Happy New Year everyone! It’s been a couple of months since my last post. I apologize for that…my wife and I recently had our second child, so I’ve been playing both middle school principal and dad to a newborn. Talk about the need for time management!

Which brings me to my post for today and to kick off the new year. During the latter stages of my wife’s pregnancy, our doctor detected something on a routine ultrasound that looked fishy. Without going into detail, it really had the potential to affect our new baby’s life forever. Needless to say, both my wife and I were on pins and needles while specialists ran tests to see what was going on.   Fortunately everything turned out to be normal, but it was a highly stressful and anxious time for us.

As we get into the new year, I thought a lot about that 2 week period. My default was to Google everything possible, which only led to further anxiety, doubt, and emotion. There are certainly things I could have done to help reduce these feelings, and I want to take a look at how we can handle stress and anxiety in the new year.

Talk to someone

This is without a doubt the most important step in handling a tough situation. Whether it’s a medical condition, job stress, or relationship challenges, talking your problem out with someone always helps. My wife and I spent a ton of time on Google, which only fueled our fears. All the doctors and specialists we talked to us assured us things would be ok. If you are struggling, please consider seeing a therapist or counselor. I, personally, have attended counseling sessions and always leave feeling much better than when I arrived.

Keep things in perspective

No matter what we may face, there is always someone who is in a tougher situation. Even if my newborn was born with the condition we thought she may have had, we still would have loved her no matter what. As a middle school principal, I have to remind my parents and students all the time that middle school grades don’t count. The amount of pressure we put on ourselves to excel at everything is unsustainable. Try to find time to sit back and evaluate the GOOD things in life. Usually they far outweigh the bad.

Stay busy

“An idle mind is the Devil’s playground,” so the old adage goes. There is definitely merit to this idea. I find that when I have things to do (like write blog posts), I keep my mind busy so that I can’t fixate on the things that cause me anxiety. Of course there is a fine balance between staying busy and being overly-taxed. We still need to find time to rest, relax, and recreate. But if you find yourself scrolling through Instagram for hours at a time, then it probably means you need to find something productive to do.

Stay off social media

I once heard someone say, “Social media is the downfall of society.” While I won’t go that far, I do think social media has a lot to do with our increase feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. And actually, recent research supports this claim. Most social media posts portray people in their very best light…the perfect dinner, the most beautiful children, the most adventurous vacation, etc. Social media is designed to keep us scrolling, and seeing constant images of perfection almost certainly leads to feelings of envy.

Lean on friends and family

I am blessed to have a very close, tight-nit network of friends. I guess that comes with living in Austin for so long. And I know that no matter what I’m struggling with I have close friends whom I can count on to be there. One of the things that people say matters most to them later in life is their relationships. In fact people on their deathbed often state they wished they had remained closer to friends and family throughout their lives. Feeling connected makes us feel better in general. Even if your friends and family live far away, making a phone call (or even Facetime) can help feel connected. And this will ultimately make you happier.

The new year is a perfect time to reflect on the challenges in your life and recalibrate how you approach them. We will all have difficult situations that lead to mental health challenges; learning effective coping strategies will undoubtedly help. I wish you the best of luck in 2020!