Can New Year’s Resolutions Create Mental Health Self-Stigma?
Will your new year resolutions cause self-stigma? With the new year comes new resolutions. Many times those resolutions center around health and wellbeing, so it's no surprise people are making resolutions to overcome mental health struggles. But can new years resolutions create mental health self-stigma?
How New Year's Resolutions Contribute to Mental Health Self-Stigma
Having a goal to better and take care of yourself is great. It's what we talk about in the mental health community most: take time for self-care, seek help when needed, etc. But resolutions are different. They feel more powerful, like a vow. Putting that kind of pressure on yourself to better or cure your mental health isn't something I recommend.
I used to be one of those people that would hope and pray for cures for my mental health struggles. When it came to resolutions, I would promise to do better. All putting that kind of pressure on myself ever resulted in was feeling worse because I couldn't live up to those high expectations. I saw myself as either a worthless lost cause or a failure because I couldn't get myself under control.
The reality? I was unwell and trying to overcome my illnesses with willpower. Without realizing it, I was seeing myself through the lens of self-stigma. So yes, I believe setting New Year's resolutions involving mental illness can absolutely create self-stigma.
How to Set Attainable Goals for Your Mental Health
I also believe it's possible to have a New Year's resolution for your mental health without falling into the pit of self-stigma. You have to be mindful about it. Here are tips on how to do that.
- Keep it realistic. Going into the new year resolving to finally have a cure for your struggles or to be fully recovered is the ultimate level of pressure. Instead, aim for and celebrate baby steps ("Setting Realistic Goals Benefits Your Mental Health").
- Know mental health isn't a matter of willpower or strength. It's an illness, not a test of strength of spirit ("The Myth that Mental Strength Alleviates Mental Illness").
- Practice self-care. When those self-stigmatizing thoughts seem their most powerful, having self-care strategies to turn to can be a great asset to bring you out of them.
- Be adaptive. If things don't seem to be going quite as planned, look for new ways to reach your goals ("Relapse: Mental Illness Relapse and Recovery").
- Understand you have plenty of time. The other thing about New Year's resolutions is they give us constricting time frames for issues that aren't easily confined by time. Don't rush yourself.
Whether you use these tactics for your new year's resolutions or in general, you can reduce self-stigma's role in your new year while still working on your goals.
Barton, L. (2019, January 4). Can New Year’s Resolutions Create Mental Health Self-Stigma?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, January 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2019/1/can-new-years-resolutions-create-mental-health-self-stigma
Author: Laura A. Barton
I love this read! The start of a new year is such a wonderful time to set some goals and put healthy habits in place, BUT it can also cause a great deal of distress and anxiety, especially for those with mental health. I think it's so important that you highlight setting realistic expectations (small goals are great goals!) and making time for self care.
Happy New Year, Lizanne! Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts. :) The less distress and anxiety, the better, right?