No Resolutions for Me

I’ve decided not to make any New Year’s resolutions. This just isn’t the year for that.

There are a lot of suggestions being offered for constructive ways to approach this upcoming year. There are the traditional self-improvement resolutions. Then there is gentler advice that focuses on gratitude and self-compassion. But I’m going to ignore them all. They are well-intended. They aim to inspire and motivate me to make my life better, but that is not what I need right now. I need a break!

I need to give my brain a break. Normally, the “thinking brain,” which manages problem solving, organization, emotional regulation, critical thinking, and decision making, plays a dominate role in our life. It’s the part of the brain that seems more logical than emotional. The thinking brain takes in a situation or information and uses its executive functioning skills to produce a well-thought-out response or action.

However, during times of crisis, chaos or trauma, (ahem – like a pandemic,) the survival brain instinctively reacts with flight, fight, or freeze. It’s like there’s not enough time for the thinking brain to process the information and come to a response, so the brain inhibits those functions and the survival brain kicks in, reacting quickly and impulsively in order to maintain self-preservation. During the last two years, I think we’ve all spent too much time in survival mode.

Most of us are suffering with some of the effects this can have on a person. We may have a “foggy brain” and lack focus — we may find it harder to finish an activity. There may be changes in our memory — we may have a harder time remembering things that happened throughout the day. We may suffer from fatigue in both mind and body. We may find ourselves reacting more emotionally than usual. We may be neglecting basic needs like brushing our teeth, exercising, or cleaning our home. We may be acting more impulsively – spending excessively, eating more, engaging in activities that aren’t healthy for us.

Our thinking brain needs a break from working overtime to process all the different information we’ve been confronted with these last years. And our survival brain needs a break from being in a state of flight, fight or freeze in response to the fear and anxiety caused by this pandemic. Our lives have been upset by changes in routines, disruption of work and school schedules, financial uncertainty, disconnection from friends and family, and loss of loved ones.

So, I’m going to take the time I normally set aside for reflecting upon the last year and planning for the new one, and instead I’m not going to think about anything at all. I won’t be using my mind to try to plan anything or to review anything. I won’t be trying to consider what I’m grateful for. I’m not going to try to meditate or breathe or be kind to myself. I’m not going to try to do anything.

My goal is to turn off my brain. I’ll enjoy my body, moving it in ways that feel good to me. I’ll enjoy friendship, reaching out to a friend and sharing a laugh or even a cry. I’ll get enough sleep, eat enough, put on new clothes in the morning. I’ll discover simple things that make me happy and I’ll do them.

Instead of creating resolutions that create more expectations and pressure for me, I’m taking a much-needed break this year. For right now, I don’t have to figure everything out and make everything work. For right now, just being in my own skin is enough. For right now, being close with those I can be is enough. For right now, finding pleasure wherever it might arise is enough. As Mary Poppins said when she quoted Sir Thomas Malory, “Enough is as good as a feast.” And I’m going to enjoy it.

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