New Year's Resolution Stress

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

January is considered one of the most stressful months of the year for several reasons. One of the biggest: New Year’s resolutions.

There is no doubt that, if accomplished, resolutions to make a change in your diet, exercise, or personal finances can be beneficial to both your mental and physical health. But the excessive pressure you put on yourself to accomplish them is not healthy.

Well-intentioned goals become a source of stress—stress that prevents you from moving forward and achieving your goals. For each common resolution, look for ways to achieve it in a way that is positive and affirming instead of stressful.

Get Fit

The most common New Year's resolution has to do with getting in shape. If you're trying to hit the gym to improve your health, enlist a friend to exercise with you. A workout buddy means you have an incentive to exercise, along with built-in social support.

Fitness technology can also help you stay on track. Having all your information in one place and readily available can help you be more aware and get closer to your fitness goals.

Save Money

You know you should save. Sometimes this is easier said than done. But when you look around and it seems like no one else is doing it, you feel alone. Furthermore, it can be stressful to try to find the money to save. 

But budgeting for your future doesn’t have to be a stressful task.

Eat Healthier

You probably already know that stress affects your eating habits. It can cause you to overeat and undereat. Trying to eat healthily can also cause you to stress out. it's one of the main reasons why so few people are able to stick to this New Year's resolution. Here are some tips:

Lose Weight

Turn your weight-loss resolutions into SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Here are some SMART weight loss goal ideas:

  • I will lose one pound each week until I reach XXX pounds in eight months.
  • I will lose six pounds a month until I reach XXX pounds in one year.

Quit Smoking

In addition to nicotine withdrawal, which affects people in different ways, almost everyone with a smoking cessation goal experiences the stress of making this lifestyle change.

This is because many people who smoke use the habit as a primary coping device; when they feel stressed, they smoke to feel better. 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 discomfort of those early quitting days, when relapse is most likely.

On average, smokers try about four times before they quit for good, so don't let a failed attempt discourage you. There are so many resources to help you get a jumpstart on ditching tobacco:

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 person who is trying a new diet as it can be to be that person, 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.

1 Source
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.
  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

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.