2019 is here and with it is the opportunity to start afresh. In the first few days of the New Year, it’s going to be pretty much impossible to escape buzzwords like “Resolutions”, “Veganuary”, “Dry January”, “New beginnings” and so forth. Although the first day of January is just another date on the calendar and has no real significance, cosmically or mystically – it’s still the reset button for much of us in Western society. So, it’s very likely that when you encounter most people either online or in person, ‘new year resolutions” will come up.
Some of you reading this might already have set some goals for the year and may be very excited about them. There will also be some of you who haven’t got a clue about what you want to get out of 2019. There will also be some who are too anxious to even think about the future. However, Christmas and New Year’s Day are tough times to be going through tough times. Thinking about the future and the pressure to be a happy, fulfilled and ambitious person are a large part of what this time of year is all about and for some of us, those can be difficult things to think about.
If you are someone who has been struggling through this period of the year because of money problems, family problems or because of any other difficulties; it’s important to acknowledge that this time of year sucks. The social pressures that come with this time of year suck. The focus on starting a new year with positivity and hope can also, to be frank, completely suck. If you are feeling overwhelmed this season, I want you to know that it is OK to feel that way. It is OK to be taking things one day at a time and not be able to plan or resolve anything about tomorrow. It is OK to go at the pace you need, even if that makes you feel out of step with everyone else. It is OK not to be OK right now.
Additionally, if you are setting goals for the new year but are anxious about being able to stick to your resolutions, then there’s one question to ask yourself: is your goal SMART? Some of you might be nodding at the acronym but if you’re never come across it before: SMART stands for:
Specific: set a specific goal. If your goal is to be happier, make this more specific. What does happiness look like to you? How would you measure it? For example, if attending yoga classes gives me some happiness, my goal might be to attend yoga at least once a week.
Measurable: make your goal as measurable as possible! How will you know if you’ve achieved it if you can’t measure it against something? If it’s wanting to do more or less of something, think of a number. For example, if you want to reduce your consumption of alcohol from three times a week to once a week then this is a perfect example of a measurable goal.
Achievable: it needs to be something you can achieve right now. Most of us fall into the trap of setting goals that we have no possible chance of achieving. Whilst it’s great to be ambitious, it’s also useful to keep in mind how achievable is that goal. For example, if your goal is to attend yoga classes once a week – but there is no yoga class available local to you and you don’t drive or readily have access to public transport, then there is a serious obstacle in your path! If your setting goals that seem difficult to achieve because of the obstacles, it’s worth managing the obstacles first!
Realistic: you need to be realistic with your expectations. Much like ensuring your goal is achievable, you also need to ensure the goal you’ve set is realistic in scope. For example, if you want to run a marathon but you’ve never run before, it may be an unrealistic goal to expect yourself to be marathon-ready in two months! These might sound like rather extreme examples of some rather silly goals but in my experience, we are all guilty of this kind of thinking at one time or another! We are driven and ambitious and we feel the need to constantly push ourselves beyond our limits. This is useful energy to have but we need to balance it with what our limits are and what is realistic. The downside of not setting realistic goals is that it can be very demotivating not to achieve your goals – even if it was a far-reaching goal.
Timely: set time parameters. When will you start working on this goal? How long will you need?
So, as a new year begins, and we face up to new opportunities and new pressures, it’s important to go at your own pace if you need to. It’s Ok to not have a plan or not have things figured out. However, if you are putting pen to paper with some goals and often fall into the trap of not achieving what you set out to do – go back to the SMART principles!
If you have any tips for managing the new year period and resolutions, do leave a comment!
#WellbeingWednesday is a weekly series looking at mental health, self-care and wellbeing. Some of you may already know that in my offline life, I am a psychotherapist. My job is multifaceted but it can be condensed down to one simple principle: empowering people with knowledge about mental health problems and then giving them the practical tools to manage their symptoms. I thought it was about time I bought some of these conversations about mental health onto the blog because it’s so very relevant – after all, all of us are affected by stress, low mood or anxiety at some point in our lives. I will be looking at a different topic each week and if you have a suggestion for one, please do leave a comment!