New Year resolutions are often started with gusto. With every good intention of making lasting changes in whatever aspect of life that you felt, around the end of December, needed an overhaul.
It may be a diet, much needed after the excesses of Christmas. Maybe you decided to give up smoking/go to the gym/start cycling to work. Or maybe it was not so much a physical change but a mental or emotional one. Maybe that you were going to allow more time for yourself. Maybe spend more time with your children. If you’re single, perhaps you’ve decided that 2017 is going to be the year it all changes, whether by joining a dating agency or just getting out and about more.
So how is it going for you?
We’re into month two now. The enthusiasm for what you wanted to do may have worn off. This is where, I believe, we find out if those resolutions were really really so important to us. This is where barriers to success may appear, either due to outside influences or because we are subconsciously trying to sabotage our efforts.
It’s hard sometimes to keep going at something if the end result seems so far away but the journey itself is not something you can enjoy. Dieting being the obvious. I was determined to lose weight but hell, I LOVE food and am quiet partial to a glass or three of wine. I have a few good days – salads, fish, fruit and vegetables abound – then I am tempted by a curry and some wine and that leftover chocolate from Christmas. I dare not step on the scales as I imagine everything has balanced out and I’m probably still that same, shocking weight I was on the morning of January 1st.
Carrying on even if the journey isn’t much fun.
I’ve yet to meet anyone who truly enjoys dieting and having our new year and hence our resolutions here in the UK starting in a cold month seems a particularly cruel twist of fate. It’s doubly difficult because not only do we crave warm comforting food, which often means carbs and fat (stew and dumplings anyone?), but we are also hidden beneath layers of clothing so that ultimate motivation, the goal of looking slimmer doesn’t cut the mustard. Even though we know that by the summer, we will want to be in bikinis and t-shirts, shorts and summer dresses it’s quite difficult to imagine. We know that if we leave the diet until then, we’ll chastise ourselves for not starting earlier but it’s so hard when it all seems like a lifetime away.
Because I’m going through this myself, I’ve decided to focus on the health aspects more than anything else.
I really can’t face any sort of severe diet and of course we all know that drastic dieting isn’t healthy and doesn’t work. The body just goes into starvation mode and the chances are we won’t be getting the nutrients we need.
So it’s going to be a slow process for me. Just cutting down on the foods and drinks I know make me pile on the pounds, but still allowing some treats. I’m going to gradually improve my exercise levels. I spend a crazy amount of time sitting in front of a computer and know that’s not good. So I will get on the cross trainer a couple of times a week, I’ll get up and walk around more regularly at work and walking the dogs is going to be more of a power walk and less like the gentle meander it often is now.
If the changes you want are more emotional, it can be a tricky thing to achieve. You may want to spend more time relaxing, or more time being with your children, but ‘more time’ can’t just be plucked out of thin air. I vowed to put more time aside to write but it just gets pushed to the back of the queue behind the day job, walking the dogs, feeding the sheep, quick clean up, washing, ironing, seeing friends, chatting to the other half….by the time everything is done I haven’t the energy to think about writing.
Something I am now trying which I believe is slowly having an effect is the ‘eat the frog first’ method.
This means that you decide which tasks need to be done during the day and tackle the most difficult, unpleasant task first. The awful thing, if you will. I think this leaves me with more time at the end of the day because simply re-arranging the order I do things in changes my attitude. Without the cloud of the awful thing hanging over me I attack the rest of the things on my list with greater energy and it would seem that the less awful things are being ticked off the list much faster than when I went through the day with something looming – tax return, difficult phone call, invoicing – whatever it is that I really dread doing.
Of course there are some things that we cannot ‘trim’ the time off. If you are working nine to five then there’s not a great deal you can do to shorten your day. Except of course getting up a little earlier to knock a few chores off the list. Difficult at this time of year but not impossible. Start by easing yourself in, maybe by getting up twenty minutes earlier the first week but have a twenty minute task scheduled in for that pre work time, don’t just spend longer over breakfast or take more time in the shower. Either decide that this is going to be your ‘me’ time, for a bit of meditation, a run in the park or quality time with the children before school. Alternatively, this is the perfect time to whip the hoover round, get some prep done for tonight’s dinner or generally tick off the list something that you would normally have to do on your return from work. Then use the extra time in the evening for whatever it is you mean to spend more time on.
If over the course of three weeks you set your alarm for twenty minutes earlier, increasing by another twenty minutes each week, you’ll have an extra hour a day before work – five hours a week, or 260 hours in a year (over ten whole days more!) so just think what you could do with that!
There’s also – and I’m not saying women have the monopoly on this but we are far more prone to it than men – the guilt thing.
If I’m walking the dogs I think I should be ironing. If I’m ironing I feel I should be scheduling the next few posts. If I spend time with my other half I worry I’m not spending enough time with son/mum/friend on her own/friend with marriage problems etc etc and of course, if I spend time with any of them then I’m stressing that I should spend more time with OH.
I can’t win. Yet it’s me who’s putting the pressure on.
Ditching the guilt
I actually think this is the hardest obstacle to overcome.
I can’t even tell you that I have a wonderful solution to this, because I still suffer from it. I think it’s so deeply ingrained in many women that it would be almost impossible to shake off completely.
One of the ways I’m trying to lessen the feeling is to put myself in the shoes of the people I constantly feel I’m letting down. For instance, I doubt my 20 year old son, who is living his life and quite independent thank you sits around feeling bothered by my absence and sighing to himself, ‘why, oh why is dear mama not spending more time with me?’
The truth is, he knows where I am. He is resourceful enough to take care of himself and when I see that his cupboards are a bit bare or that he’s hot tailed it round to nans or to his dads to raid their larders, I know deep down this is a result of his laziness, not because he’s incapable of buying and making dinner.
So I ask him if he’s OK, encourage him to visit whenever he likes, and always let him know I’m there for him and that he is my priority in life still.
I realised the other day that he always rings if he has a problem and I always help him sort it out. He has family and friends of mine within walking distance if he needed anything urgently (although I am only about half an hour’s drive away). And I also realised that I left home at eighteen, lived in a small, damp bedsit in London and even nearly forty years ago, paid more in rent that he pays now. Somehow I survived it, as do the hundreds of thousands of other teenagers who have done this over the years. We are a pretty soft lot really. We didn’t have to go to war at the age of 18.
So it’s worth taking time to put yourself in the other persons place. You may be feeling guilty for not being around 24/7, but is it because you’ve allowed that ingrained sense of guilt to take over? Or is the other person making remarks to make you feel bad? Identify which it is and take action. Have a chat with them and be honest with yourself and with them. If you believe their complaint is justified, try to work out a plan where you can be there for them but if you feel they are being unreasonable, explain that too. And stand firm, do not allow yourself to be manipulated.
Those that really love you will understand, especially if you explain to them, that you have commitments to lots of people and that you have to work and do the same mundane tasks every single day that they do. Prioritising is so important here and only you can work out who should be top of the list and who or what can wait. Sometimes the friend or family member that drains your time and energy the most is not the person that you should be prioritising.
I hope your new year’s resolutions are going well, and if you’re struggling then maybe you may find some comfort, at least, that you are not struggling alone.