This New Year, make a goal to reduce stress

A new year is almost on us. And for everyone, that means New Year’s resolutions.

Well, not everyone.

Many of us have given up on them, knowing that we rarely achieve them or even make a really good try.

Strava, the social network for athletes, has worked out the exact date most people give up on their exercise goals – ‘Quitters Day’ is on January 12. And a university study in the USA found only eight per cent of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions.

While a lot of us have given up on making New Year’s resolutions, we shouldn’t give up on setting goals. They’re an excellent way to achieve the things that are important to you. They set up good behaviours, help you achieve what you’re aiming for and lay a foundation for success in life, whatever that ‘success’ means for you.

Your goals can be anything. It doesn’t matter whether they are about your health, relationships, work, life, finances, or something else (it’s good to have them on all aspects of your life). Setting goals with targets along the way, to measure how you’re going, will help you get where you want to go.

Setting goals is good for you

As well as helping you reach your targets, the act of setting goals, can also improve your mental well-being. Goals, and the steps you set along the way to reach them, give a sense of clarity to what your actions will be, which in turn relieves your anxiety or worries about where you are headed and your personal or professional development.

When you know what you’re trying to achieve, worry is replaced with a clear path to get there. You can tell yourself, “I know what I need to do. I’ve got this.”

As you track your progress on your steps along the way, you reassure yourself that you’re heading in the right direction.

And when you see the bigger picture, the minor stresses and tasks of day-to-day life don’t feel as distracting or overwhelming. You can deal with them more easily.

As well as the bigger picture, the smaller steps on the way keep you on track by keeping goals achievable and maintaining the feeling that you’re going in the right direction. It’s all about momentum.

Set some SMART goals

Here at CiC, we like to follow the SMART goal method. It’s simple and easy to follow.

SMART goals are a useful tool to help guide your goal setting. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

A SMART goal incorporates all these to focus your efforts and help you achieve your goals. They’re designed to set you up for success, help give you direction and organisation, make planning easier, motivate you, and allow you to track how you’re going and see if you need to change your approach.

It’s a relatively simple 5 step process:


Make it specific What goal do you want to achieve?


Make it measurable How can you tell when you’ve achieved your goal?


Make it attainable How will you get there?


Make it relevant Is this goal important to your development?


Make it timely What’s the deadline for achieving this goal?


The other benefit of going through the SMART steps is that simply writing them down, helps you commit to your goals. Even better, you can show them to someone who can help keep you accountable.

Don’t let the goals get the better of you

While setting goals can be a way to reduce your anxiety and worry, it’s important to know that having goals can also be a source of stress.

Set them too high or make them too hard, without achievable goals along the way, will be stressful, and you’ll miss your targets.

Sticking to the SMART approach will help avoid this but remember, when you’re making your goal, include some that specifically address stress relief, like ones that focus on happiness, managing or reducing stress, or improving your resilience.

Ones that address stress are long-term, ongoing goals. So, actions like regular exercise, eating well, maintaining relationships, and practising meditation, are the type of things you can look at.

Keeping it real

One of the keys is making achievable, small steps on the way. Try to reward yourself for these minor achievements, and maybe give yourself a bigger reward when you reach your goal. And remember, slip-ups are part of the process, don’t let them stop you.

Ultimately, it’s all about reaching achievable goals in a realistic way. It might take a little longer, but you’ll have a better chance of getting there, and with a lot less stress.