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A Mental Health Counselor’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions

Struggling with a mental illness can make it challenging to plan ahead for some individuals. Some years can be uneventful while others can bring big changes or the need for additional help managing mental health. As the year draws to a close, many people choose to make New Year’s resolutions. But, if you’re not sure what the year is going to bring or what your goals might be it can be challenging to create your resolutions at all. Coupled with the added stress of the holiday season, planning for changes big or small can be too much.

If you’ve decided that you’d like to create resolutions for yourself, there are several ways you can aid yourself in the process, making it more productive and better for your mental well-being.

Make Small Changes That Contribute to a Larger Goal

Instead of trying to make a massive change in your life come January 1st, think about breaking up your goal into smaller pieces. For example, if your goal is to drink more water it can be challenging to attempt to drink your desired water goal on the first day. Add a few ounces to each week until you’ve hit your water intake goal. Any gradual progress you can make will be better than giving up after day 1.

Plan Ahead for Difficult Changes

Having small success at the beginning is a great confidence boost to keep you working towards your goal. If your goal is to start exercising, going to run a 10k the first day probably isn’t the best choice. You’ll end up defeated if the first few days are hard. You can also find ways to make difficult goals easier by changing other habits. If you want to be healthier but exercise gives you anxiety, try starting with small changes to your diet first. Starting with something more comfortable will make other more difficult changes easier to manage later.

Prioritize Your Mental Health

Many people focus on their physical health when making resolutions. Take care of your mental health as well! Whether it is keeping your regular therapy appointments, meditating, or taking medications regularly, resolutions about your mental health will help you make positive changes in the New Year.

Think About Potential Roadblocks

As you plan for your goals, take into consideration any barriers that might hinder you from success. By planning ahead for these challenges, you’ll be better able to tackle them when and if they occur. If your goal is to walk more but you don’t have a safe space to walk during the winter, plan ahead and find an indoor facility you can use during bad weather.

Create a Support System

People are often more successful when they have someone or something to hold them accountable. Who or what will help you reach your goals? Without a little help, it can be difficult to achieve our goals. Think about what support systems you can put in place, such as meet-ups, online support groups, or your mental health counselor. And be sure to use them!

Be Kind to Yourself

Change is hard for anyone. Don’t let bumps in the road derail you from achieving your goals. Try to think about the New Year and your resolutions as an opportunity, not a struggle. How can you make this year just a little better than last year? Take it one day at a time and be kind to yourself!

Have a wonderful New Year!

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