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New Years. Fireworks, friends, and a toast (or two) to all the things you swear you’ll do this year (that you also swore you would do last year…). Sounds great doesn’t it? Full of energy, ambition and hope for the next 12 months.

Is that how you felt New Years day? Nope. Me neither.

Now we’re almost at the end of January, time has ticked by with the dark, frosty, early mornings and an equally dark trek home. It’s been nicknamed the ‘January Blues’, and is traditionally the month people take the most ‘duvet’ days (no need to be coy… we’ve all been tempted). So why is it that we put so much pressure on ourselves to make big, dramatic changes to our lives when the New Year comes around?

Be it a career change, big steps in your personal life, or a new diet and exercise regime… Don’t get me wrong, big targets and goals are great, but when you’re already feeling fatigued after Christmas, maybe overwhelmed by the amount of work waiting for you when you came back, and probably still a feeling a little bit stressed from the unspoken pressures of the festive season (family drama, your ever-decreasing bank balance, what to buy for a 13 year old who thinks you’re ancient at 32), is it really the time to add more weight on your shoulders?

Personally, the idea of adding an extra load to my brain that is, quite frankly, still sitting in a onesie eating a full pack of mince pies to itself, makes me want to reach for the Baileys and hibernate. In all seriousness, this cannot be good for your mental health.

My advice? Make goals, set targets, but overall just be a little kinder to yourself.

Setting yourself gigantic, unachievable goals within an unrealistic time frame has the potential to leave you feeling flat, fed up, and unmotivated. Here are a few thoughts about how to avoid becoming overwhelmed (or indeed underwhelmed) with your New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Take things a day at a time. Like I said, making goals is fantastic, and we should all be challenging ourselves. But try breaking it down step by step, action by action. Realistic chunks where you can actually see or feel the achievement and forward-march of each one. Just the knowledge that you are that little bit closer to what you want will keep you motivated and focussed.
  • Slow and steady wins the race. Think of your goal as the finish line of a marathon. You wouldn’t just run 26 miles without doing any training, without following a plan. You’ve got to nourish yourself properly with the things you need to get there, and build up your knowledge and understanding of what you’re about to do. You need to know what your limits and abilities are before you start. Don’t rush into things, or you will end up getting a stitch.
  • Kindness is key. Sticking with the marathon analogy, as with any big project, task or goal, sometimes you are going to fall over. It’s inevitable. Whether you trip over your own feet, or if someone else trips you up, self-doubt and insecurity creeps in and it becomes easier to throw in the towel and curse yourself for ever even trying. But what would you say to your best friend if they fell over and didn’t see the point of getting back up? You’d give them every ounce of encouragement, tell them they can do it. It’s so important that you can say that to yourself. Everyone stumbles, everyone gets tripped up, and that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t chastise yourself. Treat yourself with a bit of fairness and understanding, and you’ll have a far greater chance of reaching your targets.
  • Ignore New Years. I don’t mean staying home each year, ignoring the fireworks and bed by 9pm. I just mean if there is something you want to achieve, big or small, why wait for the 1st January to start? And more to the point why only give yourself 12 months to do it? Don’t put pressure on yourself to fit in with this timeframe. Take the time to reflect regularly, and if there is something you want to achieve, go for it! At your own pace, in your own time, and in your own way.