The Clarion

My resolution is to stress less in 2018

Dylan Martin, Graphic Designer

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“New year, new me.” Sound familiar?

As we all go over our goals for 2018, the list probably elicits a little déjà vu. Maybe you want to work out more, eat healthier, or drink less alcohol (that New Year’s hangover is a killer).

If we just stick to our goals, our life will finally reach the perfection we’ve been striving for. Right? The truth of the matter is a little more complicated.

The desire to be better can be enough of a stressor to make anybody worse off. It’s not that working toward self-improvement is negative in and of itself, but—depending on how you go about it — it can have counterproductive side-effects. One hard day at work and all of a sudden, you’re pigging out on junk food.

Afterwards, you blame yourself. This lapse in self-control can elicit feelings of guilt, shame, and even hopelessness about the achievability of your goals.

It turns out that self-reprimand and guilt induced self-hatred are often more harmful than the problem we initially set out to overcome. One of the reasons for this is that we set absolute goals with unrealistic expectations. There will be weeks where you won’t be able to get those three workouts in. In fact, there will surely be many weeks like that.

The best way to combat this roadblock is to avoid zero-tolerance ideologies with your resolutions. Self-control can be a limited resource and sometimes we are going to falter. Don’t let one weak moment derail your goal, just steady the course and keep trying. If you let yourself lose sight of your goal after a relapse, you have little chance of ever reaching it.

Give yourself credit where you can and avoid blaming yourself too much when it doesn’t work out the way you hoped. Find a little time for calm or meditation in your day and try to avoid overloading your brain with things that don’t benefit you. Believe it or not, you are tiring your brain out with that endless social media scrolling. This too can distract you from your goals and deplete the resources your brain needs to resist temptation.

My biggest recommendation is to avoid overwhelming amounts of stress as best you can. Stress is not only a brain-drain, but it makes failure even more certain. When you feel stress taking over it is time to take a deep breath, take a break, walk around outside, or cuddle up with your cat.

When those things aren’t possible, just remember that nothing is permanent and today is just today. Try to get the sleep you need to tackle tomorrow and don’t sweat the small stuff. With discipline, flexibility, and compassion for yourself, your goal is likely well within reach.

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My resolution is to stress less in 2018