The New Year is upon us, and hopefully, by now, you have recovered from the 2023 holiday rush and are settling into a nice routine. We don’t know about you, but if you are anything like us, you’ve faced the barrage of “tips and tricks’ to have the best year ever…how is that going for you? Listen, a new year can be a clean slate or simply a new date on the calendar. You don’t have to stress about making significant changes and becoming your best. You can keep moving forward.
With all the advice and slogans about significant changes and tremendous accomplishments, Innova Primary Care is here to remind you that stressing about the new year won’t help. So, we’ve curated some of our own “tips and tricks” to help you stay on track and keep moving forward.
Americans are stressed out!
Our nation is collectively sighing in relief after the pandemic, and our stress levels are high. The global pandemic officially ended on May 11, 2023, but its impact on us is far-reaching. According to the American Psychological Association, well-being in adults ranging in age from 35-44 is at an all-time low, with statistics revealing an increase in chronic illnesses up by 10% from 2019. In addition, mental health diagnoses are up from 31% to 45% within the same age group and timeframe. Adults ages 18-34 fare even worse, with mental illnesses reported at 50%.
We are a nation in mourning and suffering from collective trauma.
No wonder we are all stressed out. Collectively, we walked through an unprecedented event, and many of us lost people close to us, lost jobs, shifted social connections, and felt loneliness like never before. It needs to be said that without a pandemic in the rear view mirror, life itself is still challenging, meaning that stress is something most of us deal with no matter what. So, in this new year, knowing that stress is at an all-time high, how can you lessen the burden on yourself?
Small change is more significant than sweeping change.
For some reason, the flip of the calendar into a new year brings about a desire in many people to make sweeping changes. It is as if, at the stroke of midnight on January 1, we are all supposed to be entirely different people. But are we?
It is natural to want to make an impact in the world. We want to feel significant and make a difference in our lives and those around us. For many, this means making New Year’s resolutions to change, implementing new routines and strategies, and starting something we’ve left on the back burner for years. We think we will make strides if we go all in with an all-or-nothing attitude.
However, this rarely works out. Did you know that only 9% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions? The reasons for this vary, but for many, the changes are too significant too soon and don’t give any room for failure to learn. This doesn’t have to be you.
Set realistic goals.
We are not trying to damper your desire for change! In truth, we want to give you realistic ways to set realistic goals that allow for actual long-term change. Change is possible if you set yourself up for success, and creating sweeping changes overnight without a firm foundation will typically lead to failure. So, how do you create realistic and sustainable goals that lead to less stress?
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting is a way to create goals that give you accountability and can assist with success. First of all, consider your goal. Let’s look at this process in light of 2024’s most common New Year’s resolution: Fitness. According to a Forbes Health survey, 48% of us said improving fitness is the main goal for 2024. To make this happen, having a strategy in place is crucial.
Breaking down S.M.A.R.T goals
S = Specific.
In this case, improving fitness is the goal. But you need to go even deeper and define what improving fitness means to you. Let’s say your specific goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day.
M = Measurable.
You can measure your progress now that you have 10,000 steps in mind as your specific goal. In this instance, wearable devices that track steps are a great way to do so. You can also use your phone to help measure your progress or determine how many miles you need to walk daily to accomplish your goal.
A = Achievable.
Be honest. Is your goal of 10,000 steps (or whatever you choose as your primary goal) achievable in your life? What do you have to implement to make this happen? What do you need to do differently to achieve your specific goal? If your ambitions are too high and you cannot reasonably make allowances for this change, you are setting yourself up for failure.
R = Relevant.
Is your goal of 10,000 steps daily relevant to your life and desires? The answer is yes because this goal helps you achieve the fitness level you aspire to. If your goal is too big or too small, it may not impact your life, making it negotiable, something you don’t want when it comes to hard choices.
T = Timely.
Timely refers to a defined amount of time in which you hope to accomplish your goal. For many, 10,000 steps a day is a challenge and will take time to build up. You could set a timely goal of meeting this standard three times a week for one month. After you have met your time goal, you can reassess and create a new goal of, let’s say, 10,000 steps a day, five times a week for one month.
Goal setting to reduce stress
Often, having a vague idea of what we want without any clear path to getting there can lead to stress. Vagueness and ambiguity can cause stress in our lives because we see a change we want to make but don’t have a clear path forward.
By implementing S.M.A.R.T goals into our lives, we have a discernable action plan that is defined we are much more likely to achieve the goals we set for ourselves with less stress. But please do not forget grace! There will be times when you cannot meet your S.M.A.R.T. goal, and that’s okay. Life happens. You can always start fresh tomorrow.
Maybe you have fallen victim to an all-or-nothing mentality in the past. We are here to tell you that this ideology will cause more frustration and stress than recognizing that life is not linear but rather composed of peaks and valleys. You will get it right some days and wrong on others. Keep going!