What's your version of New Year's existentialism in the COVID era?
Get ready to ask yourself some hard questions about priorities to see a substantially better 2022 for you.
The weeks between the longest night of the year and the first peeking spring sprouts are full of some of my favorite moments, and not just because it’s full of holiday times. My nostalgia for this time of year is more about the quality time I get to have with myself. While the world hustles and bustles to shops and parties, I tend to allow the preoccupation of other people with busy things create open spaces of attention for the less insistent parts of life. This time gives the oft-forgotten self serving details of my life plenty of room to grow into the true nature of their quiet importance.
More than just a sentiment that I need to set New Year’s resolutions, these hidden imperative parts of my existence begin to tug at my heartstrings, pulling me into the realization that if it weren’t for my health, I would have nothing. Along with countless other people in my networks, I have battled long and hard with a head cold that made my lungs hurt. It got worse when I ignored it and turned toward the naggings of external responsibility.
Fortunately, I’m a self-care and personal development wonk — only because I’m famously horrible about throwing myself wholly into projects to the detriment of my own health — and I’ve been down this road before. Even before my daughter and son were a part of my life, I had a tendency to place not only money, but status symbols outwardly showing I had money, higher than my actual wellbeing. The work-party-sleep lifestyle was not good for my health.
Some would say that the swing of focus to family after having children would be a healthier lifestyle, but there are exceptions, especially for moms, who culturally have had to face predominant opinions that their kids’ health and wellbeing will always be more important than their own. I’ve been tempted by this perspective both times my son has had a weeks-long stay in a hospital. (He’s now healthy and lovely, by the way.) My mothering instincts kicked in and I found myself having to be reminded by hospital staff that I am human too, and must give myself time to eat and sleep.
Whether it’s money and power tempting you away from focusing on yourself or the perceived obligations of family responsibility keeping you from noticing your own health, there are ample distractions out there. One truth will always come back to you though: Without your health you can do nothing.
Here are seven tips to get you centered on your own wellness now, while the world is in a lull, so that when the pace picks up again later in the year you’ll be on top of your unique purpose, ready to kick butt and take names. You can make this about achieving your New Year’s resolutions, or you can simply set a goal to never forget some of the things that are most important to you, but may have gone by the wayside as you took care of other responsibilities. Either way, focus now can earn you progress like you never dreamed later.
Break down that New Year’s resolution. At New Years, you may have decided for yourself what directions you’re going to go in 2022. It’s never going to happen unless you figure out what major and minor steps you’ll need to take, in order. Figure out what time limits all of those steps hold. Then keep all of your plans somewhere you’ll be able to check from time to time. My favorite techy helper, after years of trying different tasking tools for self-organization, is a little gem of an app by Appfluence called Priority Matrix. I highly recommend that you try it.
Make a secret schedule. Making those resolutions happen isn’t up to anyone but you, but you know that if you talk about your resolution, people will watch to see whether you achieve what you talked about. Set up a separate calendar that will display your ideal lifestyle schedule when you need to see it. Make it one that you can check from your phone. (There are a million free versions out there, from Calendly to Google to iCloud.)
Schedule your sleep. F’real. People don’t think of eating, hygiene or sleeping as opportunities for daily honing of skills, but biologically those activities make us sharper individuals. Moms, y’all know what I’m talking about when I say there are weeks when taking care of everyone else’s needs means that I thank God for a moment in the shower. Professionals, y’all know what I’m talking about when I say that every coworker being virtually in the room with you at all times means they forget you didn’t eat yet. Figure out what hours you will commit to keeping clear because you need to do things like brush your teeth and shop for / cook your food. Don’t forget to give yourself 30–90 minutes of wind-down time before bed.
Schedule open time for your heart songs. Giving your friends, family and even beloved hobbies your time is your prerogative, but you know they’ll want time from you. Decide how much of it will be good for your mental health. You artsy folks, you know you’re going to be missing that side of you that creates stuff if you get too swept up in the world’s responsibilities. The world loves to take your time away from your friends, family and you if you don’t make your priorities clear to everyone else and to yourself.
Schedule open time for spirituality and physical wellness. Because I was raised in a religiously churchgoing family, my biggest hurdle was getting over the guilt I felt when I started realizing I get just as much ‘one-love wholeness’ (as I call it) from a run or yoga session out in nature as I have in the most moving of worship services. Now nothing replaces the benefit of a supportive community, and it’s important to check in with yours on a regular basis (so schedule that check-in.) But for everyday spirituality, I combine physical and spiritual health every chance I can get.
Work, but within your means. This is a shout out to all the workaholics out there who think that “just another hour will mean I can get this done, and that’s important” at the end of every workday. I am the worst at committing this self-abusive act, and that’s how I know just how damaging workaholism can get for your body. Focusing on priorities that build up potential gain for entities outside your personal life is fine, to a point. Know that point. Schedule your work time, but if you have trouble with workaholism, get an accountability partner to help remind you, even if they have to drag you kicking and screaming out of your home office.
Now, back to those New Year’s resolutions! Did your schedule leave room for you to have time to focus on them? If not, how much time will you need on a regular basis to make headway on achieving your minor steps toward that very important goal every day? Adjust your ideal schedule bit by bit until you know in your gut that you’ve given your highly important priorities enough attention. Because I think you know. They really need to be accomplished, this year more than ever.
Go get em, tiger.