An existential breakdown often occurs when a person faces issues closely related to death, freedom or the meaning of their own life. So for example, questions like “is my 9-to-5 job is keeping me fulfilled” or “will I ever find someone who loves me unconditionally” commonly come up when experiencing an existential breakdown. What’s more, the breakdown can easily lead to an existential depression. This unique form of depression ultimately stems from a feeling that life is meaningless and the unrelenting need to seek out radical change. For those in recovery, however, an existential depression can also trigger many of the same emotions known to spur a relapse.
Existential Breakdowns and the New Year
While the media portrays existential breakdowns as if they are a laughing matter (see Shia LaBeouf), it’s important to point out that everyone experiences them at least once.
The end of one year and the beginning of another is one of the most common times for existential breakdowns to occur. New Year’s Eve is the time when people look back and reflect on the past 12 months and begin to evaluate where they’d like to be in the coming year. If an outgoing year has been tarnished by failure, disappointment and setbacks, reflecting on those events can be devastating – especially if there’s no sign of reprieve in the upcoming year.
Luckily, there are several different ways to reflect and set goals in a healthy and sober manner. Here are five tips to help you avoid a classic New Year’s Eve existential breakdown.
Tip #1 Pace Yourself
A bulk of the anxiety brought on by New Year’s Eve stems from self-inflicted pressure and feeling like you have too much to accomplish in a short amount of time. However, you don’t have to start going to the gym, attend more 12-step meetings and spend weekends volunteering all at once on January 1.
If you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and commit to doing the tasks you can reasonably accomplish. Make a list of those goals and assure yourself that you’ll accomplish them by the end of the year. You’ve got 12 months to make these positive changes; there’s no rush.
Tip #2 Don’t Be Afraid To Say No
This tip also falls into the strategy of pacing yourself. New Year’s Eve brings with it a number of semi-mandatory family functions and social soirées. With that in mind, give yourself permission to say no to some of these events. In truth, you don’t need to make an appearance at every party you’re invited to.
…if you’re a recovering alcoholic who’s been invited to a party where alcohol plays a central role, avoiding the event altogether is a smart plan.
Identifying your fears around some of these NYE events and planning ahead for them can help quell any potential breakdowns. For example, if you’re a recovering alcoholic who’s been invited to a party where alcohol plays a central role, avoiding the event altogether is a smart plan. If that isn’t possible, come up with some personal conduct guidelines like setting exact arrival and departure times.
Tip #3 Sit With Your Thoughts (But Not For Too Long)
Plenty of people seek out professional therapy in hopes of warding off negative thoughts; others take up meditation classes as a way to clear the mind. However, there are times in life when you need to just sit with these anxiety-provoking thoughts.
Dive to the bottom of your anxieties and make a point of identifying the root of each issue. Believe it or not, just acknowledging something like “I’m depressed because I don’t have a significant other” can help tame the existential dread.
However, it’s a good idea to put a time limit on these “self-therapy sessions.” By refusing to dwell on issues that produce anxiety or depression, you’re able to avoid getting lost in your psyche for hours on end. Again, this is another strategy for pacing yourself.
Tip #4 Confide In Friends
By normalizing these fears and worries, you’re able to put them in perspective and avoid a New Year’s breakdown.An existential crisis often spirals due to strong feelings of isolation and thinking that you’re the only person experiencing these emotions.
More often than not, the feelings related to an existential crisis aren’t that unique. While your friends may not readily express them, they’ve likely experienced similar thoughts and feelings. By normalizing these fears and worries, you’re able to put them in perspective and avoid a breakdown.
Tip #5 Seek Professional Help
Sometimes people get “stuck” in their existential angst. If you find yourself consistently bogged down by these negative thoughts, it could be a sign of clinical depression. Don’t be afraid to seek out a therapist or ask your physician about possibly going on some form of mood-stabilizing medication. Depression is a very real disorder, but it can be treated and overcome with the right level of care.
Additional Reading: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…to be Sober?.
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