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Don’t Call Them Resolutions

Personal Perspective: They are evidence-based ways to improve my life.

© Cottonbro studio | Pexels
Source: © Cottonbro studio | Pexels

In the last 10 years or so, I’ve come to loathe the idea of making New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions have the stigma of being unrealistic and being broken by the second week of January. This year, I want to focus on a select few ways I can enhance my life, rise out of my high-functioning depression (and avoid slipping into a severe depressive episode), and simply feel better.

The first is to be an active participant in my therapy. I started therapy last week with a provider I believe will be a good fit. When I told her about my history of BPD, she didn’t flinch. She is also a writer, so we have that in common. I need to come to sessions with a concrete plan of what I want to talk about and put what we discuss into action.

According to the American Psychological Association, “One big shift in psychotherapy in recent years is toward greater mutuality—the notion that psychotherapy is a two-way relationship in which the therapist and client are equal partners in the therapy process. Therapists make this stance apparent in an ongoing way by, for example, disclosing their feelings when appropriate and actively inviting feedback from patients about how therapy is going.”

I want to read more. Reading is essential for a writer; I know that. My attention span has gone to pot, though. In "On Becoming a Thoughtful Reader: Learning to Read Like a Writer" (1984), P. David Pearson and Robert Tierney wrote — and I love this — “Whether the transaction is between the reader and a writer, a writer and his inner reader, or any reader and her inner reader, reading should be viewed as an act of composing rather than recitation or regurgitation.”

Following reading, I want to devote more time to writing my memoir. I have the first 75 pages written and I want to keep going. I registered for an advanced writing workshop starting this month and I’m looking forward to receiving and giving feedback. I have missed being in a workshop setting with a like-minded community of writers.

In his book Writing to Heal, James Pennebaker writes, "When we translate an experience into language, we essentially make the experience graspable. Individuals may see improvements in what is called 'working memory,' essentially our ability to think about more than one thing at a time. Their social connections may improve, partly because they have a greater ability to focus on someone besides themselves.“

I need to move more. Right now, I’m sedentary. During the week, I sit at a desk for 12 hours a day, except for several walks with my dog, Shelby. I need to start gradually and I’m thinking of a beginner’s yoga video I can do at home. My asthma is not great right now and I have chronic pain, so I’ll adapt the best I can, but I really need to do this for myself.

Recent research suggests that sedentary lifestyles are themselves a risk factor for cardiometabolic morbidity and all-cause mortality, even when controlling for overall levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity.3 The fact that we can’t erase the effects of a lifetime spent sitting at the desk (or on the sofa) with a few weekly trips to the gym is an inconvenient truth at a time when the majority of the population remain wedded to our desks and computers. So, if sitting is the new smoking, how do we quit?

I also need to improve work-life balance. This is a tough one as I’m working three jobs — and long hours at my primary job. I have evening clients and then I need to write notes. Yesterday, I worked from 8 AM to 8 PM, and I didn’t even get to my session notes.

One of the reasons I haven’t been reading and writing more is that I’m exhausted at the end of the day. Last night I nodded off still dressed in my work clothes (which admittedly were leggings and a comfy sweater). My weekends are devoted to my other jobs and catching up on errands. I sneak in writing whenever I can and I do get to see my friends occasionally.

One study states, “among the many outcomes that are associated with work–family conflict in a statistically significant manner, the ones that were more strongly associated were organizational citizenship behavior, work-related and general stress, burnout and exhaustion, and job, marital, and life satisfaction.”

I don’t know if I’m asking too much of myself for the new year. My perfectionistic and deterministic characteristics are starting to kick in as I wrap up this post at 6:20 AM. My inner cheerleader is shouting “You got this!” Here we go.

Thanks for reading.

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