Perhaps one of the most intimidating parts of undergoing treatment is figuring out exactly what you want to achieve. This is harder than it sounds, as everyone is different and goals vary from person to person. Sometimes it might seem like too much at once and it can make you start to overthink things, which can increase anxiety. It can also be frustrating when you try to make big goals and subsequently fail, as the pressure to get well quickly is all too common. But goals take time to achieve and cannot be rushed.
How do you make goals that you can realistically achieve? There are different things you can do to help you out.
Make a General Top Goal List
Making a general list of your top goals is a good place to start. Examples might include things such as quitting smoking, getting out of a toxic situation, or even completing a treatment program. Think about what you want the most and write them down. Keep it small, between 2-4 big goals, as you will then break them down into smaller, easier-to-manage sections.
Choose a Goal, and Break It Down
As an example, consider the goal of quitting alcohol. Nobody can outright quit a substance suddenly, as doing so does not give your body time to adjust to a substance it was used to consuming. This can often cause more harm than good and will only sour your future attempts to achieve that goal. Any large goal is something you need to break down and go at slowly and deliberately. Consider doing the following steps to break down a goal of quitting alcohol:
- Schedule an appointment with a treatment center specializing in substance use disorder.
- Schedule an appointment with a doctor who can coach you on the physical aspects of quitting alcohol. Ask if medication may also help while there to treat withdrawal.
- Ask a friend to join you in removing all alcohol products from your living space. If someone is an enabler, you may need to cut them out of your life at this time.
- Make arrangements before joining a residential treatment program, such as finding someone to house sit and care for pets, having mail re-routed, and making sure your bills are taken care of.
- Get through the treatment program of choice.
- Find a new hobby that does not involve alcohol so you are not around triggers and peer pressure which may cause a relapse.
- Keep in contact with your support group as they can help when things get hard again.
Now that your goal has been broken down, it does not seem so intimidating now that you can just focus on one step at a time. If you have a hard time breaking down a goal, ask a therapist or doctor in your treatment program to help you break them down.
Choose Realistic Goals With a Realistic Time-frame
Some goals can sometimes be too big and you may not realize it. When you choose a goal, it should be something that you can achieve in a time that you would realistically be able to achieve it. Making a goal of recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in three weeks is quite frankly, impossible. Making a goal such as this will only set you up for failure, which can also make you reluctant to keep trying.
A more realistic goal in this situation might be to learn the root of your PTSD in a year or learn and practice your first coping technique within the next three months. It takes time for treatments to work, and nothing as serious as recovering from a mental health disorder can happen overnight. By keeping your sights realistic, you can set yourself up for success, no matter how small, which can help keep the momentum going to achieve the next goal.
Ask For Help
A professional therapist will be more than happy to discuss goals with you. One of the first things you do in therapy is set personal goals that you want to meet. If you already show up to your session with goals, that is fine, but a therapist can help you re-work your goals in a way to make them achievable. Do not feel bad over having small goals, as completing small goals are a great step in building up your confidence in talking about the bigger ones.
If you cannot think of any major goals, a therapist can help you choose the ones that will help you the most. If you at any point are confused or need clarification on something, feel free to ask away. You will never be judged or belittled for asking a question.
Achieving a goal is worthy of a celebration. Be sure to reward yourself with each successful goal. It can be something small like getting your favorite drink at a café, going to a museum, or watching your favorite movie. It is hard to complete goals, so it is important to give yourself something extra to look forward to when you complete them. Choose rewards within reason that will not bring you harm. A therapist will often have great ideas for ways to reward yourself.
This is but a simple guide on goal making. Goals come in many shapes and forms, but the ones that will give you a better, happier life, are the ones worth pursuing.
Making goals for self-improvement can be difficult and can sometimes be intimidating. For people who struggle with a mental health disorder, sometimes it’s hard to even imagine reaching a goal, especially goals of recovery and healing.
It may not seem like it at the time, but making and reaching goals is an intrinsic part of the recovery process. It can also help empower you in times where you feel helpless, as it is your choice of goals that matter. Here at Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we have helpful staff members who are more than happy to help you figure out and set your own goals.
It can be scary, but we have expert staff in many areas of expertise that are always available for questions to help mitigate your anxiety. You don’t have to do all the hard work by yourself, call (949) 649-2339 today.