This is usually the time of year when the word “resolution” gets to have its moment in the sun. The clock resets, a new year is ushered in, and we all get to the work of planning the next 12 months, deciding which goals we’ll set for ourselves.
But after last year—and, now, the first couple of weeks of this year—the idea of planning anything can feel daunting, especially because there’s so much we still don’t know about how the next few months will unfold.
For parents, that feeling can be even more poignant. With most kids still learning remotely, if not being homeschooled altogether, many parents are left with little time to themselves. And although many dads have reported increased childcare roles during the pandemic, it’s still typically moms who handle the bulk of childcare.
All of that makes the task of setting personal goals for a new year feel even more daunting.
But sometimes it’s the simplest aspirations that deliver the biggest impact.
If you’re looking to set some goals for the year, Just Mind therapists Teri Schroeder, LCSW, and Loren Lomme, LPC, RPT, have some suggestions that should be within everyone’s reach—regardless of whether you want to call them “resolutions” or simply “acts of self-care.”
While these resolutions are geared toward working moms, they’re good for anyone who wants to prioritize their mental health in 2021.
1. Practice Self-Compassion
This past year has been harder on working moms than any other in recent memory—and it’s also been a whole lot more complicated. A great resolution is simply to have some compassion for yourself and acknowledge that you made it through a really difficult year. (Teri Schroeder, LCSW)
2. Start a Gratitude Practice
Gratitude practices are simple, quick, and research-backed ways to bring more joy into your life. Begin or end each day with jotting down 2–3 things you felt grateful for that day. This one small change can have a big, positive effect on your mental health and mindset. (Loren Lomme, LPC, RPT)
3. Communicate Your Needs
Don’t hold back from telling your partner what you need. This is always true, but in these times especially, it’s crucial that you understand you don’t have to face everything alone. Maybe you need more help with household chores or family dinners. Maybe you simply need an hour to yourself at some point throughout the day. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, or even what you want. (TS)
4. Create One New Habit
This habit doesn’t have to be anything momentous—in fact, the point is that it isn’t. Decide that every day you’ll do something easy but nurturing for yourself: have a cup of your favorite hot tea, take five minutes on the back porch or in your bedroom with the door closed to just be alone, read a chapter of a book that’s been on your reading list, spend five minutes stretching in the morning or before bed, etc. (LL)
5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Comparing yourself to others is deeply unhelpful, particularly when you’re spread too thin. And right now, everyone is spread too thin (regardless of what their Instagram might say). Each day is simply about doing the best you can in that moment. Go easy on yourself. (TS)
6. When Choosing Activities to Do With Your Kids, Pick Something You Like, Too
If you’re going to the park, pick a park that you also enjoy. If you’re sitting down to play a game, offer options you don’t mind playing (i.e., you don’t always have to play the games that make annoying sounds). If you’re letting your kids pick dinner for the night, suggest menus or restaurants that you like, too. When you also enjoy a shared activity, not only does that make things nicer for you, but your kids are also more likely to have a better time (wouldn’t you rather play with a happy parent than one staring at the clock?). (LL)
7. Prioritize Your Needs
Remember the expression “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” In order to take care of others around you, you have to first make sure your own needs are being met. For you, this might mean more childcare assistance or hiring someone to clean the house more regularly. Or maybe it just means taking five minutes to breathe in the morning before starting your day. Think about what feels important to you, and lean in. (TS)
When possible, delegate tasks you don’t have time or energy for: Recruit the kids to take care of a chore you know they can do. Cut out an expense you don’t really need to pay for someone to clean your house once a month. Ask for help from family and friends when you need it. We’re wired for connection, and it’s okay to ask others for help. (LL)
9. Review Your Year
Take stock of what went well and what didn’t last year, or even over the past few weeks. Think about what changes you want to hold onto, and what it’s time to let go of. Know that it’s been a really hard and weird year for everyone, but of the habits or strategies you put into place last year, which best supported your family, or your own mental health? (TS)
10. Practice Mindfulness
Practice moments of mindfulness throughout the day. When you find yourself thinking about a neverending to-do list or feeling overwhelmed with the day’s activities, refocus your attention on the thing you’re doing at that moment (playing with your child, making dinner, getting ready for work, etc.). Think about the small joys of that moment—the way the air feels, the support of your favorite chair, the smell of dinner cooking on the stove, the sound of your kids laughing. This simple act can have a tremendous ability to ease stress. (LL)