Ah, New Year – that time when we look ahead to the new calendar and wonder what the next 12 months will bring. We make commitments to ourselves in the form of resolutions with the best of intentions – some realistic, some less so.
I don’t believe in resolutions, preferring instead to set intentions. What’s the difference? Perhaps it’s semantic pedantry, but for me resolutions can often feel absolute, set in stone: we can berate ourselves for ‘failing’ when inevitably life gets in the way and our plans fall by the wayside. Too often, resolutions are made because we feel we ‘have’ to, that we ‘should’ – and these sentiments may derive from a negative self-image.
Setting intentions is about expressing sentiments, ideas, ideals that can flow with life’s path through the year – and I know all too well that life doesn’t always turn out the way we might hope.
Intentions that come from an asset-based approach – that is, reflecting on what I can do, what I already am, where I want to go, and, crucially why (not just because I think I should, or because someone has nagged me) are more likely to succeed.
Life is way too short to be miserable, and for beating yourself up for not achieving unrealistic goals. Having said that, such an approach doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself. Change requires discomfort, and life is equally too short to leave potential unrealised.
If you would like more tips on achieving sustainable lifestyle change, check out this post on my other blog, and these tips by an influencing guru on influencing yourself to keep moving forward towards achieving your goals.
For the past few years as part of my intentions I have set a word for the year: 2017 has been Illuminate; 2016 was Blossom; and Thrive was for 2015.
My word for 2018 is believe.
The reason for this can be summed up in one sentence:
I would imagine, dear readers, you would like me to elaborate – so I shall:
Even at the best of times before Hugo I lacked self-confidence, self-belief, and struggled with low self-esteem. That’s changed, mostly, in the past couple of years: my near-death experience has given me the courage to do things I never would have imagined, such as my 2017 achievements.
Despite the new-found confidence, I sometimes struggle with mental ill health. I have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and while EMDR therapy helped me immeasurably I have bouts where my head disappears, as I call it, down the dark vortex.
Times spent down the dark vortex are scary: my concentration is poor, I’m jumpy and irritable. I’m angry, very angry, and resentful. Worse, I honestly believe that I am a terrible human being and that everyone hates me so what is the point?
Even writing those words is awful.
Mercifully, time spent down the dark vortex is less than it used to be, thanks to a range of the support of friends, colleagues, and a range of self-care tactics who help me believe that I am worth it.
It is these self-care tactics that form the basis of my intentions for 2018:
Physical activity has been a core part of my self-care toolbox for the best part of two years, helping me manage my PTSD symptoms.
I’ve been doing crossfit-type workouts including TRX, burpees, weightlifting, box jumps, battle ropes, boxing…and a whole host of stuff I previously thought myself incapable of. My fantastic personal trainer Matt gently pushed me; once I realised not only how much it was benefiting my mental health, but also how much I loved it I found myself voluntarily causing myself lots of pain in self-created sessions.
Wanting a new challenge, I recently rediscovered running, and have completed two ParkRuns in the past week. I like being out in the fresh air, I like that I can get out and do it (pretty much) whenever I like, I like competing against myself, and I love the feeling of achievement!
My intentions for running are to keep enjoying it; keep attending ParkRun, and to run a couple of other times a week. I want to run the whole distance without walking…and build up to a 10km!
I believe that is perfectly achievable. Thinking back to my first PT sessions I couldn’t do a burpee, and nor could I do a box jump. I was astonished when in 2016 a member of gym staff approached me about doing the FitBrit challenge. I said yes, without really believing I could do it – but do it I did, and smashed it! I know people thought I had gone completely bonkers when they saw the range of challenges I had set myself for the Awesomeness Challenge (I did too at one point!) – and I completely smashed that, too.
A couple of challenges have already been lined up for 2018: during January, I’ll be taking part in MIND Red January, which not only will be a great way to kick-start the year, but also a brilliant way of raising awareness of mental health – and talking about it more. I’ll also be doing the #NHS1000 miles challenge to celebrate the health service’s 70th birthday. If you’d like to join in you’re very welcome – check out the Twitter hashtag, join the Facebook group, and we’ve also got a group on Strava.
I’ll keep going to the gym too – resistance and strength training are important, and I cannot live without my boxing…(sorry Matt and your poor shoulders!).
I love writing, yet for one reason and another I found myself writing fewer and fewer posts for myself during 2017. My lack of practice showed in my 2017 highlights post – I cringed seeing the number of times I had written ‘incredible’. That doesn’t matter much in itself – I’m just anal about good writing – but I know my vocabulary is better than that.
Writing well requires regular investment, just like any other skill. So, I’ll be writing at least one post a fortnight. That target feels achievable considering work and personal commitments.
Considering writing is often cathartic for me, as well as enabling me to indulge my creativity, making time for it is also an investment in my wellbeing.
Again, it’s about believing that I am worth it.
Reading is another of my great loves – I am incapable of walking out of a bookshop empty-handed, and my Kindle goes with me pretty much everywhere. I usually have two books on the go at any one time, whether they are on the Kindle or made out of real paper.
During the past few months, though, I have read less. A busy work life, and lots going on in my personal life left little energy for reading.
There are still only 24 hours in a day, so to carve out more time I’ll cut down on the time I spend on social media. I love social media, connecting with people, discovering new things – and social media is a key part of my job. The trouble is, particularly when I’m tired I’ll find myself mindlessly scrolling…and staring at a screen doesn’t exactly improve tiredness. My energy levels are important because when I get tired I’m more likely to slip back in to the dark vortex. Picking up a book, or perhaps doing a sketchnote – something I can lose myself in, is more constructive. I turned my notifications off on my phone a couple of years ago so I’m not randomly interrupted, but still I find myself being a slave to my phone – to keep myself away from it when I’m tempted to randomly scroll I’ll probably have to put it in another room.
So, in a nutshell my intentions for 2018 are about looking after myself. Life during the next year will be even busier with some exciting work and personal opportunities upcoming (sorry for being a tease: I’ll tell you more about them when they are confirmed!).
I believe I can do these things – my mental health is an ever-present potential spanner in the works so I’ll need to invest time in doing such self-care activities that are within my control with the aim of keeping myself as well as I possibly can.
It is all about believing that I am worth making the effort for.
I believe I am, that I can, and that I will.