New Year's Resolutions For Any Time of Year

New Year's Resolutions For Any Time of Year

Can you believe that we are about to turn the calendar over to 2020 and are already talking about new year’s resolutions? I’m not sure about you but 2019 flew right by me! My 2019 was a year of both endings and new beginnings. It was the year that I finished the graduate nursing education journey I had started 3 years prior. But it was also the year that I said goodbye to a position with a company which felt like home.

Graduation meant taking a leap into an entirely new position within a completely different organization. An opportunity to embrace the change and grow in new and completely different ways than had ever been possible before. I am a firm believer that life is about the journey and not the destination.

But the belief in the beauty of the journey rather than the destination has taken me years to embrace. I never fully understood the value of implementing the wisdom in living my life this way until recently.

The reality is that while facing the daily challenges of balancing family, work, and school, my mindset shifted. I began focusing on graduation and moving beyond the daily stress of class and meeting homework deadlines. The phrase, “when I’m done with school” constantly crossed my mind and lips. My mind began to focus on the utopian future which would suddenly descend upon me once I held the diploma in my hand.

I stopped looking for the joy in my daily life.

Past New Year’s Resolutions

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You’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with your 2020 new year’s resolutions. Let me explain.

Looking back over the past 5 years, how many new year’s resolutions have you kept? Following through with resolutions is incredibly difficult if your focus is on the destination instead of the journey.

It works like this. As the new year approaches, you begin thinking about how great life would be if you were 15 pounds lighter. You’d actually feel like exercising, it would be easier to make healthier food choices, and you’d look amazing in your clothes. You would be unstoppable!

January 1 rolls around and you hit the gym, make yourself a salad for lunch, and turn down dessert after supper. You and your new year’s resolutions are off to a great start! All you can think about is how great life is going to be in 15 pounds.

Two weeks later, you hit a wall. You’ve been battling a cold, mornings come way too early, and you are just worn out. You’re running late for work and decide to just hit the drive through instead of packing a lunch. Slowly but surely you slip into your old habits again.

Fueled by the frustration of drifting farther and farther from your health goals, the guilt and shame of failure sets in. You feel further than ever from that elusive 15 pounds and at this point, it might as well be 50 pounds. Focusing on the destination has delivered you to the place where you once again put your goals on the shelf until the calendar flips over a new year. And repeat.

A focus on the destination will fail every time because our goals are often too big to sustain us through the daily grind. Achieving any new goal requires change in mindset and routine. Changing these areas of your daily life to achieve the goal can often be the toughest part. It’s incredibly easy to slip back into your old ways when the work required to change feels harder than the pay-off of the end goal.

Focus on the Journey

But what happens when you flip the mindset and instead focus on the journey? What does focusing on the journey actually look like?

In terms of new year’s resolutions, focusing on the journey means breaking the larger resolution down into daily action steps. It then means adapting each action step into your life in a way which is both motivating and satisfying. And most importantly, it means giving yourself permission to fail occasionally but the grace to move beyond the temporary setback.

Yes … you read that correctly. Set yourself up for success by actively planning for and moving past moments of setback.

Let’s take a look at my previous example of losing 15 pounds. Focusing on the journey means breaking down the steps you will need to take to accomplish this goal. Maybe you decide to hit the gym 4 days a week, pack healthy lunches for work instead of eating out, and cut back on dessert 3 days a week. These are the daily action steps needed to get to your goal.

Now to find ways of making these daily action steps both satisfying and motivating.

Maybe you are challenged with having 5 books on your “must read” list and no time in which to read them. This is a perfect opportunity to reward yourself with gym time by downloading an audio book app and only listening while working out.

Or maybe you are highly motivated by statistics so you find an app which tracks your workouts. You can then derive satisfaction from seeing all the miles you’ve racked up since you started.

There are any number of ways to satisfy and motivate yourself to continue the small, daily tasks required to accomplish larger goals. It’s often a matter of figuring out what motivates you individually.

The last piece of making your new year’s resolution a permanent part of your life is planning for setbacks. Setbacks are inevitable. No matter how satisfying and motivating you make your daily action steps, life happens and there will be times you need to take a step back. Keeping a new year’s resolution is not about whether you screw up but rather what your next step is when you fall off the wagon.

Do you miss a day at the gym, immediately feel incredibly guilty, and then decide to double down by having cheat meals for the next 10 months? Or do you give yourself some grace for being human and get back on track the next day?

To accomplish huge goals, including new year’s resolutions, you must take a series of small, daily steps which inch you ever closer to where you want to be. There will be days when you are not able to take those steps. But make up for it by choosing to take steps at the very next opportunity.

Focusing on the journey means actively seeking out the joy in your daily life. Choose to live in the now instead of chasing after the imaginary paradise of the destination.

Enjoying the journey rather than continually chasing the destination gives you the opportunity to figure out where you’re headed and whether this is the journey you actually want to be on. It gives you the power to evaluate and adjust your course regardless of where you’re at in your journey. You can make positive changes regardless of whether it’s January 1st or October 10th. The power is in your hands.

And if you’re looking for ideas on where to begin, I’ve got you covered! Check out the list below for simple new year’s resolutions divided out by category.

Physical Health

Work out 3 days a week. If you’re looking for an activity tracking app, check out this one which motivated me to log almost 400 miles this year!

Replace your usual lunch with a salad 3 days a week. Make packing easier with this bowl designed for lunch on-the-go.

Drink more water. This water bottle takes the guess work out of incorporating drinking more into your already busy lifestyle.

Sign up for a fitness class with a friend to increase your accountability and to make the class more fun.

Reduce your daily sodium intake to decrease your blood pressure and your overall cardiovascular risk.

Cook at home instead of eating out so you can control what goes into your meals. Find a new crockpot recipe and tame the supper chaos!

Increase your daily step count by taking the stairs instead of the elevator and by replacing a work break with an outside walk. Doing so will not only provide instant health benefits but will make you more refreshed and efficient when you return to your desk.

Drink less soda. The caffeine in many types of soda can interrupt your sleep while the sugar adds empty calories that are often unnecessary.

Add fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet on a daily basis. Check out this cookbook for fresh recipe ideas.

Cut back on alcohol. Excessive intake can negatively impact the heart, brain, liver, and immune system.

Emotional Health

Schedule time every day to pursue a hobby or activity which you find meaningful.

Incorporate a simple meditation exercise into your daily routine. Check out this app which has helped me better understand my thinking patterns and reduced my anxiety and overwhelm.

Learn strategies of relaxation to improve your mood, sleep, and to reduce certain cardiovascular risks.

Release yourself from something which has been weighing you down. We often put too much pressure on ourselves in certain areas of life and this leads to anxiety, overwhelm, and a general state of unhappiness. If you are having difficulty letting go, seek out a counselor.

Laugh. Every single day.

Limit the time you spend on social media. Although it has its perks, too much social media can suck up your time and depress your mood.

Say no more often. If whatever you’re being asked to do doesn’t light you up with joy, do yourself a favor and politely decline.

Relationships

Prioritize date night with your significant other. Spending time alone together gives you the opportunity to connect in ways that our often busy lives do not provide.

Drop the mom guilt. Do the absolute best you can and don’t worry about the rest!

Spend the last 30 minutes before bed talking with your significant other instead of losing yourself on your phone or computer.

Family game night. Need I say more?

Commit to device-free dinner, even if it’s only one night a week.

Plan a lunch date. Connecting with your partner at an unexpected time of day can create connection and leave you feeling energized for the rest of the day.

Say “I love you” more often. It’s a simple act but is something which can easily be lost in the craziness of daily life.

Set aside regular time to spend with each of your children to plan an afternoon date or participate in a fun, creative activity.

Spend some time figuring out whether you and your partner are speaking the same language. Check out this book for help.

Consider the language you use to convey messages to your partner, especially during disagreements. Use of the words “always” and “never” generally cause defensive feelings, never a positive when trying to resolve a complex situation. Seek the help of a counselor if you feel issues are continually unresolved.

Faith

Read the Bible daily. Make reading even easier with this great app which also includes all types of reading plans.

Prioritize prayer. Try setting a daily phone timer to prompt you to include this vital activity into your life.

Incorporate gratitude by writing down something you are grateful for each day.

Attend weekly church services.

Join or start a Bible study. Fellowship with others strengthens your faith and is a source of support during both good and bad times.

Volunteer your time or talents to a cause you find meaningful.

Increase your charitable donations.

Finances

Pack your lunch instead of eating out. Meal prep like a pro with these awesome containers!

Clearly identify your financial goals. Do you have debt to pay off? Looking to increase your income this year? Student loan debt piling up? The act of writing down your goals solidifies and clarifies them, making it easier to hit your target.

Track your expenses for a month to determine whether your spending aligns with your priorities.

Pick up a side gig to create another income stream.

Set up or get serious about contributing to your retirement account.

Switch to brewing your favorite drink at home instead of hitting up the drive thru line.

Cut down on both your bill and mindless screen time by cancelling your cable services. Imagine the financial possibilities with an extra $150+ a month in your account!

Career

Eliminate distractions from your work day to improve productivity. Check out this life-changing book for more on how you can take action today.

Focus on improving your self-confidence.

Read a personal development book. Or you could even aim for one per month.

Further your education. Whether you attend a formalized program or individual classes, education is a valuable asset applicable in many areas of both life and work.

Attend local networking events to expand your professional circle.

Spend some time updating your LinkedIn profile.

Find a career mentor. My greatest mentor is someone who consistently motivates and inspires me to be a better nurse today than I was yesterday.

It’s Your Turn!

And there you have it … simple habits you can incorporate into your daily life to move the needle further toward living your best life. New year’s resolutions don’t need to be complicated and in fact, the simpler, the better. Whether it’s January 1st or November 17th, you can make small changes which will add up to a more fulfilled and purposeful life.

Please drop a comment below about your own positive changes as I’d love to cheer you on!

Get Better Sleep Tonight with These 17 Tips

Get Better Sleep Tonight with These 17 Tips

When was the last time you woke up feeling refreshed and ready for the day? If you’re a mom, I’m willing to bet it was probably sometime before your first pregnancy. My own struggles with sleep started during my first pregnancy 9 years ago. The constant daytime sleepiness actually progressed to a point a couple of years ago when I was convinced I had a sleep disorder. It was at this point when I started getting serious about how to get better sleep at night.

A sleep disorder seemed the only logical explanation for why I dozed off minutes after sitting or even a few times while standing. The sleepiness I experienced on a daily basis was excruciating. All I wanted to do in any given moment was lie down and take a nap.

Testing for the particular sleep disorder I was absolutely certain was to blame for my daytime sleepiness involves an overnight in a sleep lab. The test continues with a series of timed naps the following day. And then the waiting for test interpretation by neurology. It seemed to take forever to finally get the answer I was waiting for.

The call came in the middle of one of my graduate nursing classes one day. I quietly stepped out and listened as the nurse told me that I in fact did not have a sleep disorder. Everything was perfectly normal. Great news, right?

Wrong. I was devastated by the news. Although it sounds terrible, I desperately wanted something to blame for how awful I felt on a daily basis. I was looking for an easy, cut and dried solution to my sleep deprived existence and this was definitely not it!

The nurse asked whether I had any questions and fueled by the injustice and hopelessness of it all, I immediately demanded an appointment with the neurologist. Surely, there had been some type of mistake. An honest, human error perhaps. Or maybe my results were actually borderline. Either way, I would get to the bottom of this.

Finally the day of my appointment arrived. At that point in time, I was still honestly expecting some type of explanation or retraction of normal results from the neurologist. I desperately wanted to feel like a normal person again. Instead, I felt like some type of demented zombie, aimlessly wandering the earth looking for its next meal. In fact, “painfully tired” was the word I would use to describe my daily existence.

After what seemed like an eternity, the neurogist entered the room. He brought up my test interpretation and described the perfectly normal results. A fact that was tough to dispute in the face of graphs and pie charts. There was clearly nothing borderline here. Still desperate for some relief, I asked for his best advice on how to combat my constant fatigue.

We spent the next 15 minutes discussing a variety of contributors to my constant sleepiness. Below are a series of questions based upon this conversation. Take a few minutes to answer these questions for yourself and you will discover areas where you can improve to get better sleep at night.

Using Routine to Get Better Sleep

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1) Do you stick to a regular sleep schedule even on the weekends? Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets up a strong routine. It sends a message to your body that this is either a time to sleep or a time to be awake. No more in between times of dozing off during the day or nighttime sleeplessness.

Setting up a regular sleep routine is also incredibly beneficial for your kids! Instilling these skills in them while they are young ensures better sleep habits as they grow older.

If you have an infant, establishing a sleep routine at this point in your parenting journey may not be a feasible option. If this is you, I can completely relate! None of my 3 children actually slept through an entire night until they were at least a year. I felt as if this stage would last forever! Try to be patient … your little one will be sleeping through the night before you know it!

2) Do you nap during the day? Napping disrupts your body’s natural rhythm and can actually make it tougher to sleep at night. It may seem counterintuitive but try to avoid daytime napping if possible.

Although it’s best to avoid napping altogether, there are two major rules to follow if you absolutely must take a nap. The first involves the amount of time you should spend napping. Limit the nap to between 15 and 20 minutes. It may not seem like enough time but it’s actually the perfect amount of time for a mid-day recharge.

The second rule is to get the short nap in before 2 in the afternoon. Any later than 2 and you risk not being sleepy enough when bedtime rolls around. If you are used to taking long weekend naps, it may take a bit to incorporate these rules. But I promise that if you follow through, it will allow you to get better sleep at night!

3) Are you getting regular aerobic exercise? Exercise triggers the release of adrenaline among other hormones which in turn promotes wakefulness. This means that although you should aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, aim for earlier in the day. When performed too close to bed, the hormones produced by exercise can interfere with your body’s ability to wind down and fall asleep.

Getting regular exercise has been a game-changer for me! I have found that I sleep much deeper on days when I get my run in. Although it can be tough to get up early enough to hit the gym, knowing that I’ll sleep better that night is often the only motivation required.

You may also enjoy reading How to Find More Time in Your Day.

4) Do you have a regular bedtime relaxation routine? Consider activities such as journaling with a gratitude practice, a warm bath, reading (an actual book, not a tablet), yoga, or gentle stretching. Meditation can also help to clear your mind of distraction.

Developing a regular bedtime routine with activities designed for relaxation sends a message to your brain that it’s time to wind down. Set a daily alarm on your phone to signal you that it’s time to shut down and get into bedtime mode. This tip is also extremely beneficial for kids. My weeknights go incredibly fast and I have found that if I don’t set an alarm, the night gets away from me. Before I know it, the clock hits 9:30 p.m. and the kids are still awake. Yikes … the perfect recipe for a cranky morning!

5) Are you getting outside during the day? Exposure to sunlight early in the day alerts your body that it’s time to wake up. If possible, go for a run or walk outside early in the day to easily incorporate both tips into your daily routine. Gradually decreasing your exposure to bright light, including artificial lighting, as the day progresses encourages your body’s natural sleep rhythms to activate. Incorporate this tip into your bedtime routine by dimming the lights in your house in the hour or so prior to bed.

Environmental Changes

6) Do you keep your bedroom temperature cool? Ideally, this temperature should be between 68-70 degrees to promote more restful sleep. Studies have shown that keeping a cooler temperature at night minimizes unnecessary awakenings due to being excessively warm.

7) Do you spend time on your phone or watching television right before bed? Screens from cell phones, televisions, and other electronics emit a blue light which interferes with your body’s natural sleep hormone production. The light interferes by sending a message to your body to wake up instead of to wind down.

Consider incorporating this tip into your bedtime routine to get better sleep at night. If possible, sleep in a completely different room than your phone to avoid being mindlessly pulled in to using it. Social media is designed to suck you right in and significantly contributes to anxiety, depression, and feelings of overwhelm. Even aside from the biological impact of the blue light on sleep hormones, the stress caused by social media in itself is enough to interfere with sleep. If you are interested in learning more about how to stop the mindless scrolling, check out this book.

You may also enjoy reading Mom Guilt.

8) Is your bedroom a dark, quiet and peaceful atmosphere which invites you to fall gently asleep at night? Excessive light can cause you to wake frequently at night. Pets and kids should optimally be out of your bed to promote your best sleep. Although I am currently struggling with the kid situation, I do aspire to have all 3 children in their own room at some point.

Unfortunately after years of being a mom I sleep very lightly and easily awaken to even the quietest of noises. Psychologically I always feel the need to be alert to attend to the needs of my kids even though they are well past the stage where they can’t tell me what they need. I have found that periodically giving the responsibility of listening for the kids at night to my husband is helpful in releasing the psychological burden and getting better sleep at night. Sleeping in a completely different room is also helpful in achieving better sleep at night.

Food and Drink Modifications to Get Better Sleep

9) Are you consuming caffeine within a few hours of bedtime? If so, consider reducing or stopping intake altogether at least 4-6 hours before bedtime. Caffeine hides in a variety of foods and drinks but can seriously impair sleep quality. If you are struggling with either falling or staying asleep, carefully examine your afternoon and evening intakes for caffeine.

10) Do you generally eat supper right before bedtime? The work involved in digesting fatty or spicy foods is enough to keep you wide awake at night. Not to mention the risk you run of acid reflux if you lie down too soon after eating. I have found that eating heavy meals right before bed also results in crazy dreams!

If possible, try to have your evening meal in the late afternoon. If you find that you need a snack before bed, focus on lighter foods. Eating foods with dairy and protein can help promote a restful night of sleep. Examples include yogurt, cheese or half a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread. Avoid foods with lots of sugar because when your body’s blood sugar level drops later on in the night, your sleep will be interrupted.

11) Is your sleep interrupted by getting up to use the bathroom at night? You may consider stopping fluid intake a couple of hours prior to bed to reduce the need to interrupt your sleep at night. Although alcohol can initially make you sleepy, it interferes with your ability to stay asleep all night long. When you want to get better sleep at night, avoid alcohol altogether before bedtime.

Positioning Matters

12) Do you generally wake up with back and/or neck pain? After my third pregnancy, I began noticing that I was consistently waking up with lower back pain. It was also at that time when I began attending physical therapy to get my abdominal muscles back. My therapist recommended that I sleep with a pillow between my legs to provide better low back support. I have slept with a pillow between my legs since that time and have not once woken up with lower back pain. It’s an incredibly easy fix which gets your day off to a much better start!

13) When was the last time you replaced your pillow or even your mattress? If you are consistently waking up with headaches or generalized discomfort, your pillows and/or mattress may be to blame. These items are not designed to last forever and do wear out with time. Although a new matress is a financial investment, the return will be improved alertness and productivity during the day.

Still Can’t Sleep? Try This.

14) What is your next move when you don’t fall asleep within 5-10 minutes of lying down? Do you continue to lie in bed, thinking about how late it is and how tired you will be the next day? Or do you turn to your phone or late night television? Hopefully you don’t do either of the last two options after reading #7 above! Your best bet is to actually get up and do a quiet activity until you feel sleepy once again. You may consider keeping a notebook and pen next to your bed for those times when your mind is racing. The act of transforming your thoughts to black and white on the page can be extremely liberating.

Another option is to read a book. Lastly, consider meditation or an app designed to help you fall asleep. Although I have not personally tried the app option, I have had several people tell me that listening to a monotonous voice reading a dull description of landscape is quite soothing. I will have to keep you posted on this option the next time I am looking for assistance on getting to sleep!

15) Do you take any type of medication to help you sleep at night? Even certain types of over-the-counter medications can have a rebound effect and actually make it more difficult to sleep after a period of time. Sleep medications can also be extremely habit-forming and may create issues for you down the road. Consult your primary care provider for advice on using medication for sleep as they are able to provide a treatment plan individualized for you.

Time to See a Professional

16) Have you considered counseling for management of underlying anxiety and/or depression? The stress of being a mom is real regardless of your individual situation. If stress continues to run rampant in your life, your sleep will be negatively impacted. In many cases, anxiety or depression left unmanaged significantly contributes to poor sleep, zaps your energy, and leaves you feeling fatigued during the day. Either one can make falling or staying asleep challenging. Counselors can help you sort out your feelings by providing non-biased perspective on your individual situation. If you find your racing thoughts and negative feelings are keeping you awake, please seek assistance in this area!

17) Have you tried all of the above and are still waking up exhausted? Then it’s time to see your primary care provider. This is especially true if you’ve been told that you snore or have trouble staying awake during the day despite adequate sleep at night. You may have a sleep disorder and left untreated, sleep disorders can contribute to high blood pressure, depression, and other significant health concerns. But with treatment, sleep disorders can be managed and you can start to feel more rested and productive during the day.

I sincerely hope you have found helpful advice within this post! Discovering how to get better sleep at night is an invaluable part of your overall health and wellbeing. Each of the above tips has contributed to my own journey toward feeling more rested during the day. Although there are areas that I continue to work on, my sleep quality has dramatically improved.

Now it’s your turn! Please let me know which of the above tips were most helpful for you in the comment section below. Are there areas which are particularly challenging for you? Also, does anyone know how to get a 3-year-old to sleep in their own room??? Any helpful advice on this topic would be greatly appreciated!