Published on January 5th, 2016 | from CAMH
A Stress-Free Start to the New Year
By Dr. Donna Ferguson, Psychologist with the WSIB Psychological Trauma Program
Stress can arise from within when we fear we’re unable to meet high expectations that we set for ourselves. 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?
With New Year’s resolutions come the chance to fulfill goals that we think about all year but either don’t have the motivation, stamina, or time to meet. So when the New Year rolls around, we see an opportunity to start the year fresh, finally meet these goals and follow through. But when we don’t meet these goals, or it takes longer than we want or intend, we can become quite stressed out about it, as our expectations might be too much for us to handle. So how do we deal with all of this additional stress?
Reframing How People Think about New Year’s 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. If we are able to find and learn ways in which to reframe how we are able to think about personal goals, and about thinking of these goals in particular as New Year’s resolutions, this can be helpful.
It is important that rather than being upset or angry about not meeting goals in the timeline we set for ourselves, that we redirect that anger and channel it in a positive way. It is also helpful to think about ways that are effective to cope with the stress. Rechanneling 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?
There are several ways that one can manage stress in any situation, and more specifically, when dealing with the self-criticalness about not meeting specific goal.
It is important firstly, to not put too much pressure on ourselves to meet specific expectations. We can set goals for ourselves but it is important to try to have realistic goals, and to note that if we do not meet these goals in a specific timeline as we do with New Year’s resolutions, 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. Be kind to yourself.
Sometimes we need to employ specific helpful techniques to deal with stress and take a time out from being upset. It can be as simple as utilizing relaxation techniques such as breathing in order to calm down. Breathing can help the body and mind to be in a calmer state so that you can think clearer and be less focused on the stressful situation that you are dealing with and even being more focused to set measurable, realistic and timely goals.
Being preventative and proactive about stress
It is also important to find time to relax on a whole and practice self-care and work/life balance.. Using preventative techniques to manage stress or always helpful such as; proper diet, exercise, proper sleep hygiene, friends and family support, better time management and reframing problems.
A helpful tip to remember is that being able to identify early warning signs and using tools and support is one of the most important ways to prevent problems from becoming worse. If things do become chronic and stress leads to further mental health issues, it is important to seek out help from your family doctor, a counselor, psychologist and/or psychiatrist, or ConnexOntario, distress line and/or a trusted friend or family member.