Written by David H. Rosmarin
It is well known that adjusting to life changes – whether social, occupational, familial, or otherwise – can lead many people to experience anxiety. Why is this the case?
First, there is often a lot do. Adjusting to something new can require considerable investment of time and money, and starting new endeavors can require new skill sets which require energy to develop. In other words, new beginnings tend to be fraught with increased demands. While in of itself, this may not lead to anxiety, when stress runs high people are more susceptible to anxiety symptoms.
Second, new beginnings can decrease access to resources. Over time, people tend to find and develop social supports and other important resources they need to succeed in their context. New beginnings – especially those which involve changes of location (e.g., opening up a new office!) can strain or even end access to resources, and thereby increase stress and anxiety.
Perhaps most important, however, is that new beginnings are associated with uncertainty. At the start of any project, it remains to be seen what will become of one’s dreams and efforts. By contrast, an established initiative with a track record of success, seems predictable, if not certain, and much more safe.
While we may not like to admit it, the reality is that certainty is a facade, and uncertainty prevails even in the most established and “predictable” conditions. Recent events in the stock market, weather, and global security have shown us time and time again that life is simply uncertain! In this regard, new beginnings need not be anxiety provoking beyond the stress associated with increased demands and decreased resources, as long as one is ready to accept and confront uncertainty.
Whether you are or are not presently facing a new beginning in your life, try the following for just 30 seconds each day: Contemplate how uncertain life is, and let yourself feel powerless and vulnerable by recognizing that we are in control of much less than we think.
If we do this exercise well and practice it consistently, we may be better positioned to seek out and pursue new beginnings – and thereby fulfill our life goals and dreams without anxiety.