Well, it’s almost New Years! I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I am FULLY READY to say goodbye (perhaps along with some choice expletives) to 2016, which has been such a difficult year for many people, myself included.
Along with the New Year comes a time-honored tradition among many Americans: making, and then almost immediately breaking, New Year’s resolutions! The dawn of a new year has traditionally been an ideal time to take stock of one’s life and make bold new plans for how to improve it. We survey our situations, determine the necessary next-steps to become happier and healthier, and we resolve to do what must be done!
Unfortunately, it rarely works out that smoothly. In fact, Forbes reports that only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions! And what type of resolutions are we regularly failing to fulfill? You probably guessed it. Nielsen found that staying fit and losing weight are the two most common types of New Year’s resolutions. Not only is it a shame that so many people struggle to accomplish these goals, but also failing to meet a New Year’s resolution can lead to feelings of failure, lower self-esteem, and can worsen the spirals of depression and anxiety. No bueno!
Those with chronic health conditions, such as PCOS, as well as people who struggle with mental health conditions like depression, know how important staying healthy and active is to their physical and emotional well-being. Simply put, the stakes are higher. But what if you’ve fallen off the wagon recently? Or perhaps you never got on the wagon at all? Maybe you are so far from the wagon you aren’t even sure what a wagon looks like?
In those cases, making a New Year’s resolution can be a great motivating tool to help you take charge of your health, as long as you can stick to it. But how?
Here are my tips for making, and keeping, effective health-related New Year’s resolutions:
1. Keep it realistic. This is the biggest way people stumble in making resolutions. Resolving to lose weight is fine, but resolving to lose 50 pounds is going to raise the likelihood that you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
2. One resolution at a time. Remember that self-control is like a muscle. That means it both grows stronger the more we exercise it, BUT that it also sometimes needs to be given a break to rest. If we make multiple challenging resolutions at once, we may not be giving our self-control muscle adequate recharge time, and it will raise the likelihood that it (and we) will fail. So go ahead and resolve to quit smoking, or to go to the gym regularly, but don’t try to accomplish both at once. Instead, focus on one goal at a time.
3. Create a series of small, progressive goals. Large, impressive goals can help us feel motivated and excited because we imagine what things will be like if we accomplish them. The problem is, impressive goals often tend to become imposing, increasing avoidance, procrastination, and low motivation when results come in slowly. When setting a New Years resolution, chart out a series of small, progressive goals for yourself over the course of the year. Weekly or monthly goals work well for this. And remember that sometimes, progress looks like two steps forward, one step back. So if you stumble in your journey, don’t beat yourself up! Just take the next step forward.
4. Start (too) easy. In concert with tip #3, it’s crucial to start VERY small. Want to set a New Year’s resolution that you will meditate for 20 minutes every day? Great! Perhaps a good first goal would be that you will meditate once, for five minutes, every week. Once you’ve hit that goal for several weeks in a row, progress to five minutes twice per week for a few weeks, and continue increasing in that fashion. Too easy, you say? Good! The goal is to get yourself on a roll of successfully meeting your goals. This will increase motivation and what we psychologists call self-efficacy, or your belief that you can do something. We often sabotage ourselves by setting the bar too high, too fast.
And here are some bonus tips: Don’t forget to keep yourself accountable! Keeping a calendar or log of your progress will help you stay motivated and focused, and sharing your goals with your family and friends, as well as asking them to periodically check on you about them and provide encouragement, can be really important.
Finally, remember to practice self-kindness and self-compassion no matter what. So if things feel difficult or if progress seems slow, don’t forget to give yourself some love. Making positive changes in our lives is hard. If it was easy, New Year’s resolutions wouldn’t be a thing! However, if you follow these tips, you are much more likely to set yourself up success. Join the 8% club!
If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant, you may have discovered that your body isn’t a perfectly functioning, well-oiled piece of machinery. It’s fallible – and it’s failed you. You may feel angry, sad, frustrated, enraged, or confused by your infertility. There are actions you can take to shift your mindset from feeling like a victim of infertility, to a whole, healthy woman who is coping with a challenge successfully.
You may have already gotten out of denial – you’re seeking treatment, and identify yourself as an infertility patient, after all – but there may be aspects of the condition that you’re still denying. You may think that you’re numbers mean something better than they actually do, or that IVF or other reproductive technologies are more successful than they really are. You may believe that you’ve got the strength and energy to go through as many procedures as it takes to have a successful pregnancy. Ask yourself if there’s something you’re not facing realistically, and if it’s holding you back in some way. Although reality can be scary, the facts may ultimately be comforting, and even provide a release, or a much-needed opportunity to stop trying for pregnancy, and move on to other options.
Grieve what needs to be grieved. This may be self-image (that “perfect” body), possibilities, the idea of having biological children, or of having children at all. Along the way, you may need to grieve your sex life, your privacy, and the loss of a lot of other pleasures as your budget and time gets eaten up in the process of creating a family. Anger is part of your grieving; you are entitled to it, and embracing it will give you energy to move forward.
Give yourself possibilities now, rather than later. Now that you’ve moved out of the hope or fantasy of “accidental” or sort-of-planned pregnancy, cried, had your rage, and gathered some support, decide what’s next – assisted reproductive technology, adoption, surrogacy, or a child-free life.
Don’t wait until you’re worn out and see adoption as a last resort that needs to be rushed through. Explore options like adoption, surrogacy, or child-free living, even if you’re hoping for a different outcome. Allowing for alternatives takes the pressure off of the daily experience of infertility – and that stress reduction may be a contributor to your body relaxing enough to achieve pregnancy, if that’s still your goal.
Take action to achieve that dream. Make sure you’re on the same page with your spouse or partner, if you have one. Do the research to find a great reproductive endocrinologist, a supportive counselor, a knowledgeable dietician, and any other resources you need. Join online support communities that are specific to infertility, just as you joined this PCOS-specific community. Make a plan – give yourself some general timeframes and budgets for what you are willing to do.
Finally, if you find you’re not coping well at all, seek the help of a professional psychotherapist with expertise in infertility who can support and guide you to a healthier, more balanced state of emotional well-being. With luck, planning, focus, and support, you may well be able to achieve the family you’ve been dreaming of, in spite of infertility.
In addition to having PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) myself, I see a number of PCOS patients, so I often write about what’s involved in managing PCOS. We tend to focus on direct care of the PCOS patient, and forget about all of the other medical issues that one must tend to regularly, which greatly add to the medical burden, such as:
Amidst all of this, you’re expected to work, and take perfect care of your PCOS, which already makes you a little high maintenance if you’re doing it “right.” And, oh yeah – look good, be socially, politically, and spiritually engaged, and perhaps even be creative, philanthropically inclined, and a good and present friend. WOW. I’m exhausted just thinking about it – yet this is our reality as women today.
After years and years of dealing with the medical roller-coaster, for myself and for and alongside others, I’ve come to realize:
And if you’re still feeling overwhelmed by the plethora of medical information, advice, procedures, and protocols, ask for some help. Poet Mary Oliver writes of “your one wild and precious life.” I say, this is your one precious body, and it merits your full, loving, and respectful attention, even in the midst of a medical storm like PCOS.
I’m so glad you’re curious about what it’s actually like to go to therapy. We have so many ideas picked up from film and television, and they can make it seem humorous, scary, weird, or just plain daunting and uncomfortable. If you’re here, I know you’re thinking about asking for help, and I want to make the process as comfortable as possible, so take a look at this video:
I look forward to hearing from you soon!
To your health,