Happy New Year!
We’ve transitioned to another year, and I hope you’ve taken some time to both reflect on and commend yourself for everything you endured and worked hard for in 2021.
I certainly have, and I won’t stop here. To keep myself focused on my New Year’s (and beyond) resolutions, I’ll continue to reflect throughout the year to make sure the habits and strategies I form align with my goals and the desires I have for myself.
In the first two blog posts of this series, I talked about how finding balance in your life can significantly improve your health. Coupled with the data I shared that highlights how the pandemic and the “Great Resignation” have and continue to affect women’s health, it’s more important now than ever to truly take better care of ourselves.
Although I’m using the term “New Year’s resolutions,” I see these more as life goals, because the work of honing new skills and making healthier choices won’t be relegated to 2022. In fact, it’s likely that some of your goals will change based on how your lifestyle does, and that’s OK! Part of a balanced life is learning to pivot when it’s necessary and welcoming the changes life always guarantees.
So, in all of this talk about balance, the burning question is, how the heck do you achieve it?
New Year’s Resolutions: Find the Why and Map Your Goals
Nearly all of us have been here: It’s easy to set the resolutions, but they’re not so easy to achieve.
🔑 This year, break the pattern by finding your why — AKA your intrinsic motivation, or the deep drive you have to achieve something, which psychologists say is the key to reaching your goals.
What do you want to achieve this year, and more importantly, why? You might say something like, “I want a better balance between my work and personal life to have more quality time for myself and my family.” Or, “I want to get more physically fit so I can stop easily running out of breath.”
Ask yourself these questions to discover your motivation and drive:
- Why is this goal so important to me?
- What will my life look like when I achieve this goal?
- What would my life look like if I didn’t achieve it?
- What added benefits will I experience by achieving this goal?
- How did I achieve a similar goal in the past?
Once you’ve set your goals and you understand your whys, it’s a good idea to map them all out and visualize them clearly. For example, if you set a goal of losing 10 pounds this year, what challenges may arise along the way?
Assess the path of reaching your goals by mapping out your ultimate destination (where will this goal take you?), the challenges you may face along the way, and how you’ll work through those challenges.
Alignment and success with your resolutions won’t happen overnight, so don’t expect it. But your motivators for the journey — whether it’s to have more energy to play with your children or to reduce high blood pressure — can keep you going.
3 Ways to Find Balance in 2022
1. Prioritize your health (how and whenever you can)
However you fared with this task in 2021, it’s a must for everyone (and I’m not only saying that as a medical professional). To get closer to the balance we all seek, start the year off by consciously deciding to prioritize your health.
You can do this by exploring the current state of your mental and physical health.
Conduct a status check on yourself with these four guiding questions:
- What habits, environments, people, and beliefs make you feel stable or healthy mentally and physically?
- Does your role as a parent, employee, caretaker, or partner impact your ability to prioritize your health journey?
- How might your schedule, loved ones, responsibilities or expectations make you feel anxious, depressed, paranoid, or tired?
- Are there any changes you can make right now to push your overall health to the forefront?
Always remember that the possibilities from positive changes for your health are endless. And because everyone’s life circumstances vary, focus on making improvements that fit your unique lifestyle. Plus, don’t compare your steps to anyone else’s, because we all envision balance and alignment differently.
This year, I’m focusing on making and committing to small changes that will lead to lifestyle habits I can more naturally adopt and prioritize — for example, taking five to 10 minutes every day (or every other day in my life) to meditate or exercise to combat stress.
💬 What might a small change to achieve more balance look like for your day-to-day life?
2. Don’t ignore the red flags 🚩
Understanding and improving your health can take considerable time and resources, so I encourage you to move at your own pace in pursuing these new lifestyle changes or getting professional support, if necessary.
For many reasons — from societal or internalized stigma to simply not having enough time — it can be difficult to recognize or even accept when our minds and bodies need some nurturing, or when there’s a serious problem that needs our attention.
Women, especially, experience a range of obstacles when discussing or seeking help, partly because the many roles we take on require a level of attention that leaves little room for intentional self-care. The other part is because historically and societally, there are few safety nets and support systems for burned-out women.
As you seek balance plus alignment with the life you have and the life you desire, remember that you are your best advocate. It’s up to you to set the right boundaries, put yourself first in ways that benefit your health, and create the opportunities you’ll need to achieve your New Year’s resolutions.
At the same time that you’re responsible for this journey, I want you (and me) to get comfortable asking for help along the way. It’s OK to need help, and it’s OK to not be OK.
The opposite of balance is shouldering the weight of the world on your own, so make a promise to yourself that you won’t ignore the red flags of declining health, such as excessive fatigue, unexplained weight loss, or a growing inability to manage daily tasks.
👉 To be your best, you have to feel your best. Whether you help yourself by cashing in your PTO, asking your partner or a loved one to help with some of your responsibilities, or making a doctor’s appointment, every effort is worth it.
3. Create a self-care routine that supports your health
“Self-care” refers to the practices, actions, and habits we develop and maintain to meet our mental and physical health needs. 💡 Look at it this way: It’s care designed for you, delivered by you.
Besides its trendiness in wellness spaces, self-care is a critical element of achieving balance and alignment, because it enables you to be healthy and present for the many roles you manage in your life.
Many women spend a majority of their days in personal or professional “support” roles, such as mothers or general caretakers, and the pandemic was a shining example of how much mental, physical, and emotional labor we expend in these roles. (It’s no wonder women lead in rates of stress and burnout!)
This year, make dedicated self-care a part of your New Year’s resolutions and finally attend to your own needs. Without it, it’s difficult to escape the cycle of never feeling quite recharged enough. Plus, deprioritizing self-care often leads to resentment, stress, anxiety, and a decrease in your mental health.
What could self-care look like in your life? Sure, sometimes it’s as simple as getting a massage or staying in alone for a night of pizza and movies. But ultimately, self-care is about creating and maintaining healthy habits that support your health — it’s not an excuse to build or indulge in damaging ones.
Your self-care can include:
- Going for a walk once or a few times per week.
- Connecting with friends outside of work or during the week.
- Eating a well-balanced diet and exercising consistently (or when you can).
- Practicing yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises.
- Planting a garden.
- Engaging in hobbies or discovering new ones.
- Getting adequate rest at night and napping when you’re tired.
- Listening to music you enjoy.
- Journaling or reading a book.
- Taking yourself out to enjoy a solo activity.
- Exercising boundaries and saying no more often.
More Than New Year’s Resolutions: Maintaining Your New Goals
Talking the talk is easy, but how do you consistently walk the walk, especially in the moments where all you want to do is sit?
As you build healthier habits and behaviors in 2022, one of the biggest challenges may be choosing your commitment to the balanced lifestyle you’re working to develop. Here are some tips to keep you on track along the way:
🔑 Create a checklist for each resolution. Because you’ve thought through the steps you need to take to accomplish each of your New Year’s goals, creating a checklist for them will be easy. As you work to achieve it, check off each step as you complete it and revel in that little surge of dopamine you get from making progress.
🔑 Stick to the work/life balance that works for you. The ironic thing about trying to find balance is we often beat ourselves up because what feels right for us likely isn’t what wellness culture tells us work/life balance should look like. This might even make it intimidating to start making positive changes. Instead, figure out what self-care practices and commitments fit into your real-life routine and schedule. If you’re not a yogi or can’t get into meditation, no biggie! Do whatever brings you joy, and make sure you give yourself time to do that.
🔑 Do something that scares you every week. Yup, because change is uncomfortable, so help yourself get used to it. Now, I’m not saying you need to go skydiving — the idea is not to let fear hold you back from anything. Working through your fears will help you live a balanced life of fewer regrets and more opportunities to challenge yourself and grow in new ways.
🔑 Give yourself 30 minutes of “me time” every week. If relieving stress is a New Year’s resolution, take this as a sign to double down. But since that’s an open-ended goal, here’s one way to do it: Set aside 30 minutes a week for some quiet time by yourself. You can use this time to meditate, journal, walk in nature, or just breathe.
🔑 Give yourself grace when you slip up. Whether you end up going over your budget or you get too busy at work to hit the gym, don’t just give up on yourself when you get slightly off track. Achieving these New Year’s goals isn’t all or nothing, so keep it up and reconnect to your vision of your best self.
Meet Dr. Savita Ginde
Dr. Savita Ginde is an advocate and thought leader for reproductive health and served as Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains for over 13 years. And, until very recently, she served as the Chief Healthcare Officer for STRIDE Community Health Center where she oversaw all of STRIDE’s healthcare services and led their COVID-19 vaccination efforts.