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New Year’s ‘Micro-resolutions’ For the Anxious and Panicky

New Year's 'Micro-resolutions' For the Anxious and PanickyAre you overwhelmed at the thought of making a resolution for the new year?

In my last post, I wrote about how resolutions are best made whenever you feel motivated to follow through. This motivation may (or may not) occur in late December just before the new year. If you’re not feeling motivated, I wrote, then don’t put pressure on yourself to make a lofty resolution. Wait until the spirit of self-improvement strikes you in March. Or April. Or October.

But, even though the word “resolution” is heavy and tends to imply a difficult lifestyle change, we can lighten things up a bit with a simple prefix: micro.

Let’s make some micro-resolutions, shall we? They’re like teeny tiny resolutions. Like fun-sized candy or something.

Wait — here’s a better metaphor: if a full-blown resolution is a long blog post, then a micro-resolution is a 140-character tweet.

A micro-resolution, then, is a short and simple mini-goal. They’re easier to achieve, and, en masse, a bunch of them can make up an entire standard-issue resolution.

They’re perfect for us anxious- and panicky-types. After all, breaking down a larger goal into small and digestible steps is a huge component of cognitive-behavioral therapy. If you’re afraid to drive on the highway, a good CBT therapist will help you create a graded exposure that goes something like this:

1. Stand in a safe place and watch cars traveling on the highway.

2. Drive your car near a highway onramp, but don’t turn onto it just yet.

3. Have a friend drive you the distance of one exit on a highway.

4. Watch a first-person YouTube video of a highway drive for 5 minutes.

5. Drive (with a friend in the passenger seat) for the distance of one exit on a highway.

And the list would continue, baby-step style, until you reach your major goal of being able to drive on the highway again.

Likewise, we can approach New Year’s resolutions by breaking bigger goals down into micro-resolutions.

Let’s say you resolve to start socializing outside of your comfort zone in the new year. Joining a few clubs and hitting up a few bars or coffee shops all at once sounds completely overwhelming, doesn’t it? But let’s break that goal down into some easy-to-manage micro-resolutions:

1. At your favorite coffee shop, start saying hello to one or two fellow customers who walk by.

2. Start chatting with strangers while in line at the grocery store until it feels comfortable.

3. At work,  engage in some small talk with customers or a co-worker that you don’t know well.

4. Start attending a recurring event of interest, like an open-mic night at the bookstore or a public lecture series at the nearby college. Just sit in the audience for the first event or two, but start saying hello to familiar faces as time goes on.

And so on. You can take them one at a time and customize them to your own preferences.

You could craft a graded list of micro-resolutions like the above, in order of difficulty, or you might prefer to create a “dabbler” series of very simple micro-resolutions over a wider expanse of subject-matter territory: take out a library book about meditation. Start parking just a bit farther away from the grocery store entrance. Start taking outdoor walks on Friday afternoons. Buy some drawing paper and start doodling when you feel stressed.

They’re small, they’re manageable, and they’re less likely to overwhelm those of us who are, well, easily overwhelmed.

I sincerely hope that all of you have a happy and relaxing new year — whether you choose to make a resolution or not!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Ricky Leong

New Year’s ‘Micro-resolutions’ For the Anxious and Panicky

Summer Beretsky

Summer Beretsky enjoys writing about her experiences with anxiety, panic, and Paxil. She had her first panic attack as an undergrad at Lycoming College and plenty more while she worked toward her M.A. in Communication from the University of Delaware. She contributes to the World of Psychology blog here on PsychCentral and has written for the Los Angeles Times. You can follow her on Twitter @summerberetsky.

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APA Reference
Beretsky, S. (2011). New Year’s ‘Micro-resolutions’ For the Anxious and Panicky. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Dec 2011
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