It’s that time of year again. The time where we look back on the previous year and try to assess our choices and growth, or lack thereof. The time where we resolve that the new year will be completely different from the last and put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to “really stick to it this year.” The feeling of “new year, new me” can be an energizing one, a feeling that can ignite a fire in us to change long-standing behaviors. When daily life settles back in, that fire can begin to wane to a small flickering flame, and new feelings set in. Soon, we think of the resolutions we set, and instead of feeling energized, feelings of failure, stress, and anxiety may come to the surface.
If you're supporting a loved one who is struggling with stress and anxiety around setting new year's goals, it's helpful to understand the underlying causes of their feelings. Fear of failure, self-doubt, and a pressure to succeed can leave many of us feeling anxious about setting New Year’s resolutions.
Luckily, there are ways to stoke the energizing fire within us without burning out. As an emotional support human, you can help your friend or family member by being a supportive and encouraging presence and reminding them of their strengths and accomplishments.
Talking the Talk
One way you can help a loved one is by helping them adapt the way they talk to themselves about their goals. Words matter. Helping a loved one reword their goals can impact their feelings so that the things they want are not only attainable but give them a sense of purpose. The word “resolution” has many definitions. When applying it to a New Year’s action, we are attempting to “resolve” the starting or ending of a behavior. This language can have a potential negative effect on the way we think about our progress, or lack thereof, as the year goes on.
Instead of calling your loved one’s task a “resolution,” try encouraging them to use the word “goal” or “intention.” For example, instead of saying, “I resolve to lose 50 pounds this year,” suggest they try saying, “I have a goal to live a healthier life with the intention of improving my health.” Using humanizing language to set their intentional goal can help your loved one set realistic objectives, as well as accommodate moments for reflection. Be an example by reframing the way you talk about your own goals.
As the year goes on, a variety of life events will have an impact on each of us. Continue to reach out to your loved one with supportive conversation. If you notice they are starting to feel down on themselves, here are some ways to start a conversation that can lift their spirits:
- “Tough times in the news today. How are you holding up?”
- “What can I do to help you reach your goals?”
- Use words such as “stress,” “worry,” and “sadness” to help them identify how they feel.
Finding the words can be the hardest part of reaching someone. Nevertheless, with consistency and an open heart, you can be the difference between your loved one giving up or pushing forward with their goals.
Cheer Them On
The words we hear and images we see from the outside world can often make us feel like we will never accomplish enough. When your loved one starts to speak about their perceived shortcomings, remind them that success and struggles look different to all of us. Sometimes success is landing a new job, and other times it’s finding the strength to make it through daily tasks.
When talking about the past year with your loved one, help them focus on their personal triumphs, no matter their size, and applaud them for their accomplishments. When looking back on areas that need improvement, help them refrain from beating themselves up. Instead of mistakes made, talk about lessons learned or opportunities to try something new.
When thinking about the challenges ahead, remind them that they are enough just as they are. Encourage them to take care of their current needs before setting new expectations for themselves. Challenges help us grow. Being an emotional support human means letting your loved one know that you see growth, no matter how small it may seem. A simple “I’m here for you,” or “I’m going to do my best to help you move forward,” can provide your loved one with the boost they need to move forward with their goals.
Keep Showing Up
Being an emotional support human means providing help to a loved one in the way they need us most, when they need us most. As the year goes on, it can be easy to get wrapped up in our own perspectives and lose sight of one of the most important parts of life: relationships and support. When committing to be an emotional support human, you are making a commitment that hopefully endures. Continue checking in on your loved ones throughout the year and showing up in areas of their life when they need the most support.
Maybe your loved one has committed to improving their mental health. If so, help them identify ways to start that process, and then support them throughout their journey. Mental health has ebbs and flows. So, supporting someone on their mental health journey may mean lending a listening ear one day, then taking a quiet walk together the next. Remember, emotional support humans show up in ways that work for the person they are trying to help. The Horizon Foundation has several resources to help you sustain your support for your loved one if you’re feeling stuck.
While the New Year will come with challenges, emotional support humans are ready to provide their loved ones with steadfast support. Setting, and sticking with, New Year’s goals can be stressful. Emotional support humans recognize the burnout and cheer on their loved ones as they work to make changes to their lives. If you’re interested in being an emotional support human for the people in your life, visit the Emotional Support Human site to learn more about putting these words into practice.