By Dr. Donna Ferguson, Psychologist, CAMH
Sometimes stress can arise when we make New Year’s resolutions and don’t live up to them. We may have expectations such as quitting smoking, losing weight, or even changing careers, and when the New Year comes and we don’t quite succeed at these goals it can become quite stressful.
What is it about New Year’s resolutions that create stress?
New Year’s resolutions provide an opportunity to fulfill goals that we think about all year but either don’t have the motivation, stamina, or time to meet – a chance to start the year fresh.
But when we don’t meet these goals, or it takes longer than we want or intend, we can become quite stressed out the mismatch between our expectations and our reality. So how do we deal with all of this additional stress?
Reframing how we think about goals and resolutions
Whenever we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, particularly when it comes to meeting specific goals at specific times on the year, we create a very stressful situation for ourselves. Most times it is not the stressful situation that is the problem; rather it is the way we deal or cope with the stress. It can be very helpful to find and learn ways to reframe how we think about personal goals and resolutions.
Rather than being upset or angry about not meeting goals in the timeline we set for ourselves, we can try to redirect that anger and channel it in a positive way. Re-channeling our distress by thinking about goals we have already accomplished, or thinking of things in our life we are grateful for and being mindful can be very helpful in managing stress and high expectations.
How do we manage stress?
It is important to not put too much pressure on ourselves to meet specific expectations. We can set goals for ourselves but they need to be realistic. We must remind ourselves that if we do not meet these goals in a specific timeline that we won’t fall apart.
We should try to set goals that we know we are likely to fulfill, but give ourselves a break with larger goals that need more time.
There is one New Year’s resolution that I would challenge anyone to take up, and it’s one that we can all practice and keep throughout the year: Be kind to yourself.