How to deal with New Year's Eve anxiety

As New Year’s Eve nerves set in, here’s how to have a mostly worry-free night

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As New Year’s Eve nerves set in, here’s how to have a mostly worry-free night

By Sophie Lou Wilson19 Dec 2023
5 mins read time
5 mins read time

Most can agree that New Year’s Eve might be the most overrated night of the year. Unrealistic expectations, expensive tickets, overcrowding and a scent of general desperation combine to bring out all round bad vibes. Yet every 31 December, I find myself wondering, what if this year’s different? Maybe this New Year’s Eve will be one of the best nights of my life. This excitement soon turns into gut-churning anxiety. By the time I meet my friends for our NYE meal, my appetite is practically non-existent and I subsist on a diet of sparkling wine and alcohol-soaked grapes. The whole night passes in a blur and I never feel fully present. If it was any other night, I would just relax and have fun with my friends, but for some reason, New Year’s Eve always arrives with a side helping of dread.

I’m not alone. According to Jennifer Shannon, a cognitivate behavioural therapist and author of Don’t Feed The Monkey Mind, New Year’s Eve anxiety is so common because, “Anxiety is often caused by the gap between how it is and how you think it should be. New Year’s Eve carries with it a lot of expectations about how we think it should be, what we are doing and who we are doing it with.” So, if New Year's nerves have set in already, we've curated a list of tips on how to mediate NYE anxiety from people who experience it.

Create a ritual

Deciding what to do on New Year’s Eve can be just as anxiety inducing as the night itself. Tom, 26, has found that the best way to reduce this decision making anxiety is to create a ritual. “We always go to our friend’s family restaurant,” he says. “It’s the least we can do to repay him for the unfortunate fate of having the first of January as a terminally hungover birthday. Knowing more or less what I’m doing every year means there’s just one less thing to worry about, a benefit I don’t get on my birthday, for example.” Creating new festive traditions with friends is always fun. Plus, doing the same thing each year takes away the pressure of finding the perfect event and means you more or less know what to expect from the night. “This year my plan, as usual, is to gather as many of my loved ones into a silly little dated Spanish restaurant,” says Tom, “and then probably end up on a couch in one of our houses at 4:30am, my head full of the near future – when does the overground restart? – and the far future – how can I keep feeling this happy forever?”

Spend the day itself with people

Most New Year’s celebrations start in the evening, which means you have the whole day to work yourself into a panic about how the night will go. If you spend the day by yourself, it can be easy to catastrophise, so why not make some daytime plans too? Just don’t go too hard on the day drinking – see point below. Olivia, 24, suggests “not spending the day leading up to the evening by myself because I’m such an idiot and will get so in my head and so depressed. I need to surround myself with people in order to feel safe.” So instead of asking everyone what they're doing in the evening, try reaching out to a friend about hanging out during the day.

Know your limits

It can be easy to get carried away on New Year’s Eve, especially if you’re planning to start Dry January the day after. It’s the last big night of excess after a long party season so there's a temptation to have a wild night. “I’ve been lucky enough to have some of the best new years in my life over the past few,” says Tom, “but even those are tarnished by things as trivial as my partner being unwell, to more challenging stuff like getting so fucked up that we managed to piss off one my closest friends' housemate.” If you're drinking or taking substances, try not to overdo it just because you feel like you should be having a crazy night.

Create a safety network

No one wants to ring in the New Year with people they feel uncomfortable around. Being with people who make you feel good will help ease some of the anxiety. “I try and make sure I'm with my friends that make me feel most secure and carefree,” says Liv, 24. “I get such anxiety in my stomach before a function. I like to ease into it, there is such a pressure to party sometimes and i just want it to feel natural. I want to feel like it's just me and some friends going for drinks and we've stumbled upon a fun crazy night!"

Don’t put pressure on to find an event

You don’t have to meticulously plan your night. In fact, the best New Year’s are often the most spontaneous. Party hopping and meeting new people can be as fun as spending the night in one place with your friends. “Don't put pressure on yourself to find an event,” says Liv. “Something always comes together in the end! Be with people that make you happy! I love meeting random silly characters on my new year’s pilgrimage. New Year's Eve is always a night where so much is happening and I love meeting and chatting with people but there is also something cursed in the air. Mischief and madness!”