NY intentions: Are we setting ourselves up for failure?

Source: GP Photography, Raglan.

I don’t want to be a downer, but I do want to be ‘real’.

Since the beginning of the year, my social media feed has been chock full of people setting their new year intentions. Most stem from what they don’t want in their lives based on their previous year (I know this because I have watched their posts over time). They speak of wanting happiness and joy in their life, more balance, sleep and road trips, etc.

These intentions are set at a time when we are in holiday mode, when we are more relaxed, (hopefully) and we haven’t got the pressures of life and work knocking at our door as loudly as during the work year. But I reckon with all this intention-setting, we could also be setting ourselves up for failure.

I finished the year a lot like many others I know; crawling to the finish line, fueled by the last MLS of adrenaline my body could corral. Many of us came out of the lock-down ‘gates’ with rigour, wanting to make up for lost time. We tried to jam a full year into half a year, battled on through staffing and supply disruptions… and then wondered why we felt absolutely ‘done’, burnt out, exhausted and over it.

And so I have slept, caught up with my neglected friends, eaten healthy food, and allowed my mind to settle. Yet, despite all this, and to be totally honest, I face this coming year with a sense of trepidation and exhaustion. 

I want this year to be better than the past, but it kinda feels like “here we go again”. I feel as though the universe is playing tricks on us. It’s a bit like being a child, hoping for a grand Xmas present, only to open up a 3-pack of floral undies. I feel robbed… and yet the year hasn’t even really begun! A new year is ‘supposed’ to herald new beginnings and excitement, yet somehow when I think of the year ahead, it just feels hard

Have I become a pessimist?

Have I lost hope?

Is this a 2022 fatigue hangover?

Have I been listening too much to the 2023 social and financial forecasts of doom?

Did I leave my mojo back in 2022?

Right about now I could quote James Clear, Atomic Habits on how to break down your goals into achievable bites, but I don’t think that’s appropriate at this point, not because it isn’t helpful, but because it doesn’t address the fact that we have, for the past three years been in survival mode, and the ripple effect of this continues to affect us.

Stuff reporter Samantha Selinger-Morris explores this in a recent article “Bit of a slow boil: How to rethink the last few years of pandemic stress”. She quotes Professor Lyndall Strazdins, a clinical psychologist at The Australian National University, referring to the fact that we’re all still coping with the physical threat of Covid and the various challenges it has added to our lives, with no pandemic end date in sight.

Professor Strazdins states, “What happens for people when they have a threat that’s quite chronic and keeps going, it starts to alter how the body can cope. No one species is biologically programmed for that”.

She further explains, “[But] our society has not given full respect to [the need for] recovery [from stress]. We’ve slipped into imagining kind of almost like a machine-like world where we just keep going, and it’s unsustainable.”

Just recognising this, says Strazdins, is validating and therefore cathartic. “We’ve been in a bit of a slow boil.”

Professor Strazdins says “So, make sure you treat it seriously,” she says. “[Realise] ‘I need to recover. I’m feeling this way [burnt out] and it’s telling me something.’”

Wow! So I’m not losing it! 😉 

This affirms that we may still not be “there” yet, and no amount of ignoring it, continuing at a “normal” pace, or setting grandiose intentions, will bring us nearer to our recovery and new normal. It’s actually about finding our “now normal” and pacing from there. For some of us, this may also mean working through the grief for a life we once had. 

With this in mind, my intention for this year is simply to be kinder to myself. To show more self-compassion and “make haste slowly”. In my early years as a teacher, a mentor used this phrase, and it has stuck with me. It is time to bring it out of the depths of my brain cupboard, and place it squarely in my consciousness… “Make Haste Slowly”.

As I let this intention ease into my awareness, it already soothes my worried mind, wraps me in a cloak of comfort and lets me know that it will be ok.

Tread lightly and gently this year beautiful Humans. Chat soon.

MA x

PS: Drop a comment and let me know how you are feeling going into 2023.

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