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Setting New Year's Resolutions with Mental Illness

The idea of setting New Year's Resolutions can be stressful for anyone, but even more so if you are struggling with your mental health. It may feel like one more tradition that you don't have the bandwidth for, and that is perfectly OK! The purpose of making resolutions isn't to stress you out, so if that is what it is doing, you may want to take a step back and ask why you are doing this.

According to SAMHSA,

It’s tempting to want to make significant behavioral changes each January. It doesn’t help that society pushes us to do just that. Yet, resolutions are rarely kept beyond the second Friday of January—a day known appropriately as Quitter’s Day! Resolutions can fail for a myriad of reasons. It might be because people often start with the best of intentions but realize later that their expectations were unattainable. Sometimes our goals take too long to achieve. Or we take on changes we perceive as important because others are doing something similar, but in the end, it is not realistic for you.

Since most people fail at New Year's Resolutions, why do we keep setting them? What do we think is going to be different about this year than last year? It is something that is so deeply ingrained in our culture that it is hard to change, and yet, if you set resolutions and fail, it can actually be harmful to your mental health.

So, if you decide to skip out on New Year's Resolutions this year, not to worry!

It is better not to set yourself up for failure. Remember, your mental health always has to come first, no matter what. Don't allow social pressure to do more and be more take over your life.

Be Gentle With Yourself

The holidays can be a really stressful time. This is especially true if you have difficult family relationships, or struggle with anxiety over all the holiday gatherings you attend. Taking some time to decompress and focus on extra self care may be just what the doctor ordered!

By taking some time after the new year to build in extra self care, you are prioritizing yourself and your health. This can have a lot of long term benefits as well. Often, we put ourselves as the last priority, and working to change this can help our mental health, relationships, and the way we do our jobs.

Take some down time. Relax in front of the TV or with a good book. Do some gentle yoga or stretching. Spend some time with your pets or go for long, leisurely walks. All of these can be refreshing for your mind, body and spirit.

Practice Self Care

We all know that self care is a huge buzzword these days, and personally I wasn't on board with it at first when my therapist brought it up. It felt like just one more thing to check off on a to-do list that was already too long. But, making time for self care shouldn't stress you out! It should be relaxing and fun.

I didn't really understand self care at first, until my therapist told me that setting boundaries with other people is self care.

Saying no to things that don't serve you is self care. You can protect yourself, your mental health, and your personal space. It isn't all yoga and bubble baths (although it can be, if you are into that!) It is about honoring yourself and your needs. Learn to feel into your body, and observe what your body needs, knowing that this may be different from day to day.

You can make a self care plan as a part of your new year, if that feels appropriate for you. But remember, start small. Any new habit takes at least 3 weeks, and up to 6 months, to integrate into your schedule. So start with five minutes. You could journal, do yoga, practice gratitude, meditate, or sit on the porch with a coffee.

There are even one-minute mindfulness apps that you can download for your phone. It sets a timer, and asks you to simply take a minute to be mindful and present in your surroundings. Often, we aren't even taking ONE MINUTE out of our day for ourselves. When you do, it can make a huge difference!

Set Therapy Goals

Many therapists do this anyway, at least most of mine did. You can talk to your therapist about setting new goals if you are interested in doing so. These can be related to learning coping skills, or something else that you hope to achieve.

Having your therapist as a partner in your goal setting process can be a big help, because they will help you make sure that you aren't taking on too much too fast (one of the major reasons that New Year's Resolutions fail!). Personally, I recommend not setting more than 3 goals at once.

When I set my goals, I set them for different areas of my life, too, so that they don't feel overwhelming. So, you could have one goal for therapy, one for work or school, one for your health, etc. This way, you aren't placing all your emphasis on one area of your life.

Running your ideas for different goals by your therapist can help you to clarify them, and make sure that you are focusing on your goals in a way that will benefit your mental health in the long run.


Setting New Year's Resolutions can feel stressful sometimes, especially if you have been busy over the holidays and are feeling overwhelmed. If it feels too stressful to start out January with a list of new goals, DON"T DO IT. You can always set goals later on when you are feeling less stressed. January 1st is an arbitrary deadline anyway!

If you do set goals, make sure to prioritize your mental health and your self care. This way, you can keep in balance in your life, and you won't feel like you are taking on too much.

Start small, that way you have room to grow in the future. Integrating a new habit into your schedule takes time. The more you enjoy the time you spend with your new habit, the more time you can eventually spend. Starting small allows you to figure out what works for you and what doesn't.

Collaborate with your therapist on your resolutions, so that you will have a partner who can help you meet your goals. It is always easier to work on something new as a part of a team than when you go it alone!

For more tips, you can check out:

If you have questions about New Year's Resolutions or goal setting, let me know in the comments! I will be happy to write a future blog post on any topic that you guys request. After all, this blog is all about you, and I want you to succeed!


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