‘New Year, New You’! If only it were that simple!
Around this time of year, the question we’re all asking one another is ‘What are your New Year’s resolutions?’ So much so that many of us make up resolutions just to field the query, even if we have no intention of following through! We promise our friends and ourselves that next year will be the year in which we finally get fit, stick to a diet, mend bridges, take steps towards our dreams, and generally become the person that we’d like to be (or, perhaps, that they’d like us to be).
There’s nothing wrong with setting goals for yourself. Setting achievable goals can be a valuable aspect of a steady and healthy self-improvement plan. But, sometimes, pressure to make a New Years’ Resolution can feel like pressure to fundamentally change who you are as a person - immediately and for the better. This can lead to negative reflection on who you actually are and the direction your life is taking at the moment. And this kind of gloomy rumination can make any mental health issues you may have worse.
What’s more, resolutions made at New Year are actually more likely to fail than resolutions made at any other time of the year. These (often inevitable) failures can come as a huge blow to self-esteem and mental health. When a New Year’s resolution fails, some people feel that they have failed the entire year, let themselves down, and will never be the person they envisaged with such high hopes back in January.
If you’re struggling with mental health, self-esteem, or other such issues, the pressure to make and keep New Years’ resolutions can be pretty damaging. Seeking help from a counsellor can give you the tools you need to deal with this pressure.
NEW YEAR, NEW STRESS
Making a New Year’s Resolution often involves thinking back over a potentially discouraging year, and seeking out faults to correct in the upcoming year. People struggling with depression, eating disorders, problems with self-esteem, troubling life events and so on may find themselves spiralling into patterns of negative rumination as they think about their problems, their perceived faults and so on. This can be extremely bad for mental health.
If you’re feeling the pressure, or worried that New Year and its resolutions could be triggering for you, here a few tips which might help you to cope.
• Think small. You may well have big hopes, goals, and dreams. But, when it comes to setting resolutions, try to chop these into bite-sized chunks. Go for small, manageable resolutions which you know that you can achieve. This isn’t to say that you aren’t capable of achieving bigger things – you are! But nobody can predict what’s upcoming in the year ahead, so it makes sense to leave yourself room to improve rather than to set yourself up for potential failure. So, for example, rather than vowing to lose two dress sizes in the next year, resolve to lose one pound a month (or an achievable equivalent). That way, if you lose two pounds you’ll feel proud of yourself, but it also won’t feel like a major resolution failure if something crops up which disrupts your diet and exercise regime one month.
• Stay rational. The chimes between the end of December and the beginning of January don’t actually mark any kind of physical, metaphysical, or psychological switch. It’s a portion of time, like any other. No magical processes start working on the stroke of midnight, and we don’t actually become new people as the year changes. This may sound obvious, but many people get caught up in the excitement and rush of the New Year festivities, and forget about the hard work which keeping to resolutions actually takes. The excitement can lead people to make unrealistic resolutions, which don’t actually stand up to the rigours of our normal lives. Stay grounded, and don’t get carried away with the bubbles and sparkle of your New Year’s party.
• Go easy on yourself. Most New Years’ resolutions fail. It’s hard to maintain focus on a single goal for an entire year. But this doesn’t make it any easier when we realise that all of our good January intentions have come to nothing. Many people feel like abject failures, and berate themselves for what they see as their lack of willpower, lack of sticking power, greed, or of fundamental character flaws. This kind of self-flagellation is very unhealthy, and can lead to serious mental health decline. If your New Years’ resolutions do fall by the wayside, tell yourself that this is a normal and natural thing. You probably had more important things to concentrate on. Let them go, or learn from the experience and formulate more achievable ways of reaching your goals. Don’t beat yourself up!
HOW CAN COUNSELLING HELP AT THE NEW YEAR?
This time of year is pretty fraught for a lot of people, and we’re well aware of that as counsellors. The pressures of Christmas, the self-reflection of New Year – it takes a lot out of folks! It’s really common for counsellors to get an influx of new clients between November and February, so we’re prepared for and sympathetic to the kinds of issues which crop up for people around this period.
If you’re struggling, or feel like this New Year may be tough for you, it’s a good idea to seek out help from an accredited counsellor. There are many kinds of therapy on offer which may enable you to feel more grounded and stable through this heady, pressured, and emotional time. Even just talking through the way that you’re feeling with a trained, empathetic, and supportive professional can be enormously helpful.
We at the NCS wish you all the best at this sometimes-tricky time of year, and hope that you’ll have an excellent year!