First Posted: 12/31/2010
Though many struggle to manage stress throughout the year, the holidays can magnify underlying issues and emotions. An American Psychological Association study conducted in 2006 found that while 78 percent of respondents reported feeling often happy around the holidays, about two-thirds sometimes or often felt stressed and fatigued.
Ending the old year and beginning a new one is an especially appropriate time for self-examination and New Year’s resolutions. While keeping resolutions can be rewarding, it can be difficult to accomplish. Forty to 45 percent of American adults make one or more resolutions each year. Studies indicate that 74 percent are maintained past the first week, 71 percent past two weeks, 64 percent after one month, and 46 percent after six months.
If you identify with any of the respondents in the APA study and have failed in the past to hang on to the changes you resolved to keep, I suggest you make and keep just one for 2011. It is step four of the 12 steps of self-help spirituality, which encourages us to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Maybe you’ve been focused on what others were or were not doing and how their actions affected you. It just may be that as you dig to discover your own shortcomings, you will begin to see what needs changing in you, not in others.
While not everyone who makes a resolution follows through successfully, research shows that people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make them.
The following tips will increase the likelihood you will successfully make the change you desire if you are willing to follow through:
Simplify your resolutions: At this time of the year when self-improvement is at its zenith, aiming for an
overhaul of your lifestyle is a recipe for disappointment and quilt. A more reasonable approach is to focus clearly on one or two of the most important goals you can accomplish.
Plan the work (goal) and work the plan: Strike while the iron is hot! Procrastinating will increase the
likelihood you will fail to follow through and lose the will to make the important change you initially wanted. Plan realistically with time frames, take incremental steps and move forward when that step is completed.
Develop a support system. Carefully choose family members and friends who are trustworthy and supportive of you. Be specific about the ways they can help you when the going gets tough.
Don’t give up! A slip-up is inevitable. Don’t allow this to become an excuse to give up. Immediately forgive yourself and resolve to begin again.
When one completes a self-inventory, they may realize that some changes are needed to accomplish the goal of experiencing a more fulfilling new year. If you are having difficulty finding happiness and feel you may be experiencing early signs of depression after the holidays, consult with your primary care physician. Wishing you a healthy, happy New Year!
Jack Crain is Southeastern Regional Medical Center’s Employment Assistance Program specialist.