Allow me to start with an understatement: 2020 was rough. As 2021 approached, I saw the usual social media posts with reflections, resolutions and goals for the coming year.
But, this year more than others, it seemed that people were holding their breath. Hopeful. Cautious. Cynical. Reflective. Maybe a mix of it all.
One of my favorite Instagram posts by thehomeedit asked people not to “claim 2021” and to “walk in reallll slow.”
Others on Twitter took a more meta and reflective approach. Writer Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi tweeted, “This year expanded my vocabulary of grief & definitely drove home the point that resilience is a community affair.”
I’ve decided to stop thinking of 2020 as an awful year. Instead I’m just sitting with what is: This year expanded my vocabulary of grief & definitively drove home the point that resilience is a community affair.— Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi (@avandervliet) December 31, 2020
In a similar vein, Monica Maalouf tweeted her resolution to “make time for self care and to give myself the grace I give to others.”
Hello 2021. The only resolution I’m making this year is to make time for self care and to give myself the grace I give others.We all could use a little more love in 2021.— Monica Maalouf, MD (@MaaloufMD) January 1, 2021
Self-care. It’s the word that summarized my own approach to this year. I didn’t make traditional resolutions, the kind where you promise to work out four days a week and then stop checking the boxes in your planner two weeks in.
I decided that 2021 would be a year where I approached self-care with intentionality.
Self-care and well-being
To learn more about self-care and how it relates to resolutions, I spoke with Kristin McCowan, an assistant research professor in MU’s School of Social Work.
“The colloquial understanding of self-care is engaging in activities that allow you to demonstrate care for yourself,” she said.
While it is important, McCowan differentiated between self-care and well-being. She said it is possible to practice self-care and not achieve well-being.
“I would first encourage folks to think about the self in multiple ways,” she said. “So, to think about our physical selves, our emotional selves, our thinking or cognitive selves, and our spiritual selves.”
Her advice is to think of self-care in a broad perspective, as individual acts that can help improve overall well-being. McCowan said the key to sustaining well-being and lifestyle changes is a three-step process: awareness, reflection and action.
First, be aware of how an act of self-care or an activity impacts you holistically. Then, reflect on it afterwards. How did it make you feel? Lastly, act on what you learned from that reflection.
When it comes to resolutions, McCowan talked about SMART goals. These are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
These goals should be “based in reality” and with the knowledge that they can grow over time, she said. In other words, they aren’t static goals. It’s a process.
This view of self-care and well-being is something that was reflected in my own goals and resolutions this year. I didn’t write down my goals on Dec. 31. We’re practically a month into 2021 and I’m still thinking about my own self-care practices, and how I can make positive lifestyle changes.
Tips and recommendations
One way that I’ve organized my thoughts was to create a list of self-care practices that help me. I like to split the list into two categories: practices that make me happy and those that make me healthy.
My happy list includes working on puzzles, playing with my cat, listening to podcasts and music while I cook and clean, spending time regularly with friends in pandemic-safe ways, and writing down the little details about my day.
One podcast that makes me laugh is “Childhood with Chanel and Tiffany.”
My healthy list includes doing yoga, taking long walks outside (weather permitting), meal planning, drinking plenty of water and deep breathing.
I know that yoga is such a common recommendation, but you really can do it even if you’re not flexible. Trust me. I can’t even touch my toes, but my favorite yoga YouTube channel is “Yoga with Kassandra.”
Despite your outlook towards 2021, the new year is here and it’s moving forward. I hope we can make the best of it.