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New Year’s Resolutions and Mental Health:  Managing Expectations

Joy Koeppen, LCSW, CBIS
Manager, Brain Injury Services Counseling Program

For many, this is a time to reflect on the past year and make goals for the coming year. Others are just trying to make it through the year, one day at a time. Managing expectations is one option we don’t always think about when contemplating goals. Rather, we just keep expecting certain things of ourselves and others simply because it has always been or because we don’t recognize that we have choices.

In December of 2023, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) wrote, “Too often, we set goals for ourselves, and when we don’t meet them, we can have feelings of failure that can ultimately lower our self-esteem, which can trigger stress and anxiety and take a toll on our mental health.”

So true, isn’t it? How many of us set well-intentioned goals for ourselves only to realize that we aren’t motivated to achieve them or maybe aren’t even equipped to do so? This can lead to feelings of depression about what isn’t happening and anxiety about what may lie ahead. Instead, perhaps we need to better manage our expectations and be intentional about recognizing successes, regardless of how small they may seem. SAMHSA recommends the following when contemplating making resolutions that support mental well-being:

  • Pick a goal that motivates you.
  • Break down larger goals into smaller, more manageable goals.
  • Focus on progress, not perfection.
  • Lean on others for support and motivation.
  • Practice self-compassion.
  • Set a new date.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • Know when to ask for help.

For additional details about each, click here:


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