By Roni Laytin, NASM CPT, NASM CES, AFAA GFI
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of yet another exhausting chapter of the roaring twenties: take two, but much less fun. You worked hard and probably didn’t have much time to enjoy yourself, yet you’re still being bombarded with annually audacious demands in the form of advertisements and questions from friends, relatives, and colleagues about how you’ll resolve to become a better version of yourself. It’s been enough of a challenge to get through the year, let alone as a frontline caregiver or hospital employee during multiple health crises. You don’t owe anyone your improvement—you owe yourself a healthy, rested, and happier version of self.
New Year’s resolutions began in the 17th century and with all of the fanfare around them, it took two full centuries for someone to call bluff on the concept. The truth is, resolutions were made to be broken. Real results come from building healthier habits versus making sweeping declarations to be different or “better”… forever! As a trainer and coach, I instruct my clients to journal about their food intake and energy levels, and every other element of their day that can impact how they are feeling. This includes taking note of what and when they ate, how their sleep was, their energy levels, what they did, and any outside stressors they experienced. I also ask that they write down any physical or mental and emotional symptoms and how intense they were that day. The most important part of this project is honestly recording everything without any judgment. It is tough to develop and enforce positive behavioral changes when people are in denial or worse, feel shame around their eating and exercise patterns. Here is an example of what a journal will look like.
Yesterday: I ate a bagel with cream cheese and had a 24 oz. coffee with four sugars for breakfast. I had a patient that wouldn’t listen to anything I said and pulled out his catheter spraying blood everywhere. I didn’t eat again until midnight when my shift was over, except for a leftover salad with iceberg lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, croutons, and French dressing, with a cookie that was left in the break room. And I also had a diet coke at about 4:00. My dinner was Chipotle. I ate the whole burrito with guac and double chicken and passed out. I had a lot of energy at 2 AM and then my mind was racing because I was awake, so I watched a bunch of Tiktoks on current events. I was finally able to get back to bed at 4:30.
Yesterday: Even though I just had a couple of snacks instead of lunch, I had a big breakfast with eggs and oatmeal, so I was pretty full throughout the day. Last night, I went to bed at eleven because I was so tired from the day before, and had dinner at about 8:00. I just had tea and a couple of squares of dark chocolate around 9pm for dessert. It didn’t keep me up. It was definitely less hectic than the day before. We had help from other departments, so that was a nice change of pace. I was really glad I got out of work in time to make my yoga class and actually eat dinner with my family. What a difference a day makes.
Yesterday: My wife is traveling so I had to take the kids to practice and dance class instead of sleeping after my shift and then I basically inhaled a Kind Bar which is so sugary and not enough at all! I also had a quad shot espresso at 5:00 because I just couldn’t get through everything after work and I was up until 4 again! This completely ruined my day off. I really hope next week is better.
As you can see, this person and their overall well-being went on a journey over the course of three days. For any working adult, life can be very chaotic. For healthcare providers, caregivers, and hospital employees, the varying nature of each day makes it even more so. It is undeniably difficult to plan for what might come up. However, this person; let’s call her Kim, could stand to make a few changes to allow herself more rest.
Kim could have set aside an hour on a less busy day like Friday to prepare a couple of days of lunches ahead of time. Meal prep doesn’t have to be as grandiose as seen on social media, with multiple Tupperware containers housing an entire day’s meals and snacks. She could take time to make enough food for two or three meals and then she wouldn’t need to eat leftovers in the break room during busier shifts. Even less time consuming would be to grab or order some healthy and filling snacks like Perfect Bars, baby carrots, trail mix with superfoods, or organic jerky or tofu jerky (if she’s a vegan or vegetarian). Kim is also being impacted by the amount of caffeine she’s having.
During that chaotic day and subsequent twenty-four hours without sleep, this working mother could have tried to ask someone for help with taking her kids to and from their extracurricular activities. Maybe she wouldn’t have gotten the help, but it’s always worth a shot to ask. Your rest and well-being are more important than feeling the need to do it all. Scrolling the mind blowing speed of current events on TikTok in the middle of the night and disturbing her sleep cycles with blue light wasn’t helpful either.
When we’re “in it”, we don’t see solutions for the issues that are robbing us of physical and mental and emotional health. Our society teaches us to do more and to do it better and faster. If someone decides that they want to get in shape and lose twenty pounds, they’re going to need to get a handle on some of the inconsistencies in their eating habits, exercise, schedule, and sleep. We need to get to the root of what is causing us to want to make changes before declaring and attempting those changes. The reason that this journal works is that it gives people an opportunity to see how they are contributing to poor well-being with their own habits. The quickest way to accomplish a goal is actually by slowing down.
Resolutions might be made to be broken, but new habits aren’t. This year, it would help us all to make one resolution aimed at being nonjudgmental and patient with ourselves as we seek to implement healthy ongoing changes.
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