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Parents: Set Your New Year's Intentions, Not Resolutions

After nearly two years of pandemic stress, set yourself up for well-being.

Key points

  • Many parents have high level of residual anxiety about our physical and emotional well-being as we work through the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Shift your intentions from the outer world to the inner world of your body and mind, which makes the most lasting impact.
  • Set goals that are achievable on a daily basis.

It’s 2022! Many of us have high hopes for the new year for our country, our world, our homes, our lives. This is especially true since the pandemic started in 2020, and we all want nothing more than a new year to bring new hope and intense change, perhaps even a return to “normal.” While this much time has passed, our desire to return to life before March 2020 is unrealistic as we all have transformed and evolved during the past almost two years. As the new year begins, I encourage us to begin to reflect on what the last two years have brought to us as parents and how we can take care of ourselves in the same way that we care for our children and the people around us.

The Burnout Is Real

As parents, we are burned out. We have played multiple roles that we never thought we would take on, and many of us are experiencing a high level of residual anxiety about our physical and emotional well-being as we continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic.

You likely are burned out if you are

 Ron Lach/Pexel
Burned-out parent.
Source: Ron Lach/Pexel
  • Tired even after waking up from sleep in the morning
  • Not able to fall asleep
  • Not able to maintain sleep
  • Feeling like you are running a parallel thought process about COVID-19 or any other topic or topics while living through your day
  • Seeking comfort in sugar, greasy food, or alcohol or other substances
  • Feeling like you are on the edge all the time
  • Feeling impatient
  • Feeling overwhelmed when other people share their worries or concerns, rather than sympathetic
  • Feeling agitated even without a specific trigger

Set Your Intentions

Resolutions are often related to making changes to your physical body. I challenge you to set intentions regarding how you will nurture your body, mind, and soul.

  • Instead of “I want to lose 20 pounds,” set your intention to “I will be accepting of my body and to give it rest when it needs it.”
  • Instead of “I will eat cleaner or healthier,” set your intention to “I will feed my body nourishing foods that give my body energy and nutrition.”
  • Instead of “I will be more positive,” set your intention to “I will be accepting of my body shape and weight and use kind words when speaking to myself.”
  • Instead of “I will be a better parent,” set your intention to “I will take a pause before I respond to my children and assess what my child is trying to tell me and try to respond accordingly.”

Shift your intentions from the outer world to the inner world of your body and mind where the true work really matters and makes the most lasting impact.

Set Realistic Goals for Your Daily Functioning

Many of us love to set goals that are unrealistic and unachievable. Even if we are able to hold onto them for the first month of the year, they are not sustainable for the long term and, hence, why new year’s resolutions often have a bad reputation.

Set goals that are doable on a daily basis, such as the following:

  • I will set aside five minutes each morning and/or each night to sit in silence with my thoughts to process the day.
  • I will take a 20-minute walk three times per week.
  • I will write in my journal (a physical notebook or Google Doc that you can access from your phone) two times per week for five minutes.

Create actual blocks of time on your calendar with reminders for you to engage in the activities that you want to enact for yourself. Those are the blocks that are nonnegotiable, unless there is an emergency, of course. You may look at those blocks of time and think they are lofty times, but when you shift your mindset to these being times that you will treat as if they were a doctor’s appointment, it will slowly become a part of your routine. The more consistently you build in time for yourself, the more you will look forward to it and crave it, and you won’t want to use that time for “something else.”

Learn to set your needs first rather than setting your children’s needs or your significant other’s needs before your own. Make your cup of coffee first before you make lunches or take out the garbage. By doing this, you are giving yourself the respect and recognition that you have likely forgone for years, thus contributing to your sense of burnout.

Prioritize. So many of us create a to-do list of the day with more items than there are hours. Not only is this unrealistic but also we set ourselves up for failure and frustration rather than focusing on what we were able to accomplish. When creating your to-do list, I encourage you to set a list for the week, almost like a task “bucket.” Each day, create a daily list with a few items that you can get through given your schedule. Prioritize items that need to get done over the items such as “clean the linen closet.” Begin to separate out what you would like to do versus what needs to get done in the immediate future given a real deadline (e.g., signing up your child for a gymnastics class this week before the deadline).

As we enter into a new year, let’s set our intentions with a focus on our self-care, self-respect, and our mental and emotional well-being as parents.