Is it healthy for people who suffer from Anxiety and Social Anxiety to participate in the end-of-year reminiscing that is so popular in our society? Every holiday season, it seems, is filled with “Year-in-review” commentaries highlighting the previous twelve months. We have reviews of news items, politics, fashion, hairdos, movies, photos, games, TV shows, meals, and pretty much any other thing that fits on a list. We’re also a society that likes to reminisce, to measure our progress, to critique ourselves, to evaluate our goals, to identify our mistakes and our successes, and to compare. The end of the year presents a natural opportunity to look back and evaluate our year, but does it make our lives better?
Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living, but I have worked with anxiety and depression long enough to know that there are caveats. Some of us are prone to over-examine life or to do it unfairly. If we struggle with depression or anxiety, maybe it’s partly because we examine life in a way that undermines our sense of peace.
There can be value in taking stock and reviewing the year, but only when done effectively. We have created a handy scale so you can explore your own effectiveness at self-evaluation. Rate yourself on the following End-Of-Year Examination items, using the scale below:
1 Strongly Disagree
2 Somewhat Disagree
4 Somewhat Agree
5 Strongly Agree
When I review the past…
_ I am honest and objective about how things turned out.
_ I restrict my time spent appraising myself.
_ I restrict my time considering the fairness of my life’s playing field.
_ I celebrate my (and others’) successes.
_ I clearly identify what was in my control, and what was out of my control.
_ I resolve to take reasonable steps to make things work out better next year.
_ I resolve to quickly forgive those who have wronged me and not to dwell on their actions.
_ I agree to look for useful lessons among the difficulties.
_ and identify my own shortcomings, I make plans to change what I can.
_ and identify my own shortcomings, I refuse to engage in prolonged self-criticism.
If your total was over 40, you have some terrific skills for examining life effectively. You are likely to benefit from some brief reflection and the planning of some reasonable action steps, even a New Years’ resolution.
If your score was less than 40, you might want to make a resolution to learn to constructively review the past without dwelling. These are skills people often learn to apply in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In the meantime, you might want to hold off on your yearly self-evaluation—it might be doing you more harm than good.
Regardless of your score, I hope you enjoy the fresh start that can come with that new calendar. And if you’re looking for a way to develop these skills, I know a great place to start.