The start of a new year often comes with a surge of motivation and the desire to embrace positive change through New Year’s resolutions. While setting goals can be empowering, it’s essential to recognise that the process is not always a smooth ride. In fact, the pursuit of resolutions can sometimes trigger feelings of anxiety, casting a shadow over the optimism that accompanies the turning of the calendar.
The Pressure to Perfection. New Year’s resolutions often carry the weight of high expectations. Whether it’s losing a significant amount of weight, achieving career milestones, or overhauling your lifestyle entirely, the pressure to attain perfection can create a breeding ground for anxiety.
The fear of not meeting your resolutions can be counterproductive when you set them, so instead of setting yourself up for the potential of falling short, why not set yourself realistic goals throughout the year. But make them achievable!
In the age of social media with everyone showing their best bits on places like Facebook and Instagram, it is very easy to fall into the comparison trap. Therapists often hear the fears from clients regarding not measuring up to those people around them, or on social media. But remember, people hardly ever put on their worst bits. Them walking out of the rain with makeup down their face or the fact that they don’t have enough money for the fuel bills this month.
In a world that appears to be full of gorgeous (filtered) people on social media living their best lives, it can be daunting to try to live up to this level of perfection! The reality is, no ones life is perfect.
If you feel like making goals for yourself, do it, but don’t be so ridged that it causes anxious thinking. A minor set back or deviation from the original plan can be hard to come back from if you’re the link of person who puts too much pressure on yourself.
Be flexible…use words like “I would like to achieve x, y, or z by such and such a date” but then be realistic about what will happen if you don’t.
Shift the focus from the end result to the journey. Celebrate the progress made along the way, recognising that growth is a continuous process rather than a destination. Those who are jogging along the road for 10 minutes are doing more than people who are sat on the sofa consumed by anxiety if their last 30 minute run resulted in never wanting to do it again! So be realistic; if you get up off of the sofa and walk for 10 minutes a day, that’s better than nothing! So what if you’re not an olympic runner by the end of the year? Small steps make big changes!
Therapists hear clients berating themselves for eating one thing off plan when they’ve been eating healthily for the rest of the week. We call this “dichotomous thinking” a very all or nothing approach. Better to be eating healthy for 90% of the time, than throwing all plans to heat healthily out of the window due to one slice of cake!
Practice self-compassion. As previously stated, none of us are perfect, so celebrate the things you are! Kind, loyal, helpful, reliable – all positive qualities that far outweigh the little mistake you made last Tuesday!
Writing a list of your positive traits can really help you to focus on what you (and others) value in you. So start a journal where you write one line a day about yourself or your life – but keep it positive!
As we embark on the journey of a new year, let’s approach resolutions with a mindful awareness of the potential anxiety they can induce. By adopting a more compassionate and flexible mindset, we can transform the pursuit of change into a positive and empowering experience. Remember, the essence of resolutions lies not only in achieving the end goal but in the personal growth and self-discovery that accompanies the process.
If you’d like to find a therapist to work through some goals or to just talk about how you’re feeling, consider looking on aphp.co.uk or nrpc.co.uk for a list of therapists who may be able to help.