Surveys indicate health-centered resolutions are at the top of most New Year’s resolution lists. No surprise since extra care – including self-care – is needed in the new year to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“In a time of social distancing, working from home, and having more ‘free’ time than we could have anticipated in the new year, we might be primed for self-reflection,” says Felix Jolly Odathil, MD, family medicine physician at ThedaCare Physicians-New London. He, along with other physicians involved with Be Safe Wisconsin efforts, encourage residents to take time to set professional and personal goals in the new year. Here are a few suggestions on ways to stay safe and healthy well into 2021.

Practice COVID-Safe Behaviors

Health experts say a good start is to resolve to practice COVID-safe behaviors. Those behaviors are the best way to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They include:

  • Wear a mask when in public settings
  • Watch your distance, keeping at least six feet away from others
  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Clean and disinfect common surfaces such as doorknobs and keyboards
  • Avoid unnecessary physical touching
  • Avoid people who are sick
  • Stay home as much as you can, especially when you feel ill

Exercise and Strive to Lose Weight

The “Quarantine 19” is real. Many people gained weight over the past year and most of it started during the nationwide shutdown. A recent WebMD poll noted nearly half of the women and almost one-quarter of the men who responded to the poll said they packed on the pounds “due to COVID restrictions.”

Many Wisconsinites want to make working out a priority as part of their weight loss plan. January typically is the month fitness facilities fill up, but this year will be a challenge to head to the gym due to COVID-19. Health experts suggest instead turning to online exercise videos several times a week, recommending 75 to 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise in addition to strength training. Also, download an app that helps track progress to keep you motivated to stick with your exercise plan.

“Exercise improves our health as well as produces endorphins, which help us to regulate our mood and reduce stress,” Dr. Odathil says. Staying active also lessens fatigue, anxiety and sadness. “So, it’s important to include exercise in our 2021 resolutions.”

Eat Well

Feeding your body with healthy foods helps to strengthen your immune system, so doctors say consider making that a goal for the new year.

“Creating a resolution around regularly cooking a nutrient-rich dinner with your family can be a good way to build the habit,” Dr. Odathil suggests. “Making a simple move like replacing a can of soda with a piece of fruit will have you feeling better before you know it.”

Get Adequate Sleep

An estimated 50-70 million adults in America have a sleep disorder. Medical professionals believe these disorders have been exasperated by the lack of social interactions during the pandemic.

“We’ve been told for multiple months that we should socially distance, and it’s tough when you don’t get that same physical satisfaction of hugging a friend or family members, or touching others,” says Long Nguyen, DO at ThedaCare Physicians-Wautoma. “The social distancing is probably one of the biggest causes of anxiety and loss of sleep that I definitely notice in myself and the patients I see.”

Maggie Van Abel, APNP, a pulmonology and sleep medicine specialist at Ascension NE Wisconsin-St. Elizabeth Campus, says sleep is essential. “It resets all the hormones and restores your body back to its normal, regulated state. It can help power your immune system protecting you against illness.”

Resolve to work towards Achieving Your Best Sleep During the Pandemic and feel the benefits early in the new year.

Think Positive/Manage Mental Health

“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,” Dr. Odathil says, “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. Also, planning future get-togethers, when it’s safe to gather again, can have a positive impact too.

“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 says. “Accomplishing big goals and resolutions is a marathon, not a sprint. Do the best you can. Take it one day at a time. 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.”

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

Doctors recommend you approach resolutions with a good attitude, stay optimistic and believe you can make positive changes for 2021.