How to Create Smart Goals When You’re Stressed

As an anxiety sufferer myself, I understand the comfort zone that we live in so we can get just a little emotional relief.

Big changes are scary for anxiety sufferers. It’s the reason most of us fail and never try again.

To conquer anxiety, you need to create smart goals that will help you improve your mental health, your wellness, and your life.

But when you suffer from anxiety, planning feels very daunting, and often adds more anxiety to your day.

We’re easily overwhelmed and tend to crumble under pressure.

Don’t worry! You can plan and succeed at your smart goals! You just need to learn how to make a smart goals plan that works with your anxiety, not against it.

This post will help you make a plan so you can create measurable & achievable smart goals all while helping you conquer your anxiety.

We’re discussing:

  • smart goal setting
  • how to write smart goals
  • tips and tricks to reach your goals when you are anxious
  • Smart goals Examples
  • And free resources to help you!

How To Create Smart Goals For Anxiety Do More With Less Stress

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What does Smart Goals Stand For?

A S.M.A.R.T. Goal is an acronym (letters that stand for other words) that helps you break down your major goals into achievable mini goals.

Mini goals are easier to reach in a shorter amount of time and also help keep you motivated to reach your dreams.

The S.M.A.R.T acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time Bound

Creating a goal that fits under all these setting tips makes your goal a Smart Goal!

For examples of smart goals ideas, refer to this related post!

RELATED POST: 85 Micro New Year Resolution Goals to Help You Thrive

S Stands For Be Specific When You Create Your Smart Goals: How To Create Smart Goals For Anxiety When You'Re Stressed

Free SMART Goals Worksheet

With Love, Me wants to help you reach your goals!

Try our SMART Goals Worksheet for FREE! Made to help you focus on your goal!

This one page worksheet helps you write your goal so you can focus on making progress.


*If you are having suicidal or homicidal thoughts, please contact your Mental Health Care team or local Emergency Department. These thoughts are not normal and warrant IMMEDIATE treatment.* You can find mental health hotline numbers on the resource page. Please take care of yourself. YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Trouble Setting Your Goals Because of Depression

Please consider help from someone you trust, a therapist, or a doctor to help you through your depression if you are not improving. You are worthy!

Having a buddy will help you move through your smart goals easier. We all do better with support.

For general blahs, please check out our post on Why Do I Feel Numb Inside & Tips on How to Become Happy Again.

This feeling of emptiness is a road block for anxiety & depression sufferers in their goal setting planning. Sometimes we need a little help to move forward.

Asking for help is not weakness, it is a strength!

RELATED POST: Why Do I Feel Empty & Tips to Bring Back Joy

Smart Goal Setting Quote

Making a Smart Goal Plan

Step 1: Setting Specific Goals

To truly succeed at a large goal, you will need to make your goals as small as possible.

Remember: You have to learn to take baby steps before you can run. Simplifying your plan to baby steps will help you succeed in the long run.

This is why your smart goals should be specific.

Ask yourself questions like who, what, when, where, why, and how to narrow your focus and help you break your big goals into a mini goal.

Mini goals help you set yourself up for success by simplifying tasks to meet your main goal.

You want your mini goals to be as simple as possible.

Let’s explore some examples of smart goals together, shall we?

Examples of Specific Smart Goals

  • I need to lose 20lbs to improve my surgical risk assessment score.
  • I need to de-clutter my home in preparations to move to a smaller home.
  • I need to train my service dog in training for 300 hours of public access and task training to qualify as a full service dog.
  • Create a list of my symptoms from my mental or physical illness to create a self care kit that can help me next time I experience symptoms.
  • Purchase a planner to help me create a schedule to achieve my goals. It needs to include space for notes, monthly and weekly views, etc.

RELATED POST: 85 Micro New Year Resolution Goals to Help You Thrive

Start Your Way On A Post It Note Arrow- How To Create Smart Goals- Achievable Goals

Step Two: Measurable Smart Goals

To have a true smart goal, you need to be able to measure it. How else are you going to know when you have completed a step, or more importantly, reached your major goal?

Your measurement for your smart goal will depend on your goal.

I could have a goal plan to sleep in my bedroom by redecorating for complete sleep hygiene, but if I change my pillow and it solves my sleep issue the goal have been achieved, despite not completing all the tasks.

Note: You don’t have to complete your entire checklist to complete a goal.

Take the sleeping goal for example. My idea of success for sleeping peacefully would be to have enough bed space to sleep comfortably, maintaining a comfortable temperature, and a dark environment without excessive noise and lights.

Smart goals are not measured in time, but by the results.

Your RESULTS are your standard of measurement.

Examples of Measurable Smart Goals

  • I need a x amount of body fat reduced or a weight of x to be approved as safe for surgery.
  • To reduce my moving expenses, I need to reduce my home items by half or 500lbs.
  • I need 8 pork chops, two side dishes, one dessert, and one gallon drink to feed 4-6 people for dinner.
  • I need a self care kit stocked for taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight. I need to include items to help with my individual symptoms.
  • I need to find a therapist that specializes in my mental health needs.
  • I need to document symptoms and thoughts for review in a dedicated notebook.
  • I need a Kindle Unlimited subscription to borrow books from their self help section to discuss with my dr and therapist. Or $___ to purchase all the books I need.

RELATED POST: How to Be Happy When You’re Living With PTSD

Woman Planning Her Smart Goals On Her Laptop- How To Create Smart Goals To Improve Your Mental Health

Step 3: Are Your Smart Goals Achievable?

We tend to dream big. It’s what makes humans so amazing.

There is just one flaw to our big dreams. We tend to make big plans as well and we forget that we need to start where we are so we can succeed long-term.

When planning your smart goals, you need to plan them with your current situation in mind.

If you only have one hour a day to dedicate to your smart goals, you should NOT be scheduling 4.

If you have a sedentary lifestyle and want to start an exercise routine, planning a 5k next week is a bad idea.

You want to plan for today.

Planning for today helps keep you motivated on reaching your goals because they are achievable.

Make your goals tangible and try to identify possible pitfalls in advance to give yourself the best chance of success. Don’t set yourself up for failure!

The Curious Dig

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I able to start my goals on my current budget? Or do I need to make changes before starting this goal?
  • Does this goal require me to be familiar with something I have no interest in?
  • Will this goal help me reach my desired outcome or major goal?
  • Does this goal improve my life vs adding more stress to it?
  • What do I need to start right now?
  • Do I have the support of people that I will need to succeed? –Making grandma’s famous biscuits is not a smart goal if Grandma says she won’t teach you.
  • Am I ready to make lifestyle changes to achieve this goal?
  • What do I think is going to be hard for me to achieve?
  • Would postponing this smart goal be better for me considering upcoming changes or events (move, job, education requirements, life changes, etc)?

RELATED POST: 20 Healthy Mindset Habits You Need to Improve Your Anxiety

Notepad With Writing &Quot;What'S Stopping You&Quot;- Creating Smart Goals

Step 4: Are Your Mini Goals Relevant?

Not all goals you want to achieve are going to help you.

When you live with anxiety, you often think you have to achieve another goal before starting a different goal.

Example: I have been dying to dress better so I can feel better about myself. Now the old me kept saying “Well, you should lose weight first.” WRONG! Losing weight isn’t relevant to my self esteem goal. Looking at myself in the mirror and accepting myself “as is” was my smart goal. The goal was to love myself RIGHT NOW.

If you find yourself making goals that you need to complete before you start other goals, take a step back. You’re procrastinating. That’s your anxiety talking, not your logic. Procrastination is anxiety’s snarky best friend, and she likes sabotage.

You are using procrastination to suspend a goal because it’s not simple enough for you. Go back and break that baby down to small easier steps. Making your goals as simple as possible will help you move past this road block.

Ask yourself:

  • Is your goal going to help you succeed at a larger goal? If this goal doesn’t help you live your dream goal, ditch it and move on.
  • Does this goal fit with your lifestyle? Going to the beach daily to walk is irrelevant if you live in a land locked place. Look and see if your goals make sense to your daily life.
  • Does this goal fit with my physical state? I know we all dream of doing the Boston marathon, but my syncope definitely says no.
  • Does this goal cause more stress than it solves? You should be working to reduce anxiety and depression, not causing them. There are other paths to success.
  • Does this goal make sense for this time in my life? I’m a 40 yr old woman with syncope. Getting pregnant wouldn’t be a good idea.
  • Am I doing this for me? If the answer is no, you’re doomed to fail. All your goals should be something you strive for and gives you purpose and passion. Otherwise, all it will give you is depression, anxiety, and self hate. Do it because you want to. Not because someone said you should.

RELATED POST: 3 Positive Thinking Exercises Every Anxiety Sufferer Should Practice

Progress Bar Loading With Help From A Human- Creating Smart Goals

Step 5: What is My Time Frame for My Smart Goals

I strongly recommend getting yourself a planner to keep track of your time frame!

I find writing my goals is actually more productive for me than doing a digital planner. I can put my hands on it and it is a reminder to get back on track, while my phone is constantly on and I never remember to check my to do list.

This is the Erin Condren Life Planner.

And my personal planner, as you can see in the images to the left! –Don’t worry, I left all the personal details out of the images. So don’t worry!-

Anyway, I love this planner for goal setting.

  • It has little motivational quotes in it. –I’ll leave that a surprise for your planner’s arrival.-
  • There is a day of the week planner, or mini goal section. –Mine was filled with personal stuff so no pic for you.-
  • It’s undated so you can start whenever you want, and it has space for an entire year.
  • It has THICK luxurious paper that is a JOY to write on.
  • It has a mini goal planner before the calendar so you can write out you monthly goal.
  • The Vertical Layout gives 3 columns a day so you can section off your goals for a more detailed view. –I like to use mine for business, health, and personal goals.-
  • And each month ends with a notes page so you can sum up, or make a plan for next month.
  • Every planner comes with a contact sheet so you can keep a list of important people right by your goals.
  • Each planner also comes with cute little planning stickers and a removable ruler and a note pocket in the back.
  • Every single planner is SUPER Durable!
  • Bonus: You can grab this on Amazon for fast shipping!

Now that you have your planner, or at least some paper, let’s start talking about time management for smart goals.

Tips for Creating a Realistic Smart Goal Time Frame

Be honest when you ask yourself, “When is the soonest I can achieve this goal?”

If you’re taking a 6 month course, give yourself a year to implement it into your life.

If you’re training a service dog, they tell you it takes 2 years. Plan for 3 years instead, and avoid the mistakes you make when you feel pressured and rushed.

Anxiety and depression do not like to be ignored. If you plan your life without taking into account all the downtime that you need to practice your own self care, go to work, take care of family, and have fun; you’re already setting yourself up for failure.

Give yourself time and don’t rush yourself.

Most people fail because they rush the process.

You are 100% allowed to need more time.

YOU should create a pace that works for you.

Remember to allow for:

  • Self Care to destress and refocus.
  • Health care so you can get well.
  • Fun because everyone needs downtime.
  • Rest because we’re all human and we need sleep to be our best.
  • Doing nothing! We all deserve a break without a to do list.

If you’re struggling to find time for your goals, read this great article by a friend of mine! How To Make Time For Your Goals: Life By Deanna

Planner On A Desk With A Laptop, Snacks, And Flowers. - Pretty- Feminine Desk- Planning Your Smart Goals- How To Create Smart Goals For Anxiety Sufferers

Quick Tips For Smart Goal Success

Have a Support System

If you’re planning a huge life change and you live with a spouse and three kids, you need to have them on board too or it will affect your progress.

For example, I need to see if my goal aligns with my husbands. We need to be making a life plan together so we are both working toward the same goal. And not fighting it out every step of the way.

By not including my partner in my plans, I’m setting myself up to fail.

You don’t need approval, but you do need support. Not having support would be like dieting with a friend or force feeds you chocolate cake. It’s just a disaster waiting to happen. You’re always fighting just to start.

Creating your support system helps you get inspired when reaching your goals is hard.

Stop Comparing

We all are on the same journey, but with completely different tools available to us.

Your personal journey is not the same as anyone else. Even if that person is your relative; your experience will be different because YOU are unique.

You are only in competition with YOURSELF!

Don’t let anyone one else’s thoughts, beliefs, or pace determine yours!

The Road to Reaching Your Smart Goals Is Not Always Straight

Progress looks different for everyone.

Many of us look like we’re playing “Chutes & Ladders“. We get on track and then we get knocked all the way back to start. We reorient, strategize, then get back on track to complete our goals.

You will experience pitfalls and plateaus.

Just because you’re not seeing progress, doesn’t mean you are not on the right path.

When you’re driving toward the horizon, it never looks like your getting closer to it, but in reality you are still moving forward, mile by mile.

When you experience a pitfall or plateau, reasses and see if there is a different way of measuring success.

You’ll find that sometimes you need to plateau so you can recharge and gain energy to get to the next step in your goal!

Make Notes As You Go

Keeping notes of your thoughts, ideas, and progress is going to help you keep moving forward.

I keep my notes in my Planner!

Researchers use this method to keep track of their successes and failures so they can reassess and attack their goals with new determination!

This is how success is born! Notetaking for the win!

Growth Chart With Arrow Going Up And Down Then Going Up Again- Learn Practice Improve Words By Growth: Learning To Create Smart Goals

Setting Smart Goals for Anxiety Wrap Up

Hopefully, I’ve answered your questions about Smart Goals and helped you learn how to push through anxiety so you can reach all your goals. Here is a quick recap on what we learned.

What we Learned:

  • If your goal doesn’t matter to you personally, you won’t be motivated to complete it.
  • Making smaller steps will help you achieve success.
  • Plan for obstacles, life, and downtime for success. Even cars need gas!
  • You are only in competition with Yourself.
  • You can achieve smart goals for anxiety if you allow for obstacles.
  • Being realistic in planning is crucial to success.
  • Longer time frames are a friendly suggestion to achieving your smart goals for anxiety.
  • To complete your smart goals for anxiety, have a supportive person included in your plan.
  • Make notes as you go. Researchers use this method to problem solve!

Don’t forget your Free Goal Setting Worksheet to help you create smart goals!

Tell me in the comments how you are conquering your anxiety by setting smart goals!

How To Create Smart Goals So You Can Achieve Your Dream.  Tips To Conquer Anxiety While Goal Planning And Working Toward Your Goal.
How to Create Smart Goals When You're Stressed 18

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Hi! I'm Krystian. The Creator of With Love, Me. I created this blog for others like myself: people living with anxiety disorder on a daily basis. I have been living with anxiety since my teens. This blog is to give you a how to guide for living with anxiety, because I sure didn't have one. I want to save you the pain and misery I had of figuring it out all on my own. Join me and my service dog Koda on the journey to help you manage your anxiety. See you on the blog and our socials!
Krystian Howe, Author of With Love, Me

Krystian Howe

Hi Lovelies! My name is Krystian and I’ll be your self care coach. Our destination: less stress to be our best. These tested strategies will help you go from anxious lady to confident queen! Get ready to turn your anxiety into a strength.


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  1. Such a great post on setting smart goals, I’ve learned in the last few years that my goals before were not very attainable and its been helpful to learn way to help me.

  2. I’ve always heard about SMART goals but to be honest, I’ve never been very good at setting them, especially when dealing with stress and anxiety. It was interesting to get this perspective on how to take my anxiety into account when goal setting.

  3. I’m so impressed with this great post about Smart Goals! Months ago, I wrote about Smart Goals, but I can see that I need to up my game. Your post is well researched and expertly written.


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