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Forget Resolutions! Welcome those New Year's Intentions: How to Self-Care with the best of 'em

Resolutions are a thing of the past, let's set our year up with compassion, understanding, and mindful intentions. This article is broken into self-care reflections, intentions, and guidance. Not sure where to start? No worries, I've outlined some suggestions for you.


The end of the year is upon us… again. The idea of a new year can ignite internal contemplation for some, resulting in sincere reflections around the year’s successes, triumphs, trials, or bottles of wine consumed (too many to count). Perhaps a more common side effect that accompanies the conclusion of the year, is the pressure for to look forward; pushing us to determine what needs to (or should) change for 2021 to be a success. Alas, along with that Boxing Day hangover, comes that pesky New Year’s resolution, looming over our heads. So, we reflect and ultimately decide upon the one change, put into play on the 1st of January, that will make our lives magically fall into place. Maybe it is just me, but I have never (in the history of my existence) ever stuck to a New Year’s resolution! Despite my many failed attempts, the concept of a fresh start, a new beginning, and a world full of possibilities is a concept that I am not quite ready to abandon. The desire to start the year with positivity and hope allows a brief window for our minds, hearts, and souls to look forward with optimism and potential…and it all seems possible…until it doesn’t. What is it about the resolution that can simultaneously build us up and tear us down?! Perhaps it is because our resolutions are too grandiose (e.g., lose 40 lbs., write that novel, meet the person of your dreams) that we might just be setting ourselves up for failure. I have a crazy idea! What if our resolutions began, not where we want to be, but instead where we already are? Tell that resolution to come to you, not you to it. Maybe in facilitating a nurturing year fueled by self-care and self-compassion, we will find that a healthy diet, finishing a project, or cutting out a toxic relationship will follow suit. Perhaps this year our resolution becomes solely about allowing ourselves the space and energy for self-care… and everything else may just fall into place.


Self-Care Reflection

1. Determine what self-care means for you.

What is self-care? Simplified, it is caring for yourself in a genuine way. Self-care is giving time, attention, and understanding to the various parts that make up our complex lives. Self-care involves mental, physical, emotional, and interpersonal wellbeing.

2. Reflect

Take some time to reflect on what is important for you in all of these self-care categories. Examine activities, hobbies, and relationships that give you a sense of pleasure or contentment. What makes you happy (maybe it’s watching a movie), what rejuvenates you (maybe it’s a run or a nap), what is a relationship that deserves your attention and support?

3. Be realistic.

Try to look at your self-care needs realistically, but also from a “what if” scenario (e.g., What would you do if you had an entire weekend to yourself? Who would you share it with? How do you feel?)

4. Social media detox.

Replace 15 to 30 minutes of social media or scrolling time per day with one of your self-care routines (e.g., journal, read a book, do some exercise, take a bath).


Self-Care Intentions

1. What is your ideal day?

Brainstorm what is important for you to accomplish in a day. Try to conceptualize what a day, without any snags, would look like for you. What can you take from your ideal day to implement into your current schedule? What will you need to change? What are some potential barriers and possible solutions to them?

2. Support.

Determine areas where you may need support (e.g., a babysitter or a workout buddy).

3. Meet yourself where you are at.

Work on setting attainable and enjoyable intentions so you don’t stretch yourself too thin. Start small and work from there.

4. SMART-care.

SMART goals are used in a variety of platforms from therapy to personal training for a reason… they work. They can be applied to self-care activities very easily. S-make your self-care goals specific (e.g., I will run for my fitness and anxiety), M-measurable (e.g., I will run 3 x per week), A- attainable (i.e., realistic and achievable), R-relevant (i.e., what is important to you), Time-based (i.e., set a time frame that motivates you, but that is also appropriate for your goals).


Self-Care Guidance

1. Begin your day well.

How you start your day matters. Set up your day for success. Stress and time are some of the biggest factors that derail both New Year’s goals and self-care routines. Quite often some stressors can be easily circumvented by altering your morning routine. You can set out your clothes the night before, meal prep your breakfast and lunches, or start your day with some active stretches while you are still in bed. Setting your morning up for success, can help set your day for success…and less stress = more time for self-care.

2. End your day well.

Much like the start of your day, how you end your day also matters. We are busy, that is clear; but the need for sleep (good sleep) is a crucial part of maintaining energy, strength and productivity throughout the day. Try to turn off any blue-light electronics at least an hour before you plan to go to bed. The light from our phones and televisions

can disrupt our REM sleep, which is a necessary part of sleep that helps us to feel rested. Try not to workout within 3 hours of bedtime, exercise gives you energy and can disrupt your sleeping patterns. Try some yoga, meditation, or stretching specifically designed for releasing anxiety and engaging your parasympathetic nervous system (the calming system).

3. Eat mindfully.

Try taking the time to slow down and really engage in the eating process can lead to an increase in overall body and digestive awareness, satiety, and satisfaction. Try to put down your fork after every bite, chew your food, pay attention to the flavors and textures before moving on to the next bite. Allow 20-30 minutes for meals and try to decrease external distractions.

4. Get snuggly.

Snuggling with an animal, person, or a fluffy blanket releases a hormone called oxytocin and is a cozy way to calm down and help relieve stress.

5. Get creative.

Dance, cook, write, blog, paint, draw, take photos, sing, daydream. Creativity fosters self-expression, exploration, and innovation. It can also help you unwind, destress, realign with goals, relieve anxiety and connect with emotions.

6. Date yourself!

That’s right, take yourself out…or in. Curl your hair, do your nails…or stay in your pjs…but take yourself on a date once per week if you can. Show yourself the love, affection, and attention that you expect and desire from a romantic partner, you deserve it!

7. Find some time for gratitude.

Try to catch some of those negative thoughts and change them into grateful ones. Instead of, “I should have kids by now.” Try, “I have a wonderful support system, I have the best friends.” Or maybe, “I am going to take a trip to somewhere I have never been, because I don’t have kids right now.”

8. Remember that you are worthy of self-care and compassion.

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