Learn how to cope ahead and create SMART goals…

When we’re honest with ourselves we realize that some of our ‘New Year Resolutions’ can be a bit generous. For people with a mental illness (or anyone, really), this can lead to disappointment which can contribute to low self-esteem, hopelessness, and overall start the new year on a bad note. In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) we learn that coping ahead can become an essential coping strategy throughout the new year. But, before we dive into coping ahead I want to teach you how to make SMART goals, just like we learned as children. Again, SMART goals is another essential coping skill not only for the new year but in our everyday lives.

Photograph by Cristian Escobar via Unsplash

Step One (1)…make one sentence for each letter of SMART…keep the following in mind…


Ask yourself…

Who?…is this goal benefitting?

What?…do I want to accomplish?

Where?…is this goal going to take place?

When?…is this an appropriate goal for the time being? Is it going to be manageable? Is there a time limit? Should there be?

Why?…do I want to accomplish this? Why is this important to me? Does it match my morals and values? Is it healthy? Is it destructive?

Which?…resources do I need to accumulate beforehand?

Create your individual sentence…

My resolution #1 for 2018 is to meditate daily, this resolution will help manage my anxiety while allowing time for self-care and time to practice coping, I will practice this resolution every morning before breakfast, and beforehand I will download Headspace to help migrate into daily meditation at a comfortable pace. 


Ask yourself…

How will I measure this goal?…will I measure this goal through journaling, keep track through an app, or checking off every day I complete the daily goal?

How many?…is there a limit for this goal?

How will I know when it’s accomplished?…is this goal one to be fully accomplished? Is it a behaviour change? What is my end goal? Will I end this goal at some point and practise daily?

Create your individual sentence…

I will measure my meditation by completing the Headspace daily challenges, I will also keep track of how the meditation felt, and if I noticed anything different in my daily journal, I will perform this while keeping track for 21 days because that is how long it takes to create a habit, I will know it is accomplished when my body and mind create a space for meditation in the morning to make myself feel complete. 


Ask yourself…

Will?…this be too challenging?

Am I?…overextending myself? Creating a challenge rather than a resolution? Will I find this difficult? Am I ready for this type of resolution? Do I want to make it a challenge?

Should I?…dial it back? Take a look at this resolution and reevaluate? Should I get a second opinion?

Create your individual sentence…

I will start my resolution slowly with just two minutes of meditation a day with the app, I will follow my own schedule and commit to 21 days of daily meditation no matter how long, it’s the effort that counts. 



Ask yourself…

Is it?…worthwhile? Will this help me in the long term? Is this the right time? Is it relevant today?

Does this match?…my morals, values, and beliefs?

Am I?…the right person to attain this resolution? Am I ready?

Create your individual sentence…

Daily meditation is 100% realistic, I am ready to attain this goal because I have thought it over, looked at my current resources, time management, and outcomes of this particular resolution, and meditation matches my value of bettering my mental health. 


Ask yourself…

How?…will this help me six months from now? How long will it take?

What?…can I do today? six weeks from now? one year from now?

When?…should I prepare for this particular goal? and when should I begin?

Create your individual sentence…

This goal is timely because it is starting at a fresh time of year, where new goals and motivation are high, keeping track through my journal I will be able to look back six months from now and see how my meditation journey changed throughout the course of six weeks, six months, one year, etc. 

Cope Ahead

As I said at the beginning of this article, coping ahead can be an essential coping skill for the new year, especially with resolutions. If you create a resolution that goes unfulfilled, gets cancelled, doesn’t work out, the opposite generates, or you don’t get the outcome you wanted, be prepared! They say in DBT to “imagine the worst possible outcome” but personally I’d rather not envision the worst scenario because it makes my head spin, however, this doesn’t stop me from coping ahead or knowing that every outcome is a possibility. Coping is extremely individual, some people crave exercise and physical exertion while others need a nap or a nice bath, these are both amazing skills and no one is better than the other. Build a list of some of your favourite coping skills and match a skill to a feeling, create a coping plan beforehand, make a coping box, have the supports in place, and always remember that you are doing your best and all outcomes are results from a variety of life’s situations, not one decision leads to one outcome. You’re doing great.


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