New Year's Resolution Stress

Find Relief for New Year's Resolution Stress

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January is considered one of the most stressful months of the year for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that so many people are partaking in New Year’s resolutions.

While resolutions to live a more healthy lifestyle and give up negative habits can be wonderful in the long term, certain types of resolutions and strategies for meeting resolutions can create stress for those making the changes, at least in the first few weeks. The third through the eighth week after an attempted change can be the most stressful, as motivation wanes and challenges crop up.

These resolution situations can also be stressful for co-workers and loved ones exposed to the potential moodiness of overly stressed people. The following are some of the top New Year’s resolution stressors, plus tips on how to handle related stress and stick to your goals.

Quitting Smoking

As a former smoking cessation counselor, I can attest to the stress that comes from the early days of quitting smoking. In addition to the nicotine withdrawal, which is felt in varying levels by different people, the stress of making this lifestyle change is felt almost universally, at least to some degree.

This is because many people who smoke use the habit as a primary coping device; when they feel stressed, they smoke to feel better. Therefore, when they can’t use smoking to cope with the stress of not smoking, it becomes an escalating spiral of stress. Therefore, it becomes even more important to have a few stress relievers on hand to cope with the stress of those early quitting days, when relapse is most likely.

This will make success much easier, and make less stress for everyone. In addition, expert Terry Martin has these excellent tips for dealing with nicotine withdrawal.

New Diets

Losing weight is a very popular New Year’s resolution, and it's usually a great idea for overall health as well as for the fun of fitting into better clothes. However, especially with certain types of diets, the first days of a new diet can bring frustration (from feeling "deprived" of favorite foods), moodiness (from biological changes in your body), and the loss of a coping mechanism (for emotional eaters who can no longer eat to deal with the stress).

It can be as stressful to be around a new dieter as it can be to be a new dieter, so stress management is key here as well.

Resolution Perfectionism

No matter what the specific change you’re attempting, New Year’s resolutions can be stressful if tackled with the traditional method of setting a high goal and trying to attain it immediately. (For example, “From now on, I will exercise every day for one hour,” or “From now on, I will keep the house spotless.”)

This is because it’s difficult to make changes in habits, period. It’s even more difficult to make big changes with no mistakes, and resolutions worded in the aforementioned typical format allow no "wiggle room"—no space for setbacks.

When people fail once, they tend to give up. This makes keeping resolutions an exercise in perfectionism, which can be stressful for anyone. If you’d like to maintain resolutions with less stress, create a different format for your goals. Take baby steps, build in rewards for your progress, and make a few other minor changes and you will see greater success with less stress.

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  1. Kim SJ, Chae W, Park WH, Park MH, Park EC, Jang SI. The impact of smoking cessation attempts on stress levelsBMC Public Health. 2019;19(1):267. doi:10.1186/s12889-019-6592-9