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New Year's Resolutions: Start Small to Make It Big in 2021

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Author name: Lee Health

In 2019, our New Year’s resolutions for 2020 might have included traveling abroad, socializing more, and losing weight.

Of course, that was before COVID-19.

Now, traveling only increases our chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home remains the best way to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19. And self-isolating introduced the “Quarantine 15” -- the weight we gained in lockdown. (Read on for health and exercise tips to help avoid packing on the pounds.)

So what’s the point to making any resolutions this year? As if the pandemic hasn’t made life stressful enough?

Whoa. Easy does it, says Lee Health psychiatrist Dr. Eric Raab.

“Last year was an incredibly difficult and stressful year,” Dr. Raab says. “Give yourself a break, for starters. If you gained 15 pounds, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you feel like a change is needed in an area of your life, like losing weight, start small.”

Realistic and Obtainable

Dr. Raab says small changes, which can be measured by incremental successes, can lead to significant change, but not overnight.

“Your goals should be small, realistic and obtainable. Making big, ambitious changes all at once tends to raise our stress levels and set us up for disappointment if we fail to meet them.”

Dr. Raab stresses that it’s important to know why you want to make changes, too.

“What makes you feel committed to reaching your goal? Do you wish to lose weight because you want to look good for others or because you should do it because others are doing it, too?”

Your motivation to achieve your goals should be “internally” guided, Dr. Raab says.

“You’ll have more success reaching your goals that align with your personal values. Maybe you want to lose weight because you know you’ll feel better mentally and physically on a daily basis. When we’re internally guided, we’ll have a better likelihood of meeting our goals because we’re doing them for ourselves.”

Exercise Programs

When beginning an exercise program, definitely start small, says Mathieu Knapp, Wellness and Program manager, Healthy Life Centers.

“We see a lot of members who are motivated to work out and they want to see results quickly, only to start too fast, overwork themselves, or be disappointed when they do not see results immediately,” Knapp says.

He recommends that you should determine what your specific goals are and determine your baseline data points -- such as weight, fat mass, muscle mass, body measurements, and strength and cardio baselines. 

“Basically, the more you know where you begin, the more you can see yourself progress and change,” he says. “By having more data at the start, you could see individual changes in muscle versus fat, plus your measurements could change or you may gain strength or cardiovascular fitness.”

Knapp says little wins and achieving goals are what will keep you going long term. Set goals, gather data, and start slow. If you need help, seek help. Trainers and health experts want you to be successful and live your best life, so use their expertise.

“Weights are a great option, and lighter weights are effective,” Knapp says. “Often, people are afraid to exercise because they are not as fit as someone younger, or who has been involved in physical activity for a long time. Starting small can have great benefits. The data suggest that even people with significant heart disease benefit from an exercise program, with a higher quality of life.”

Reward Yourself

According to the American Psychological Association, minor missteps along your self-improvement journey are completely normal. You had a soda for lunch? A brownie at the office party? No big deal. It’s important that you simply notice it and try to do better.

When you do reach a weight or diet goal, it’s a good idea to remember that you can be nice to yourself. Allow yourself a nap, a reality TV show, a treat. You’ve earned it. 

And instead of negative thoughts about how you look, try staring into the mirror and talking out loud about the things you like about yourself or even how cool you are.

This may make you feel silly, but who cares? Who is going to know? Your friends and family can help pump you up, and your pets will probably get a kick out of private monologues.

Have Fun and Be Honest

There are countless exercise options these days. You don’t have to make yourself miserable by jogging 10 miles in the Southwest Florida heat if you don’t want to. Yoga. Pilates. Dance classes. Spin classes. Walks. Bike rides in beautiful places. Swimming.

Pick something that you have always wanted to do, and be honest about why you want to do it. Is it to be more attractive, to feel better, to help your heart, or your libido? 

Failure Is Okay

Remember that if you fail, you can simply try again. Resolutions don’t have to start in the New Year, after all. You can start a goal anytime, in April, for the summer, for your birthday. Do it because it’s Thursday. The key is, just start again.

Above All, Practice Self-Care

Practicing self-care remains key to leading a more fulfilling life in 2021, says Dr. Ashley Chatigny, a double board-certified psychiatrist and medical director of behavioral health with Lee Physician Group.

Dr. Chatigny suggests the following can do a body—and mind—good.

  • Volunteer. “We have to actively take care of ourselves,” she says. “There are so many ways we can do that. For example, if you’re able to volunteer your time to improve a situation instead of donating money to it. Time is better than money, for some people. Volunteering for a worthy cause gets us out of ourselves, too. Sometimes we can be too pre-occupied with our troubles. It’s only natural but we don’t have to indulge it.”
  • Yoga. This classic de-stressor practice helps us relax in a stressful world, relieves irksome pain, and just generally helps us feel better.
  • Meditation. The ancient, soothing practice can be practiced by newcomers and anyone else. No experience required and you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to start. 
  • Sleep health. Our bodies release hormones during sleep that help repair cells and control its use of energy. During times of stress, proper sleep hygiene is essential to our well-being.

“But don’t oversleep,” Dr. Chatigny cautions. “Too much sleep on a regular basis can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and death according to several studies done over the years.” Too much sleep is defined as greater than nine hours, she adds.

Lee Health Behavioral Health Services – an outpatient facility -- provides friendly and compassionate psychiatric and counseling services along with plenty of other mental health resources.

We evaluate your condition, manage your medication, and implement a plan to help you feel better. You will find a trained therapist who is right for you – a caring and attentive person who will connect with you and empower you to tackle your problems. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 239-343-9180.