Reduce Anxiety by Using the SMART Method to Set New Year’s Goals

January 11, 2021

focused-awareness-counseling-blog-image4 It’s pretty common to make New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of a new year. However, studies have found that only about 10% of people who make New Year’s Resolutions will achieve them*. There are various reasons that New Year’s Resolutions are not always attained including readiness for change, being realistic about the goals you would like to achieve and setting attainable goals.

If you have anxiety, you might be intimidated by the idea of setting goals because you may be limiting your daily activities to stay within your comfort zone. If you have extreme anxiety, the idea of doing something out of the norm may cause the fear to become debilitating, and these feelings may cause you to stop trying to set goals. Using the SMART method, may be the best way to make goal setting easier. Setting SMART goals is a step-by-step process. The idea is to set small, realistic, and achievable goals.

If you would like to work on setting goals for yourself this year, you may start by asking a few questions. What would I like to work on in 2021? What goal would I like to achieve by the end of the year? A frequent goal people strive to achieve at the beginning of a New Year is to make fitness a priority. For someone with anxiety, becoming physically active may be beneficial for their physical and mental health. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that some individuals who participated in physical activity experienced less stress and a reduction in anxiety symptoms*.

If you have hope that exercise might help alleviate some of your anxiety symptoms, and you would like to know the steps to take to set achievable goals, keep reading for more information about how to set SMART goals. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Questions & Answers
Q: How do I make a specific goal?

A: Ask yourself, “What am I going to do?” and “How will I know I have done it?” For example, this is what a walking goal might sound like, “I will walk 20 minutes a day, five days a week, over the next month.”

Q: How does a goal become measurable?

A: You can choose to track either the amount of time, number of miles, or number of steps taken each day to measure your goal. The length of time and how many days a week you will walk is a measurable part of creating a goal.

Q: How do I know if my goal is achievable?

A: The main question to ask yourself is “Am I physically capable of walking for the amount of time and distance I have allotted myself?” If you are physically fit, walking 20 minutes a day, five days a week is probably very achievable. However, if you have never taken regular walks and are not physically fit, you may have to alter your goal to ten minutes a day, three days a week and work up to walking 20 minutes a day, five days a week.

focused-awareness-counseling-blog-image3 blog imageQ: How do I know if my goal is realistic?

A: It is important to think about what you are realistically capable of doing when it comes to setting the amount of time you are able to commit to a goal. If you are a student who spends most of your day in class and studying or someone who works 60 hours a week, you should look at how much time you can give to a goal on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. In order to achieve goals, you should set goals that are realistic so that you do not undermine your success at achieving your goals.

Q: How do I set timely goals?

A: Time-orientation is an important part of having a goal. With respect to a walking goal, you may choose to keep your goal of walking 20 minutes a day, five days a week in place for one month and increase the time and frequency over the next month. The following month’s walking goal may sound like this, “I will walk 30 minutes a day, six days a week, over the next four weeks.” Once you are successful in meeting the timeline you set for a goal, you can add to that goal in order to achieve even more!

Using the SMART method of goal setting is a great way to keep yourself on track and in a good state of mind to achieve your goals. When it comes to reaching for goals, it is a good idea to be flexible and not too rigid. Rigidity in your thinking can sabotage your best efforts and could lead you to quit when you do not immediately reach the goals you set. That’s why it is important to make your goals realistic and attainable. Flexibility is key to lowering your anxiety levels and being successful in achieving your goals.

Sometimes life throws you a curveball, and you get off your normal schedule. Maybe you set a goal to walk after school or work, but you become ill and it throws your walking schedule off for a week. Try not to get down on yourself if you do not get your walking in that week. Simply take that opportunity to practice good self-care. When you feel better, start back on your regular walking schedule without feelings of guilt or failure. Do the best you can in any given situation and move on. Remember, you set your walking goal in order to feel better physically and mentally!

Wishing you good luck using the SMART method to reach your goals this year!

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Melissa Cooper, LCSW!I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works with Adults who have ongoing challenges with stress and anxiety. My goal is to help you stop feeling overwhelmed and anxious and instill peace of mind and calmness. I am an authentic, encouraging, warmhearted counselor that can help you become more present and grounded in the moment and actually enjoy it. I provide care for those experiencing high stress, excessive amounts of worry, and feelings of overwhelm in life.

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