While it’s great to plan and set ambitious goals for the new year, “New Year, New You” expectations can feel daunting or even unattainable. Psychiatrist Catherine Cunningham, M.D. shares tips on how to keep anxiety down so you can meet your goals.
1. Reframe your expectations.
For many people, the new year can make you feel like you must be “happy” and make huge changes right away, and all at once. Keep internal and external pressures in check by managing expectations—both yours and others’ expectations of you.
You may be thinking: “I want to pay this big bill off.” “I’ll make this big, delicious meal for everyone.” “I will tick off everything on my to-do list.” Slow down, take a deep breath and plan to strategize thoughtfully.
2. Set reasonable timelines and attainable goals.
Divide tasks into palatable pieces. Choose one job and make a short list of what you can do to complete it, then the next. This also boosts self-confidence, as you won’t have to say, “I feel bad that I didn’t get this done.”
If you set an unreasonable deadline for yourself, try to reframe it into something manageable. You don’t want to start the new year already feeling under pressure.
3. Remember, you don’t have to please everyone.
Family dynamics can be complicated. Family members may have ideas about how you should act or what you should be doing, but you undoubtedly have ideas about those things, too. Understand that it’s not your job to make everyone else happy.
4. Set healthy boundaries.
To avoid turmoil and conflict with family—and within yourself—try to set limits and boundaries for a healthier you and your well-being. Practice open communication, set clear boundaries when needed, prioritize and make deliberate choices to reduce your stress.
5. Don’t overdo it – define parameters.
Don’t feel guilty about saying, “This is what I am able to do” and “This is how much I can help and what I can accommodate.”
You want to keep from overextending yourself and feeling burnt out. That can happen if you don’t take care of yourself as well as you care about others.
6. Treat yourself.
Take a break: Take a warm bath. Go out with a friend. Do a spa day if it’s feasible. Make yourself a priority and know that you are not being selfish.
7. Avoid drugs and alcohol as a means of coping.
If you’re in recovery from substance use, this can be a challenging time. Identify your emotional triggers, and have a plan in place if you feel yourself slipping. Utilize support groups, sponsors and trusted loved ones to provide grounding.
Do some deep breathing, meditate or develop fun hobbies, so you can adapt instead of reaching for something you’re working hard to manage.
8. Use “stress time” wisely.
It’s a busy time of year, which means sitting in traffic or standing in lines will be commonplace. Take this time, and use it to your advantage – mentally plan a project you’ve been putting off. Go through emails in the returns line at the store.
You can’t control things like traffic or crowded stores, so instead, take on something you can control. Using that time to check off items on your to-do list will help you feel accomplished, instead of frustrated at the wait.
You can use that time to be mindful and grateful for the people you have in your life. Most things in life are not worth getting upset or frustrated about – they are momentary inconveniences that will pass.
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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.