While area residents lay the groundwork for the typical New Year’s resolutions — eat better, quit smoking, save money — mental health experts say people should be patient and deliberate in making lifestyle changes amid a global pandemic.
“I think that sometimes resolutions are a form of escapism. People go in their minds and try to create a vision of a world that’s different from the one they have without addressing the things that are in their actual reality,” said La Shanda Sugg, a family therapist in Mason.
The pandemic will still exist in January, and so will the underlying issues that led people to cope with pandemic-induced stress with behaviors such as eating or drinking more, she said. People need to focus on those underlying issues, she said, while also intentionally grieving what they lost this year.
“What sometimes happens is people will take some of the things we didn’t accomplish because we lost a lot of agency, and autonomy, in 2020. They lost a lot. So they push fast to recoup what was lost without actually taking the time to acknowledge and grieve the loss,” she said.
This newspaper conducted an online survey of readers to find out how making a New Year’s resolution is different in a pandemic.
“It is most likely rooted in a lot of thought and planning as this year allowed for us to do a lot of re-thinking and reminiscing,” said a reader from Miamisburg.
Most survey respondents said they intend to make New Year’s resolutions. The most common resolutions dealt with improving people’s health, followed by their finances. One Springfield resident wants to quit smoking. One from Hamilton wants to take more vacations. The one from Miamisburg plans to read more books.
Robbie Brandon, director of the Sunlight Village community mental health agency in Dayton, said the pandemic exacerbated personal and societal problems such as substance abuse and food security — things people may have coped with for years with moderate success.
“Now I’m isolated and I’m losing family members, and I don’t have my job and my insurance is gone and all this other stuff,” she said. It can become too much.
She said it’s important to address personal improvement holistically, which is why in addition to counseling her agency provides nutrition classes and things like yoga.
In addition to personal goals, the Dayton Daily News survey asked readers what New Year’s resolutions they think local leaders should adopt for 2021. Answers included cutting wasteful spending and keeping an emphasis on racial equity issues.
The most common request was for leaders to put their constituents’ needs before politics.
“To do what the citizens want and not what they want,” said Terri Clark of Huber Heights. “To make it about us and not them. To keep their word and be transparent and to (hold) themselves accountable.”