New Year's Resolution: Stay Healthy in 2021

Woman taking selfie pic with cake

ThedaCare Physician Recommends Taking Life One Day at a Time

December 28, 2020

WAUPACA, Wis. – There’s no doubt – 2020 has been a tough year for most people. With the COVID-19 pandemic showing little sign of letting up Northeast Wisconsin, it’s important for us to stay optimistic going into the New Year, and believe we can make positive changes for 2021.

“Setting resolutions and goals can help keep us in good spirits and health, especially if that’s part of our normal holiday routine,” said Felix Jolly Odathil, MD, family medicine physician at ThedaCare Physicians-New London. “Because of the pandemic, people may want to start with health-centered resolutions. Continuing to practice COVID-safe behaviors should be among them.”

Those behaviors are the best way to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and include:

  • Wear a mask whenever in a public setting.
  • Practice social distancing, remaining at least six feet away from others.
  • Avoid unnecessary physical touching.
  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-percent alcohol.
  • Clean and disinfect common surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches keyboards, cell phones, toilets and faucets regularly.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

Additionally, keeping our bodies as healthy as possible can help strengthen our immune system, Dr. Odathil noted.  

“Making resolutions to stay healthy in a well-rounded way can help us to manage the impacts of the pandemic, both in terms of our physical health and our mental wellbeing,” said Dr. Odathil. “In a time of social distancing, working from home, and having more "free" time than we could have anticipated at the beginning of this year, we might be primed for self-reflection. Let us take time to set professional and personal goals in 2021.”

Gym memberships tend to increase dramatically in January most years, but with social distancing measures in place, going to the gym may not be an option. Instead, people who want to exercise more might consider downloading an app that helps track their progress, or plan to use an online exercise video several times a week, she said. Health experts recommend people get 75 to 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise weekly, depending on how vigorous the activity is, as well as strength training.

“Exercise improves our health as well as produces endorphins, which help us to regulate our mood and reduce stress,” Dr. Odathil said. “So it’s important to include exercise in our 2021 resolutions.”

While some people have turned to baking goodies to relieve stress during the pandemic, we should remember to regularly incorporate healthy foods into our diets. Creating a resolution around regularly cooking a healthy dinner with your family can be a good way to build the habit, Dr. Odathil said.

“Let’s try to do the right thing, which can sometimes be the hardest things to do,” said Dr. Odathil. “Replace the soda with a fruit, take time from TV for some pushups, and find something nice to say to your loved ones.”

Dr. Odathil said it is equally important to take care of our mental health, particularly during this difficult time when social interaction is limited, the days are shorter and the cold weather is driving us indoors.

People may want to resolve to increase their social connection time in a pandemic-safe way, such as setting a regular video chat date with a particular friend, planning household movie nights, or scheduling outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. We might begin planning activities for spring, when it’s more comfortable to get outside – and when COVID-19 vaccines may be available.

“A good way to remain motivated with our resolutions is to write down your goals,” said Dr. Odathil. “It is also a way to ensure that your goals are attainable. Annual goals cannot be reached without working towards them every day, week and month.

And remember – a good attitude can go a long way.

“Planning for the future is a good way to keep positive and help make the changes in our routine a little easier to take,” Dr. Odathil said. “Accomplishing big goals and resolutions is a marathon, not a sprint. Do the best you can - take time to consider and strengthen your physical and mental health, and keep connected with others. Let’s take actions now to help keep ourselves and others as healthy as possible.”