10 New Year's Resolutions for Stress Relief

Verywell / Alison Czinkota

Around the first of the year, most of us begin turning our attention to ways we can improve our lives. While resolutions often center on developing new habits that will get us into better physical shape—Eating healthfully and getting exercise generally top most people’s lists of goals for the new year— reducing stress and getting into better mental and emotional shape can provide huge rewards.

This year, consider incorporating new habits that will reduce stress and increase happiness and overall life satisfaction. Here are some important steps you can take to be a happier, healthier, and more relaxed you in the new year.

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Sleep More

Being sleep deprived can be both a cause and an effect of being stressed. While stress can keep people up at night, continually operating on too few hours of sleep can increase your risk of a variety of health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. It can also lead to you being less productive.

This year, you can gain significant benefits by striving for better quality and a greater quantity of sleep at night.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, healthy adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Sleeping less than this is associated with impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risks of accidents.

Pick Up a Hobby

While you may have been involved in sports and other fun activities as a child or young adult, it’s important to keep learning, growing, and doing things you enjoy throughout your adult life.

Having a regular hobby can provide a necessary outlet for mental stimulation and stress relief, and help you maintain a balanced lifestyle. The right hobby can also provide you with a healthy dose of eustress, the positive type of stress that keeps you feeling vital and alive.

Invest in Your Social Circle

The company you keep can have a significant impact on your quality of life. Good friends and close family can celebrate with you during your best times and support you through your worst. A social network of healthy relationships can be a buffer against stress and provide many other benefits.

This year, focus on strengthening your relationships. And don't be afraid to let go of those relationships that drain you. Separating yourself from the drama and stress of those relationships opens you up to new people and new experiences.

All relationships are not created equal. Conflicted relationships can cause additional stress and frustration and even affect your health.

Get More Music in Your Life

Listening to music is an easy way to elevate your mood and change your energy. Music with a slow tempo—especially slow, quiet classical music—is known for its relaxing effects. Not only can it quiet your mind and relax your muscles, but it can also lower your body's levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

You can play some classical tunes while you get dressed in the morning, listen to your favorite song during your morning commute, or relax to a soul-filled ballad at the end of a long day. Regardless of what you choose, music can calm you down even during stressful times.

Cull Your Clutter

Without some regular purging, your drawers and closets can get so jam-packed that it becomes almost impossible to find the items you actually want and need. Living in a cluttered space may also be causing you more stress than you realize. Not only does it decrease productivity, but it also drains your wallet and robs you of time.

This year, take some weight off of your shoulders and make a dedicated effort to get more organized. Whether it's putting things into storage, reorganizing, or donating what you no longer need.

Shooting for perfection isn't necessary—start small and make gradual changes. Even small reductions in clutter can create a tangible difference in how you feel.

Learn Some Quick Stress-Relief Strategies

Stressful situations can culminate quickly. You can go from feeling fine to overwhelmed in a very short period of time. When this happens, it's not always possible to simply stop what you're doing and get a massage, go into a child's pose, or do some other time-consuming, stress-relieving activity.

It's always beneficial to have a few quick stress relief strategies that can turn off your fight or flight response and trigger your relaxation response.

Choose a Long-Term Stress Relief Practice

While quick stress relievers are important to have on-hand, it’s also essential to have at least one regular stress-relieving practice in your life. Such a practice can help you to be less reactive toward the stressors you face in your life by lowering your physical and/or emotional reactivity to stressors.

Cultivate Optimism

How you view the world (or a particular situation) can have a heavy impact on your stress levels. Negative self-talk and having a negative point of view can cause significant amounts of stress.

Fortunately, your point of view can be changed with practice. How much happier, more productive, and less stressed could you be if you omitted some self-defeating thought patterns and replaced them with positive self talk?

Reduce Job Stress

Regardless of what kind of work you do, workplace stress can negatively impact your emotional and physical health. According to a team of Harvard and Stanford researchers, stressful jobs might even lower your life expectancy.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to examine your work situation and see what changes you can make to your work life a little easier. This may include finding ways to increase your productivity, changing certain aspects of your job, adding to your life outside of work, or even examining whether you’re in the right field. 

Make a Plan for the Future

When you're feeling stressed, thinking beyond today and into the future can be overwhelming—but it doesn't have to be. In fact, taking some time to think about your goals and dreams for your future can give you more to look forward to and inform the resolutions you make this year and next.

Do you have a strong financial plan in place? Are you expressing yourself as fully as you’d like? Are you on the path to where you’d really like to be with your relationships and personal growth?

While new year's resolutions are about deciding what you want in the coming year, consider thinking about a 3-, 5-, or even a 10-year plan for your personal life, too. Your plan certainly doesn't need to be set-in-stone blueprint, but rather an idea of where you’d like to be in the future so you can be growing in that direction.

A Word From Verywell

While there’s a lot to be said for living in the moment, there’s a difference between being fully present in your life and feeling so overwhelmed by daily stress that your focus goes no further than how to get through the next day. With resolutions that support healthy balance, you can reduce your stress level so that you’re able to look into the new year with optimism. 

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. de Witte M, Spruit A, van Hooren S, Moonen X, Stams G-J. Effects of music interventions on stress-related outcomes: A systematic review and two meta-analyses. Health Psychol Rev. 2020;14(2):294-324. doi:10.1080/17437199.2019.1627897

  3. Goh J, Pfeffer J, Zenios S. Exposure to harmful workplace practices could account for inequality in life spans across different demographic groups. Health Aff. 2015;34(10):1761-1768. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0022

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.