Experts offer tips to stay on top of New Year’s resolutions

By: Jonathan Shead | C&G Newspapers | Published February 11, 2020

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METRO DETROIT — January is gone, and we’re now into the nitty-gritty of New Year’s resolutions. While some people may be finding it easy to keep up with their goals this year, others undoubtedly may be feeling the stress of staying the course or may have already fallen off course.

Setting realistic goals and celebrating incremental successes
Kevin Sloan, a psychologist at the Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Weight Control Center, said he knows it can be easy for people to become discouraged when their progress up to this point doesn’t match their expectations. Especially for those working to improve their health and wellness, it’s important to look at qualitative improvements just as much as quantitative ones.

“Is your energy level better? Have you noticed a change in how your clothes fit? Overall, do you feel that your mood is more positive? Are you sleeping better?

“I think, in the early stages, you really have to look for as many wins as you possibly can, and sometimes they’re not always on the scale.”

If your goals are financial, Jeff Arevalo, a financial expert at Greenpath Financial Wellness, said it’s important to remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

“A lot of times, people don’t get into financial distress overnight. It can take some time, so it’s not going to be fixed quickly, either,” he said, adding that realistic goals and a focused budget are paramount to success. “That’s really the key for anybody — to know what they’re able to save, if that’s their goal, and prepare for roadblocks or unexpected expenses.”

The same could be said for building better relationships, said Andrea Orsini, the director of behavioral health services at Oakland Family Services. She said people or couples looking to improve their relationships should start small, with one date, and build from there.

“Start with something that’s doable and manageable,” she said. “As you achieve that small, manageable goal, you feel more confident and more in control of yourself.”


Getting back on the wagon
Disruptions, hurdles and setbacks are an inevitable part of any resolution routine, Sloan said. The key to being able to get back on the wagon is building what he likes to call a strong “restart muscle.”

“I think the real key is being comfortable with starting your routine back up again without beating yourself up,” he said. “A lot of folks start off strong, and as soon as they hit that first hurdle, they don’t go back to it. Whereas if they were able to restart back up again, they really haven’t lost any ground, and they’ve demonstrated to themselves that they have the capacity to get back on track the next time a disruption comes (because) there’s always a next time.”

Sloan said it’s important to have accountability, structure and support embedded into a routine so that it’s easier to restart when things don’t go as planned.

Orsini added that it’s important to take a step back and analyze why you fell out of your routine in the first place. Building a foundation and having that as a reset point can provide people an opportunity to remember where they started and use it as a springboard to continue to grow.

Just because you experience a hiccup doesn’t mean the whole plan has to go out the window, Arevalo said.

“Life happens, and there are unexpected expenses. … Those things can quickly get people off track,” he said. “If people have realistic goals they’ve set and a healthy budget, then that can make it easier on people.”


Comparisons can kill your goals
While so many of us might have the same goals to be healthier, physically or financially, or build better relationships with loved ones, it’s important to remember not to compare your progress to your neighbor’s.

“Nobody can really tell us what is going to be good for us. … When we sit back and think about what we want our lives to look like, your life and your happiness aren’t going to look like another person’s life and happiness. There might be areas where they seem similar, but fundamentally, the idea of comparing yourself to somebody else is putting their values into your life, and ultimately you don’t end up being happy,” Orsini said.

The same can be said for comparing finances and financial goals, Arevalo said.

“It’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all for everybody’s budget. Everyone is different, but being realistic and honest with your finances and seeing areas where you personally can make improvements is something good to look at,” he said. “If we’re not tracking those things, it’s very easy for them to fly under the radar, and by the time the end of the month rolls around, we’re wondering where all our money went.”

Sticking with a goal for a full 365 days can undoubtedly be stressful. Arevalo said there’s different apps available as resources and that people shouldn’t feel discouraged for having to seek help from a professional.

There are numerous resources available locally through Beaumont Health, Greenpath Financial Wellness, Oakland Family services and more.