Reduce Stress Through Goal Setting

In our last blog post, we talked about how goal setting can help set you up for success and begin your journey toward independence, but did you know that setting goals can help you reduce stress as well?

Do you know how to recognize signs of too much stress?

  • Trouble sleeping or feelings of fatigue.
  • Not being able to eat, having an upset stomach, or experiencing a loss of appetite.
  • Worrying excessively.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Feeling jittery, wound up, or unable to relax.
  • Feeling a loss of your sense of humor.
  • Feeling depressed, sad, or uninterested in life.
  • Feeling angry, irritable, or impatient.

If you feel stress on a regular basis, the first thing to know is that you are not alone – 45% of high school students feel stressed almost every day and 75% of high school students feel stressed about academics all the time. Take a deep breath and allow yourself a moment to really think about those statistics.

You are not alone. Nearly half of your classmates are also feeling stressed and 3 out of 4 of your classmates are also worrying about school. What this means is that you don’t need to feel ashamed about feeling stress – there is nothing wrong with you.

While you can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, you can learn to manage stress. Stress is a natural response to certain triggers. Some stress is good, but a constant state of stress is harmful.

There are two ways in which goal setting can help you to reduce stress. Setting goals can help you manage your time, help you create a study schedule which can reduce stress about academics, and help you determine your priorities so that you can have time for the things that matter most to you. Secondly, setting goals can help you to use healthy mind habits which will allow you to better manage stress. This could include taking steps like journaling, mindfulness exercises, or breathing exercises.

Did you know that Navy SEALS are taught goal setting as a way to deal with stress?

Navy SEALS are known for having to achieve impossible goals under pressure. So why do they think that goal setting is so important?

Goal setting helps you to maintain focus on the things you want to achieve while providing steps on how to get there and how to deal with distractions along the way. These skills are all critical for people working in extreme conditions.

What are SEALS taught about setting and reaching goals?

  1. Set small incremental goals. These micro-goals allow you to focus on the next step, rather than becoming overwhelmed with larger goals that could seem unattainable when thinking about it all at once.
  2. Visualize yourself reaching your goal. When you practice seeing yourself completing each step and reaching your final goal over and over again in your mind, you teach your mind to accept that you can achieve your goals. Also, by walking through the steps you have more opportunity to identify possible obstacles which you can then create a plan to overcome.
  3. Use positive words when talking to yourself. How you talk to yourself matters. You control your internal rhetoric. When you have a negative thought, you choose whether you select to hook into that thought or replace it with another thought. The more you talk to yourself with positive words, the more you will begin to believe you can achieve it.

When it comes to managing stress, it is important to engage in healthy mind habits, like we teach through the Mary Brougher Mental Health Initiative. Setting goals helps to identify what is most important to you, overcome obstacles, and keep you focused on the most critical actions you can take. When you have vision, a plan, and a positive attitude, dealing with stress triggers seems more possible.