with Jesus throughout the day, but sometimes we can hide behind our Christian sayings and inspirational memes. Sometimes we can isolate ourselves because we’re afraid of being honest. Christianity is authentic – It’s real, raw and messy.
Christ is not looking for our best selves, but our authentic selves.
If you’re stressed out, try out these five ideas this week and then text a friend to meet up for coffee. Don’t stress out alone. Look to Jesus; take time for yourself; and then reach out to those around you for support, prayer and friendship. This New Year let’s be transparent – let’s be honest before God, before ourselves, and others. Let’s walk this pilgrimage together and find peace in the midst of the chaos.