(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – The New Year is typically a time to assess areas in our lives for change and improvement. But, chances are, you’ve had to make quite a few adjustments in 2020, whether that’s helping your kids navigate virtual and in-person learning, working from home, keeping your family safe and healthy or coping with economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health experts say making a big New Year’s resolution during these chaotic times can actually add more stress and be counterproductive. Instead, give yourself a break and resolve to reset for 2021.
“In normal times, a little bit of stress can help us find solutions and be productive. But when it is prolonged for months on end and that stress becomes chronic, our bodies never gets the message that the stress response can calm down, which can be detrimental to our physical and mental health,” said Sophie Lazarus, a clinical psychologist in the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Rather than one sweeping change, Lazarus recommends making small adjustments to bring joy into your daily life. One of the best ways to find these opportunities is to practice mindfulness, which can be as simple as acknowledging what you’re grateful for, scheduling a little time for self-reflection or stopping to take a few deep breaths.
“Mindfulness is really stepping out of autopilot and being aware of what’s happening in the present moment. When we do that, we really have a better sense of how what we do impacts us,” Lazarus said. “Identifying sources of stress and making small, incremental changes to boost our happiness is going to be a lot more helpful than setting a really high bar, not meeting that bar and feeling discouraged.”
Lazarus says the extenuating circumstances of 2020 have made chronic stress and anxiety more prevalent than ever. If you find yourself having trouble taking care of yourself, performing at work or getting along with other people, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional.