Resolve to Build an Attainable Personal Action Plan

If you’re like most Americans, you’re excited about the holidays. But the other side of this perennial coin is that many adults also face higher levels of depression and stress, eat poorly, and feel badly about themselves. It’s a difficult time of year, emotionally, physically and financially, for many of us. Let’s take the “glass half full” approach, though, and assume you’re looking forward to the days ahead and trying to balance your good intentions with healthy behaviors, rather than giving in to the seasonal demons that taunt us all.

This is not another article on setting resolutions, that annual exercise in frustration that only leaves us angry or frustrated with ourselves and more likely to just spitefully eat that extra cookie and drink another glass of eggnog. Instead, the best advice is to go easy on yourself:  Drink, eat and celebrate in moderation, allow yourself some excess as expected, but say “no” when you can, keep away from the foods that hurt you the most, and don’t neglect regular exercise or routines that help you keep stress at bay.

Adopting an effective strategy for controlling excess, and setting reasonable expectations for yourself are your smartest options. Focus on short-term goals, such as eating vegetables and fruit at parties and not taking second helpings. Have a cookie and stop. If you imbibe, realize that alcohol and holiday beverages contain a lot of sugar and calories, interfere with your sleep and judgment, and may leave you with a price to pay the next day.

Resolutions should be ongoing. Yes, going back to the gym, avoiding smoking, and eating in more healthful ways are important, but you can resolve to make those changes today, and set simple, achievable, daily goals for yourself. Maybe it’s eating vegetables three times a day, or walking or exercising for 20 minutes daily — you’re not trying to change the world, just working to retain control. Write down your goals, tell a friend or family member what you’re planning, encourage them to check in on you and, if possible, team up for improved motivation and collaboration.

When it comes to purchases, learning to say “no” and practicing financial restraint are difficult challenges, but the more you cede control to impulses, the more it costs you, emotionally and financially. Make lists and a budget, tune your radar to recognize unwise spending, and plan your day carefully. However difficult, make some time for yourself daily, rather than waiting for “when things calm down.” That can include quiet time for reading or reflecting, taking a walk or a swim, going to the gym, calling a friend or whatever routine helps keep you calm and focused. Time, we all come to realize, is the greatest gift we can give ourselves, and we’re worth it.

And finally, when it comes to stress and seasonal angst, the best advice is “don’t despair.” You’re not alone, and there are people, programs and services to turn to for guidance and support. Recognize your own limitations, set reasonable boundaries, and seek help sooner rather than later. We all tend to ignore our successes and beat ourselves up over our perceived failures. Recognize what’s working well and what isn’t, and address those issues calmly and with others, including medical or behavioral health professionals.

Remember, the goal is long-term change and healthy behaviors, not short-term fixes. Surviving the holidays is like plodding through a snowstorm that lasts a full month. You put your head down, walk into the wind, and keep moving forward toward your goals, a step at a time.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!