How To Set A New Year's Resolution If They Make You Anxious

Illustration by Lindsay Hattrick

They can be really stressful

Every January, after a couple weeks of doing absolutely nothing (because the holidays bring out our inner couch potato), it seems that the entire world is brought to our collective senses and sets a resolution for the year to come. These resolutions are never small or simple but, instead, involve a complete life overhaul. Everyone starts off the year telling themselves that they'll eat healthier and work out more, or do any other combination of things for their own betterment—promises that often seem to fall flat after a few weeks, tops. And as someone who never seems to live up to the (maybe too lofty) goals I set for myself, I always find myself at an impasse, wondering if I should make a resolution to stay on par with everyone else, even if I know that I may not succeed, or risk judgment and start out the new year without a year-long goal in mind.

Even before making a resolution, I become anxious about failing to achieve it. And when I think I'm going to fail at something, my anxiety usually tells me that I shouldn't even start. So, basically, it's a classic damned if I do, damned if I don't kind of thing. While I'm sure that not everyone is as anxious as I am about not reaching (even minuscule) goals they've set for themselves, I do notice a lot of people struggling at this time of year. Speaking with Dr. Rob Holaway, a licensed psychologist and the director of Pacific Anxiety Group, I came to realize that while setting New Year's resolutions may be great for some people, they could cause more harm than good for others.

Holaway notes that, more often than not, people who set New Year's resolutions will end up falling short of their intended goal. "The benefit of the new year is the focus it often brings to the changes or accomplishments one wants or hopes to make in the year ahead," he acknowledges. "However, for most people, New Year's resolutions will not be successful, often because of the same challenges, difficulties, or obstacles that made them difficult to accomplish during the previous year." The start of a new year doesn't make us any less of the person that we were the year before, and challenges don't suddenly disappear when the clock strikes midnight.

But it's become normalized for us to set goals for ourselves as if everything in our lives changes from year to year—and while that could be motivational for some, it can freak others out. For me, the fear of falling short of goals I've set for myself is incredibly stress-inducing, and often gives my anxiety an excuse to act up as well. Add to that FOMO flareup that accompanies the fact that it seems like everyone is doing something productive while I drag my feet, and the culture around the New Year's resolution takes its toll on my mental health. I feel like I've failed at the year before it's even begun, which is probably the worst way to start it out. Needless to say, my mental health takes a nosedive.

Holaway points out that New Year's resolution stress is tied to my outlook on goal-setting as a whole. In general, he says, the act of goal-setting is "essential to making any type of change in our lives or to accomplish something that is important to us." Though there are "very few negatives to setting goals," those who always seem to find themselves falling short of their self-made resolutions may lose confidence in themselves over time. "If someone has a history of setting goals and not following through, they will gradually erode their confidence in their ability to make changes and to accomplish what is important to them," he says. "This will become very discouraging over time and eventually result in someone feeling trapped by their circumstances without any belief that things could be better or that they are capable of making changes."

Though it sounds grim, his words seemed to perfectly encapsulate my outlook on goal-setting, especially when it came to New Year's resolutions. I lose motivation to make large, year-long challenges for myself because I'm afraid that they won't pan out, like many other intentions that I have set before. But, simply opting out of making a resolution may bring in even more bad thoughts: "For some, opting out might reinforce a history of not pushing oneself very hard or not believing in oneself to successfully make changes, thus resulting in further self-judgment," he says. Even though that may be the case, he says, choosing not to make a life goal that you know you probably won't achieve "will likely be more positive than trying half-heartedly and failing to reach the stated goals."

The problem with big New Year's resolutions that feel like lifestyle overhauls, and the reason why it's so common to end up failing, is that we don't fully understand the work that it takes to make our resolutions actually happen. We get so caught up in reaching our goals that we forget to think about how much goes in to actually making them happen, and we end up getting discouraged when it's not a walk in the park. "When setting goals, it is necessary to map out all of the steps required for success, anticipate all of the obstacles that may arise, and commit to staying the course as challenges occur and motivation wanes," he says.

Instead of taking an all-or-nothing outlook when it comes to setting a New Year's resolution, Holaway says, those who are easily spooked like me may take better to setting a series of goals that culminate into the thing you want to achieve, instead of having just one goal looming. That way, you can feel the excitement of achieving one small part of your goal at a time, instead of feeling discouraged when, after months, your lofty goal is still out of reach.

Holaway urges those who may struggle from this sort of anxiety and stress to, instead of taking the backseat, go full-force if they're going to make a resolution at all. In addition to breaking down your goals to make them more easily digestible, he encourages us to take advantage of our support systems. He sees an upshot to posting about your journey on social media, which he says provides a level of accountability and a feeling of community. Tracking your progress, he says, "may actually increase motivation to accomplish to completion, as one may feel they are accountable to their friends and followers." And, too, "they may also derive support by posting their progress and difficulties along the way, commiserating with others in the same boat, and sharing motivation with one another to keep them going."

What's most important, though, is that you make sure that setting an intention for the year ahead doesn't come at the cost of your mental health. If the thought of making a resolution activates your fight-or-flight response, the best idea isn't to just skip out on it altogether, but to try to make smaller goals that you know you can achieve.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.

Screenshot via Hulu

Introspection is not a bad thing

In Look Back at It, we revisit pop culture gems of the past and see if they're still relevant and worthy of their designated icon status in our now wildly different world.

"It just seems like you agree to have a certain personality or something, for no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you think about it, I mean, how do you know it's even you?"

Iconic '90s show My So-Called Life is filled with existential questions and observations like this, with many, if not all of them, voiced by high school sophomore Angela Chase (Claire Danes). They're delivered with a familiarly annoyed tone, as if Angela can't believe things are the way they are, and that they're unlikely to change.

Angela lives with her parents and sister in a comfortable home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spends her time navigating the social scene of Liberty High School. She's undergoing a big change, having switched friend groups and fallen in with a cooler crew, namely Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer) and Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz). Thanks to them, Angela dyed her hair from blonde to a "Crimson Glow," and is encouraged to indulge in her obsession with Jordan Catalano (a pre-Gucci Jared Leto), the kind of guy who's constantly applying Visine and has a limited chance of actively graduating.

From the first moment of the first episode, Angela's voice is pure, unadulterated teen angst. The melodrama can, when watching as an adult, feel like it's too much. And then there's other times, like when Angela talks about the agony of Sunday evenings, that it feels unnerving to relate so much to a 15-year-old:

"There's something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself, especially if you've just been totally made a fool of by the only person you'll ever love, and you have a geometry midterm on Monday, which you still haven't studied for because you can't, because Brian Krakow has your textbook, and you're too embarrassed to even deal with it. And your little sister's completely finished with her homework, which is just, like, so simple and mindless a child could do it. And that creepy 60 Minutes watch that sounds like your whole life ticking away."

Angela is nothing if not an over-thinker, preoccupied with very teenage problems like zits and gossip and who to talk to at parties; her thoughts on the most simple of relationships are extreme, like when she thinks about how she felt before she became friends with Rayanne and Rickie: "it seemed like if I didn't, I would die or something."

Sometimes, her melodrama feels suffocating—particularly when related to Jordan Catalano (it's imperative to say both his names). Angela wonders: "Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes... even glaciers move. So why couldn't he just look at me?"

As an adult, it's easy to think that, of course, Jordan should look at her: She's smart, witty, open-hearted, pretty, has good taste in music. But then, there's no way to make sense of how crushes work. As a sophomore in high school, I also pined after guys who I felt were out of my league, and after the only girls who were out... but who were dating each other. My thoughts probably (definitely) sounded a lot like Angela's, and I was similarly dissatisfied with my life.

At the time, that dissatisfaction felt oppressive—and I wouldn't want to relive it entirely. But that introspection was also what saved me. By questioning what was around me and interrogating how I really felt, I was able to reject the trappings of my conservative town, figure out my own politics, and accept my own queerness. My teenage dissatisfaction with the way things actually are made me grow as a person, and it shaped me into who I am. Thinking about Angela now, and how her angst fueled her, reminds me that I should also let myself indulge in some teen angst—even as an adult.

In one of the show's final episodes, Angela pauses to reflect on the value of her overthinking. She's ringing in the New Year with her friends and decides her resolution could be "to stop getting so caught up in my own thoughts, because I'm like way too introspective… I think." But she decides against that idea, because "what if not thinking turns me into this really shallow person?" Same, Angela. Same.

Courtesy of HBO

Thanks, I hate it

In an interview today with The Cut, Vanderpump Rules star Stassi Schroeder blessed readers with some of her thoughts on HBO's Game of Thrones, and since we can't get enough GoT talk, we were excited to see what Schroeder had to say.

And, in case you're wondering if Schroeder is a fan of GoT, don't: She's actually such a massive fan that she refers to her fans Khaleesis, and they call her Khaleesi right back. So!

Anyway, after the wide range of responses to Daenerys' fiery mayhem in the show's penultimate episode, The Cut wanted to check in to see how Schroeder was faring, and ask what she thought of it all. While Schroeder's opinion on Dany is mixed (she found the Dragon Queen's "crazy" actions to be relatable, but she didn't think it followed Dany's character arc), it wasn't, like, a bad opinion, just a bit muddled, if not so different than those of the majority of viewers.

Schroeder's real hot take, though—what we feel comfortable calling the worst GoT opinion we've heard—is about another character altogether: Arya Stark. Here's what Schroeder had to say about our favorite blacksmith-banging, Night King-killing, proposal-denying assassin in all the Seven Kingdoms: "Arya, I feel like she probably should have just married whats-his-name [Ed. note: Gendry! His name is Gendry!!]. What's wrong with being a lady and a badass at the same time? You don't have to choose just one."

And, like, sure, you don't have to choose just one, but Arya would never choose to be a lady. That's not her! So, if we're still talking about characters behaving inconsistently, Arya saying yes to a proposal (a rushed one at that) would have been absolutely bonkers. Arya's not about to change her entire personality just because some dude drops down on one knee and proposes, and to want her to do so would be like wanting Dany to act like a sheep, instead of a dragon.

All to say, you know nothing, Stassi Schroeder.

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hoto by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group

Our favorite grouchy girl died today

Today is a sad day, because it is the day Grumpy Cat died. Also known as my personal favorite feline celebrity, Grumpy Cat died from complications following a urinary tract infection. The super relatable cat—real name, Tardar Sauce—was only seven years old.

Grumpy Cat was first introduced to the world in 2011, back when LOLcats were everywhere. Grumpy Cat's downturned face (the result of feline dwarfism, according to her owners) was the subject of a huge amount of memes—she was even the 2013 Meme of the Year at the Webby Awards—and was the subject of her own Lifetime movie, in which she was voiced by the Grumpy Cat of actresses, Aubrey Plaza. But, though we loved her for the memes, we loved her even more because we related to her mood.

Grumpy Cat was so relatable because, like us, she was completely over everyone's bullshit. Unlike us, Grumpy Cat didn't hide her feelings with a smile. And while that was because Grumpy Cat literally couldn't do that, we like to think that she also just didn't want to do the emotional labor. Which is why, in honor of Grumpy Cat, have the courage to roll your eyes at someone today, instead of forcing a fake grin. And just think about how Grumpy Cat's probably frowning at us from some sort of kitty afterlife, utterly annoyed that everyone is mourning her death.

Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes