"Happy New Year" - one of the most common phrases uttered in the month of January. Friends, families, strangers, clients, colleagues - we are all guilty of spreading the joy of New Year and all the promise it brings. New beginnings, fresh starts, resolutions that WILL be kept this year and so on. This all sounds great, exciting, inspiring and yes to some - absolutely petrifying.
What if you don't have a plan, what if you struggle to think of any new goals, what if the idea of change reduces you to a mass of anxiety, if the thought of being back at work fills you with dread? What if panic is already rising up your throat at the thought of someone asking what your new years resolutions are, what are your big plans for the year? What if the New Year for you is not exciting at all and the more people talk about it the more pressure you feel, and the more stressed you become?
This is the reality for some people, not everyone sees the new year as a chance to start fresh, a chance to make a change for the better etc. As a mental health coach/stress specialist I generally get a surge of new enquiries at this time of year because people feel additional pressure to 'perform', to lay out their new plans, to commit to a new healthy regime or tell the world the amazing things they will achieve this year. The problem with this pressure is not everyone finds this easy to do, and not everyone can sit down and be inspired to write down what this next year will bring for them. All they can see is the same 'stuff' from last year, maybe even just the same challenges and problems they didn't overcome. This feeling just sits in their throat like a stuck piece of food, not quite choking them, but keeping them in an uncomfortable state.
The good news is there are ways to change your state, to stop the overwhelm, to control the stress and to actually figure out how to make some plans that will work for you.
It is widely accepted that stress is predominantly triggered by a feeling of overwhelm, a feeling of not being able to cope. One of the most common suggestions for managing this is to write things down, set goals (like a road map) make lists, plan etc. This is all great until the list itself becomes too stressful a job, or worse, the list becomes so long or ambitious that the feeling of overwhelm and impossibility increases.
Here is a quick guide to writing a new year (or month or even week) goal/plan - and how to reduce the stress element. Your very own SatNav to where you want to go.
Wheel of life: Draw a circle and split it into 8 sections. Under each section write down the 8 key areas that are important in your life. Common titles are: Family, Healthy, Money etc... but there are no rules. This is YOUR wheel so make it about you.
On a scale of 1 - 10 - mark each section on how happy you currently are with them. 1 being not at all, and 10 being you don't want to change a thing.
This is a snapshot of what areas of your life you would benefit from working on most.
Take the areas with the lowest numbers first and think about what does a 10 look like? Eg: A 10 under fitness could be – able to run 10K, or eat 5 a day, 5 days a week etc. That’s your goal ☺ Job done
Then, your action list is simply looking at the wheel, looking at the current number, looking at the goal and asking yourself “What specifically can I do to increase that number, to take a small step towards that goal? Eg: Buy new trainers, post on FB for a running buddy, join a Couch-to-5K challengeThis then becomes your action list ☺ job done
Don’t feel you can only use this tool at the beginning of the year either, it works throughout the year, for any moment when you want some clarity around what is going on for you at any given time and how you can move forward. Many people use this tool regularly to help keep them on track. Why not give it a go?