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Mental health expert weighs in with tips for setting New Year’s resolutions

Posted at 8:41 PM, Jan 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-01 20:42:19-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Now that 2020 has ended, many are setting their sights on New Year’s resolutions for 2021.

But after a disruptive year full of change and uncertainty, clinical psychologist Dr. Shannon Sauer-Zavala recommends putting additional thought into resolutions to set ‘SMART’ goals.

“Instead of talking about what kinds of resolutions people should make, I think it can be useful to talk about how to make changes that will stick, specifically using SMART goals,” said Dr. Sauer-Zavala.

SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

“I think a good place to start is thinking about how to make these goals instead of what specifically to do because anything can be turned into something that is specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely,” she added.

Dr. Sauer-Zavala told LEX 18 News it is important to focus on setting attainable goals and to be flexible if something doesn’t go as planned.

2021 follows a year where many faced increasing pressures as the pandemic took a toll on people’s health and the economy of the nation. Millions lost their jobs when COVID-19 hit the U.S. in March, and many Kentuckians continue waiting for unemployment insurance claims to be filled months later.

While the future looks brighter now that COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed, uncertainty still lingers in the new year and stressors from 2020 may carry over for some families into 2021.

In these cases, Dr. Sauer-Zavala recommends looking for positives and focusing on what is within your control.

“Typically, New Year’s resolutions are about self-improvement or betterment, and it can be really hard to think about doing those things when we feel like we’re digging out from setbacks or hardships that made 2020 so difficult,” she said. “One of the things in my work that we recommend people do is try to live in the present moment. One foot in front of the other, and really focus on what you can control right now and what’s right in front of you.”