It’s time for New Year’s resolutions again. Many of us make them; most of us break them.
Research shows that by February, nearly half of people’s resolutions go out the window. Only 19% of people keep their resolutions at least two years after making them.
While many people opt for eating healthier or working out more, the lingering impact of the pandemic continues to shift priorities, including among healthcare professionals. Here are some tips to help guide you as you’re planning out next year’s resolutions.
Make time for self-care
It may sound cliche, but it’s true: you can’t pour from an empty cup. Nurses are in the business of caring, and to care for your patients, you first have to care for yourself. The Mayo Clinic offered some specific self-care tips for healthcare professionals.
- Fuel your body by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of water.
- Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Exercise every day.
- Take deep breaths and stretch often.
- Avoid risky or destructive behaviors, such as abusing alcohol or drugs, excessive gambling.
- Spend time outside when possible.
- Set and maintain a routine at home.
- Focus on things you can control.
- Focus your thoughts on the present and things to be grateful for today.
- Listen to music or read books.
- Limit your media consumption or take a break from news and social media if you find that it makes you anxious.
- Lean on your personal beliefs and faith for support.
- Look for ways to help your community, such as blood donations, checking on older people in your neighborhood, or donating supplies or money to local organizations.
- Acknowledge and appreciate what others are doing to help you and your community.
Set SMART goals
Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time-based. The SMART mnemonic offers good guidelines for New Year’s resolutions, or any goal-setting endeavor.
Vague goals like “I’ll exercise more” set you up for failure, as they do not provide a plan or path to success. Instead, specific goals like “I’ll go for a 30-minute bike ride at least three days each week” breaks the ultimate goal (exercising more) into manageable increments that you or a partner can hold you accountable to.
Focus on what you can control
Among the many lessons we learned throughout the pandemic, one stands out. From sickness to war to natural disasters, so much of what happens in the world is out of our control.
When considering the future, it’s easy to look at the world and feel anxious or overwhelmed. In planning your New Year’s resolutions, remember to focus on the things you can control. A new COVID variant or a surge in flu cases may not care about your resolution to be healthier this year, but regular handwashing, wearing a mask when appropriate, and getting vaccinated are all manageable steps within your control.
Find creative ways to stay connected
The pandemic left countless scars, many of them unseen. Humans are social creatures, and prolonged isolation can take a real toll on our mental health. While distance and illness may continue to keep us apart from those we love, staying connected may take creativity. If your resolutions include connecting with long-distance loved ones, consider some of the following options:
- Write a letter or postcard
- Send a care package
- Connect through music by sharing an online playlist
- Host a watch party while streaming your favorite movie
- Swap favorite recipes and share a virtual meal together
Celebrate your wins
Teresa Amabile from The Harvard Business School studies how everyday life inside organizations can influence people and their performance. When she and her associates designed and analyzed nearly 12,000 diary entries from 238 employees in seven companies, they found that the efforts of tracking small achievements every day enhanced the workers motivation.
They reported that the practice of recording our progress helps us appreciate our small wins which in turn boosts our sense of confidence. Any accomplishment, no matter how small, activates the reward circuitry of our brains. Neurotransmitters like dopamine deliver that “feel-good” feeling, enabling us to push forward and achieve that ultimate goal.