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Health experts address realistic expectations and goals for 2021

A new year doesn't mean the pandemic is over
Posted at 5:38 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 17:38:02-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — As we prepare to leave 2020 behind, health experts are reminding everyone that flipping the calendar doesn’t change much in terms of the pandemic.

“The year is going to start and we know that not everything is going to change overnight,” said Leanne Mauriello, PhD the Director of Lifestyle Medicine at Spectrum Health.

RELATED: Michigan sees lower COVID-19 testing numbers, urges residents to get tested

Even if we wish there was a switch that returned us to what life was like before the pandemic started, Dr. Del DeHart, MD an infectious disease physician with Metro Health, University of Michigan Health said that return to “normal” will still be a slow process.

“It will be months if not a year before we see 70%, 80% of the population able to be vaccinated,” he said, “The vaccine is a wonderful gift, it really is; it gives hope, but we don’t need the vaccine alone to stop this pandemic. The things we’ve been doing will help tremendously," he said.

That means we need continue practicing social distancing, wear masks, and washing our hands.

Dr. DeHart said, “I think it’s not unreasonable to hope by spring and early summer, things will look different.”

While COVID fatigue is real, Dr. Mauriello said that doesn’t mean 2021 is going to be a bust.

RELATED: Experts say COVID-19 fatigue is real

“It may be a little bit more difficult than usual to kind of get started on a personal or health journey or a change journey, but that’s where taking really small steps can be a great strategy to get started,” she advised.

Dr. Mauriello encourages people to follow the S.M.A.R.T goals formula; setting intentions that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.

She explained, “When we think about all those different categories, really being specific, concrete, and really making sure it is something that we can define, we can point to it and say whether or not we were successful and we can do so in a reasonable amount of time.”

She also suggests getting creative with your goals, especially if gyms are closed, people are working from home, or they don’t have full-access to the things we need.

“If we are finding that were feeling a little bit limited, I encourage seeking inspiration from others. Reach out to your network, see how other people are managing to get exercise and get movement despite gyms being closed,” she said.

The biggest way to ensure success, is to set intentions you’re excited about.

Dr. Mauriello said, “What is the ‘why’ behind it? Why would you want to do that and how would you feel if you did that? I think that can really fuel people going into the new year with some renewed sense of positivity and excitement for what’s to come.”

After the year the world has had, Dr. Mauriello emphasizes that it’s okay to mess up little along the way.

She said, “I think mostly going in not expecting perfection, not expecting that this is 100% every day of the week and as quick as you can kind of catching yourself, giving yourself the grace and saying 'Okay, that’s in the past I’m moving forward.”

Health experts add, that with a little discipline, 2021 is could be very bright indeed.

Dr. DeHart said, “We are all so tired of this, but I think with that hope, if we can buckle down and say if we just to get through these next few months and continue to do the things that we know work, we really will be able to see this change.”

Spectrum Health has started a Lifestyle Medicine Specialty practice if you need a little extra support making healthy changes; whether it’s exercise, healthy eating, or even quitting smoking.

They’re also offering a free Plant Power Challenge to help you incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet starting on January 4th.

Click here to view our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.