Why New Year's Resolutions Don't Last
(for me and probably many other students)
Every holiday season, I am always asked, “do you have any new year’s resolutions?” by friends and family. In my head, I start thinking of all the things I want to change in my life: eat healthier, exercise more, read more books, and create more free time for myself. It’s usually those four things every time. However, I always tell my family members I don’t have any because I fear sharing my goals and being held accountable when ultimately, I ‘fall off the wagon’ with them around mid-February.
All these resolutions are reasonable goals individually. To eat healthy, I need to change the foods I’m buying and find healthier recipes to use when I cook lunch and dinner for myself. To exercise more, I simply need to hold myself accountable and stop making excuses. If I can’t make it to the gym then I can do yoga at my house, walk around my neighborhood or even do a shorter workout consisting of fundamental exercises like squats, crunches, push-ups, etc. To read more books, I just need to sit down and physically pick up a book that interests me and begin reading- it sounds so simple. To create free time for myself, I need to start saying no to certain opportunities and commitments, to allow myself some time to live in the moment.
Done. I figured out how to complete all my resolutions- the same resolutions I’ve had for the past five years or so- so why can’t I ever stick with them?
I believe it has to do with something I’ve recently identified and researched: burnout and societal norms.
According to helpguide.org, burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. The difference between stress and burnout is that a person with stress still believes they can feel better if they accomplish everything on their to do list while a person with burnout lacks motivation to control everything and are beyond caring.
One norm I have seen is the idea that to be the best at something you have to work endlessly to outperform others. While I believe in putting in long hours, continuously learning and improving yourself, and trying to be the best, I don’t believe we should glorify people who pull all-nighters, have caffeine addictions, and do nothing but work. The more glorified we make working till exhaustion the more we create impressions on young people that they should work all the time, that they should feel guilty or shameful when they aren’t doing something productive or rewarding, and place value on the quantity of work rather than the quality. Additionally, the belief that our parents and grandparents’ generations believe that the younger people don’t work hard. This belief causes some of us to want to prove them wrong, resulting in working more than we should and taking on more responsibilities than we can handle.
Another norm, especially among healthcare professionals, is caring about others so much that you neglect yourself. The reason most people enter the healthcare field is because of a passion and desire to help others; also, the reason I am pursuing pharmacy. However, this passion can become unhealthy when you continually help others without taking care of yourself. Signs that you have been neglecting yourself include skipping meals due to lack of time, sleeping inadequate amounts, eating fast food to save time, not exercising to spend time working, and/or missing social gatherings with family and/or friends.
The effects of burnout can cause me to lose motivation, resulting in me never maintaining a resolution for long. There are two reasons I never manage to create free time for myself. The first is my interest in many tasks and things: science, writing, art, marketing, technology, educating others, and leadership development for myself and others. The second is the optimistic lens I use to view opportunities presented to me. I can easily find the benefit of every opportunity presented to me and it makes it incredibly hard to say no or let go of things.
This year I am determined to succeed in eating healthier is most important; largely due to learning about health complications caused by excess weight and unhealthy diets in my classes such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. To do this, I collaborated with my roommate to find recipes and create weekly meal plans for us. Thus far, I have cooked, and she has helped clean the dishes, which makes us both hopeful that we can continue because it cuts the time in half of meal prep and cleaning.
Part of my confidence in successfully eating healthier is due to maintaining a new year’s resolution I set last year: read more. I had to combine it with another new year’s resolution- not watching any TV- to be as successful as I was. I spent the time I normally would watching Netflix or shows on Hulu, and spent it reading before bed. I found it made me feel calmer and rested before bed, and it didn’t hurt that I loved what I was reading. Stay tuned for books and recipes I recommend in the next blog post!