Here we are half way through February. Only about six weeks out from the shift to 2019 but already it can be hard to stay on track with your New Year’s resolutions. Almost everyone runs into this challenge.
However, it’s exponentially more difficult if you also have anxiety.
Anxiety loves to tell you a whole lot of lies. Worse, it repeats those lies over and over, strangling your mind with repetitive thoughts. When it comes to resolutions, those lies can easily derail the best of plans.
For instance, let’s say that your New Year’s resolutions include going to the gym. Your anxiety stirs up perfectionism, and you think that you have to hit the gym for at least two hours every day. If you don’t, you’ve failed. Then, anxiety tells you that you’re not doing enough, so you stop going to the gym at all.
Perfectionism is just one of many ways that anxiety can derail your New Year’s resolutions. But you can learn tricks to help quiet anxiety’s annoying messages and get back on track to meeting your goals.
Learn to Hear What Anxiety Is Telling You
Your anxiety is hammering away inside your mind all of the time. Therefore, you would think that it's obvious when it’s talking to you.
However, we get so accustomed to anxiety’s voice that we start to think it’s our real, genuine thoughts speaking. Reality. It’s not.
The first trick to getting a grip on anxiety is to learn to notice when it’s chattering away. Start writing down the thoughts in your head. When you keep a journal of what you’re thinking, it becomes easier to identify the anxious thoughts. That way, when they come up again, you can quickly label them, which makes it easier to dismiss them.
For example, your anxiety might tell you that you can’t go to the gym because you don’t know how to use the machines, and everyone will laugh at you. Therefore, you don’t go, and your New Year’s resolutions end before they could begin.
However, if you learn to identify that thought as “social anxiety,” you have a starting point from which to combat it.
Then, you can brainstorm a list of reasons why the things your anxiety is telling you aren't true or don’t matter if they are. You can also come up with solutions, such as working out during an hour when the gym isn’t as busy or setting up an appointment to go over the machines with a trainer. Plus, you regain control over your life by talking back to anxiety, "Go away, anxiety, you're not in charge here."
Set SMART Goals to Succeed with Your New Year’s Resolutions
Most people make vague resolutions. Common resolutions include to go to the gym, lose weight, get a better job, learn a language, and travel more. Those are nice ideas, but they aren’t concrete. And when a goal is vague, it’s easy for anxiety to creep in and get you off course.
One of the best ways to keep anxiety from limiting you is to follow the “SMART” format for setting goals. This acronym stands for:
Specific – what you want to do using an action word to describe it
Measurable – losing one pound per week for four weeks rather than just “losing weight”
Achievable – check with people you trust to make sure you’ve set a realistic goal
Relevant – does the goal align with your true values or are you doing it because you “should”
Time-bound – what the exact time frame for achieving this goal will be
You should also find ways to break each of your New Year’s resolutions down into step-by-step chunks. And then, create a SMART statement for each part of the goal.
When you have such a specific plan, anxiety doesn’t have as much wiggle room to get in there and ruin it. You’ll have resisted the negative allure of perfectionism by making the goals measurable and achievable. And you’ll have quelled overwhelm by breaking down each step and keeping it realistically time-bound.
Set Yourself Up for Success
As you set your goals, you can build in specific strategies to deal with your unique anxiety triggers.
For example, if going somewhere new triggers your anxiety, ask yourself if this resolution requires you to go to new places. If it does, then make a list of all of the helpful techniques that could make this easier. Would it perhaps help to bring a friend with you?
Anticipate the anxiety triggers and plan ahead to reduce them. Then, if they arise, implement your anxiety reduction techniques to keep you on track with achieving your goals.
Remember, anxiety likes to pretend it's the boss of you. It provokes feelings that make you think that's true. But it's not.
You are the only boss of you. You have the power to take charge.
If anxiety is getting the best of you and making it hard to keep your New Year’s resolutions, remember that therapy can also help. Learn more about anxiety treatment here.