Karen Kerschmann, LCSW

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Clinical Supervision


Kerschmann & Associates

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and  Clinical Supervision

Kerschmann & Associates

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and  Clinical Supervision

7 Secrets to Making your New Year’s Resolution Stick: Part 4 of a 4-Part Holiday Series

We want change to happen quickly. However, it takes time to accomplish our New Year’s goals. The following are 7 tips to help you stick with your resolutions and succeed!

Tip #1: Stick to One Goal

When deciding on a New Years’ resolution, stick to the one thing.

  • Do not overwhelm yourself.
  • When you feel overwhelmed, you get discouraged.
  • When you get discouraged, you are more likely to quit at the first sign of difficulty.

Try to relax, and stay away from any change that may be unrealistic.

Tip #2: Keep it Measurable

The best way to keep your resolution measurable is to start small. Begin by taking baby How to Make Your New Year's Resolution Sticksteps once a day. If your resolution is to hydrate, drink one more glass of water a day. If you want to stop drinking soda, start by drinking one less a day. Over time, these little changes add up to help you reach your goal. In addition, try to be mindful of your goal throughout the day. When you remember, take a micro-step toward achievement.

That means drinking an extra glass of water when it crosses your mind!

Tip #3: Anticipate Barriers

Before you even try to enact your resolution, make a list of the barriers you anticipate in the process. Ask yourself what self-defeating roadblocks you have encountered in past efforts. Then, ask yourself what you see as impeding your future efforts.

  • These could sound like thoughts such as, “I don’t feel like it” or “I don’t have time”.
  • You may also notice yourself engaging in sabotaging self-talk such as, “I deserve a break” or “I’m not motivated”.
  • Now, write down your personal barriers.

Afterward, record what you are going to do the next time this barrier rears its ugly head. In your quest for a change, you are bound to hit upon the barrier of resistance. At its root, resistance is a reaction founded in fear. If you are afraid of change, you are essentially afraid of reality, because change is the essence of reality. So, why are you afraid of change?

Here are some ways to cope with the fear of change

  • Replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk
  • Research makes fear disappear because research gives you control
  • Practice makes perfect, so practice until you are less afraid
  • Figure out the worst possible outcome, then become okay with it
  • Nip fear of failure in the bud by becoming okay with any possible criticisms or embarrassment. Consistent failure is what leads to success.

Tip #4: Make an Advantages Card

Why do you want this? What is the benefit? There are going to be some hard times throughout your journey of change, times when you need to remind yourself of the why. Therefore, an important step in keeping your New Years’ resolution is making an advantages card.

An advantages card can be made of anything you want. Some people like to use a notecard, while others write on mirrors or dry erase boards. The content is simple. Just make a list of all the reasons why you want to accomplish your goal. Maybe you want to lose weight to become healthier, or maybe you have a specific clothing size you want to hit.

Read your list twice a day, really reflecting on why you want to accomplish your goals. In times of extremely self-defeating thoughts, it is recommended by cognitive behavioral therapists that you read your advantages card as needed.

Tip #5: Accept You Will Have Bumps

It is important not only to realize but also to accept you will slip up along the way. There are instances when you will be barraged with berating thoughts and crumble under the pressure. However, do not use a mess up to engage in all or nothing thinking! When you encounter a bump in the road, do not give up! For example: when you smoke that cigarette you know you shouldn’t have, do not throw in the towel and buy a whole pack. Remember, in order to make a habit your new behaviors take a minimum of 3 weeks. Be patient and practice self-compassion, especially when you inevitably mess up!

Tip #6: Ask Someone to Hold You Accountable

This tip sounds as though it would be easy. However, it can be the most difficult, especially if you are allergic to criticism. That is why it is important to find someone you trust and respect to hold you accountable. Although you may want to fight them, you will be more likely to listen when you know they are giving advice with good intentions. A good CBT therapist holds their clients accountable by assigning homework and expecting follow-through, so don’t be afraid to seek out professional guidance if you are having difficulty finding external support.

Tip #7: Make a Plan

When you make your plan, focus on the small steps and not the goal. Instead of writing down “I will lose 20 lbs this year”, break that larger goal down into more manageable steps. This could look like, “I will drink more water” and “walk around the block each day”. After you accomplish small successes, find a way to celebrate! Don’t skip this step, because it is extremely important. When you reward yourself, your brain will remember the dopamine rush and be more willing to do your bidding.

Check out this blog from TED to give you some motivation!

Other articles in  this series: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach to Holiday Success’

Part I: How to Keep the ‘Happy’ in Your Holidays

Part 2: 4 CBT Based Tips for Overcoming Perfectionism

Part 3: 10 Ways to Ward off Loneliness this Season


10 Ways to Ward off Loneliness This Season: Part 3 of a 4-Part Series

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Elizabeth Bernstein, around 40 percent of people in the US say they are lonely. Thirty years ago that number was halved, around 20%. However, feeling lonesome is not just an unpleasant emotion you need to learn to live with. In fact, loneliness actually re-arranges your genes and changes you from the inside out. Unsurprisingly, recent studies have shown this emotion is linked to anxiety and depression.

Feeling isolated from time to time is natural, but it is important to understand why and nip it in the bud before it becomes something deeper. This article will give you the rundown of why you feel lonely, how you feel lonely, and what to do if you feel lonely.

Holy Moly! So Many Ways to Be Lonely

In order to keep away the lonesome blues during the holiday season, it is important to understand why you are feeling this way. According to Psychology Today, there are 7 distinct types of loneliness. Here is a run-down.

#1. A New Situation – You are a new person in a new place. If you just switched jobs, moved to the city, or are the new person at school what you are feeling is new-situation loneliness.

#2. I am Different – If you feel as though you are different from the people around you, you may be experiencing this type of loneliness. Maybe everyone around you grew up together except you. It could be you feel deeply passionate about a social issue that no one else around you cares about.

#3. No Romantic Partner – Sometimes, simply not having a partner during the holidays can drag you down.

#4. No Animal– Maybe you deeply want a cat, but right now is just not the right time. Maybe seeing pictures of cats dressed up like Santa depresses you. This is no-animal loneliness in action.

#5 No Available Friends – This tends to happen when your friends and family make life changes. No one has time for you, and you feel lonely.

#6 Bad Friends – If you do not trust your friends, you may feel lonely. You can have a lot of fun with a lot of bad friends over the years. However, at the end of the day, you ultimately felt unfulfilled.

#7. No Warm Body – Maybe you are completely satisfied with your social life and your work-life balance. However, you miss the feeling of another person sharing your home. Living alone can be difficult sometimes, especially around the holidays.

We Were Born this Way

Well, about half of our loneliness can be attributed to our genetics. We know this due to studies on Dutch twin separated at birth. Unfortunately, this emotion is generational as well as heritable, especially for those less privileged.

As a result of Romania’s communist dictatorship’s ban on birth control, the 1980’s saw tons of children abandoned in orphanages. In these poorly run institutions, there were around 20 children per 1 nurse. When brain studies were given to the unloved and attention-deprived orphans, scientists discovered the children failed to develop a normal amount of grey matter. This means the children’s neural connections between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex were not strong. What is the result? According to New Republic, these people can be “moody, self-doubting, angry, pessimistic, shy, and hypersensitive to criticism”.

10 Tricks to Keep Loneliness at Bay

  1. Make Giving a Habit – Giving doesn’t necessarily mean money. This time of year especially, there are many opportunities to volunteer in the community.
  2. Find Like-minded People to Connect With – Try joining a Meetup.com group, a book club, or a workout class. Eventually, you will have a community.
  3. Stay Healthy – This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising. All of these things have been found to improve mood.
  4. Work on Existing Bonds – We now know intimate bonds are necessary to happiness. Work on fortifying your current friendships, whether long-distance or close-by.
  1. Learn from Your Experiences – Ask yourself what you can learn from your loneliness, and how you can put your new appreciation for connections into practice.
  2. Mindfulness – Identify your thoughts when you feel lonely. Many times you will have self-defeating thoughts about your state of mind. Realize these are just thoughts and do not attach any significance to them.
  3. Show Self-Compassion – Develop and nurture compassion, love, and acceptance of yourself. You can treat yourself to an act of kindness, or meditate on directing love toward yourself. In addition, you can practice self-soothing techniques.
  1. Get Comfortable with Yourself – It sounds cliché, but in order to beat loneliness, it is important to try and become comfortable alone. Sometimes people get down about doing fun activities alone. However, if you learn to work through the self-conscious thoughts you can actually start enjoying time with yourself!
  2. Get that Pet –Sometimes, you just have to go for what you want in the pursuit of happiness!
  3. Plan Ahead – If you know you get lonely during the holiday season, make a plan ahead of time. List some things that make you happy or that you want to try. Then, bust out this list when you are feeling alone!


When dealing with feelings of isolation during the holiday season, it is important to remember you are not alone. According to USA Today, 20 percent to 50 percent of people in industrialized nations experience loneliness. So if you are feeling blue this holiday season, cut yourself some slack and practice some of my tips. However, if your loneliness has progressed to anxiety or depression it would be wise to see a therapist for help.