- A new year is often a time for self-reflection and thinking about what we may want to change in our lives.
- 2020 was a year like no other, so naturally how we decide to move forward from it will also be different from previous years.
- It’s important to reframe the way we think about New Year’s resolutions in the context of a pandemic, and it’s possible to make healthy, attainable goals for the year ahead.
It’s safe to say that most people won’t be sad to leave 2020 behind. As we prepare to ring in 2021 and look forward to a new year, it’s a natural time to reflect on our lives and what we might want to change.
But after a year that’s been anything but “normal,” it’s fair to expect that many of our New Year’s resolutions will look different this year, too. “Previously, many of us looked to the new year with traditional resolutions like losing weight or quitting smoking,” a behavioral health therapist at the Cleveland Clinic. “This year has been like no other, and it provides an opportunity to reflect and move forward in a new way.”
Amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, some people have realized the importance of relationships and connections with family and friends, while others are coming to terms with being stretched too thin and aren’t caring for themselves properly. Of course, collective and personal losses have taken their toll, too. “There is the grief and loss we have experienced with so much change to our routines and daily life,” Pernotto Ehrman said.
“For many, family and friends have been gravely ill or died from the virus. Perhaps the frenzy of having or getting ‘stuff’ now isn’t quite so important as appreciating our health, home, family, time together, and time alone,” she said. Taking all of this into account, it’s probably a good idea to rethink some of the traditional resolutions we tend to make. If you have one of the seven common goals below for the new year, here’s how mental health experts suggest you approach them differently in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Weight loss
With a year as stressful as 2020, it’s natural that many people may have put on a few extra pounds. “Sheltering in place has made it easier for us to eat our way to comfort, snooze instead of move, and numb out with sitcoms, movies, alcohol, or other substances,” but rather than beating yourself up and committing to a strict diet and exercise regimen as soon as the clock strikes midnight Jan.
What does that actually look like in practice? First, it means acknowledging that everyone is stressed and hurting. Then, rather than using on food or substances for comfort, look for healthier ways to cope. Recommends journaling, talking with a friend, engaging in physical activity, or watching a movie or reading a book that will help you laugh, cry, motivate, or inspire you. It will also be beneficial to prioritize sleep, healthy eating, and making space for calm and quiet time to breathe, self-reflect, and meditate. Most importantly, though, go easy on yourself, and go at your own pace
2. Kick an unhealthy habit
Given all that’s happened this year, it’s easy to lean on unhealthy coping mechanisms that may temporarily ease stress, such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or even biting your nails. “Whether it’s a bad habit you picked up this year or one you’ve been dealing with for longer, the ability to change your ways is always readily available to you,”.
“Instead of having that extra drink after work, go for a 15-minute walk to clear your head and if need be, keep walking until the urge passes,”. Another technique is to gradually reduce the behavior you wish to change. For instance, cut down on the number of cigarettes or alcoholic drinks you have by one or two per day or week, and continue each week until you eliminate the substance.
3. Spend more time with family and friends
This is an especially tricky resolution given that the pandemic has forced many to stay separated from loved ones. Still, there are ways to stay connected even while physically apart. Have a board game night together on video chat platforms. One person or family has the board and pieces, and facilitates the movements for all. Or try charades or a family scavenger hunt. Be creative. Other ways to stay connected include reading the same book or watching the same TV show and discussing it, sending one another care packages, and communicating by “old-fashioned” means, like writing a letter or talking on the phone.