As 2021 dawns fresh and new, lots of nurses worldwide feel like they are dragging to the top of the calendar. The COIVD-19 pandemic changed almost everything about the way nurses work, interact with their patients, collaborate with each other and their teams, care for their families, and see their profession. As the pandemic continues to surge through the world, leaving 2020 behind is welcome, but it also brings uncertainty.

January’s typical challenge to commit to and work toward New Year’s resolutions seems tone deaf right now. Just making it through the trauma of 2020 is a victory and maybe the best resolution right now is to change the theme. After all, it is a new year and with that comes new hope, especially as vaccines have begun to roll out across the country. You can honor the calendar change but skip the pressure.

Here’s how to make resolutions work for you this year.

Make Resolutions to Let Go, Not Add

Resolutions don’t always have to be about you doing better, doing more, or taking on additional responsibilities or new habits. Resolutions for 2021 can focus on letting go of the things that you once thought were working for you or that were worthwhile but really aren’t.

Do you have a friend who makes you feel bad about yourself, a goal that was really someone else’s dream for you, or near impossible standards you set for yourself? Is holding onto these things helping you move forward in any way? Letting go of what drags you down will free up time and energy that you can use for what really matters to you.

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Focus Where It Counts

You need sleep, nutritious food, connections with loved ones, fresh air, and plenty of water to be the best and most focused nurse you can be. Focus your energy on getting the things that bring you that goal. Maybe 2021 isn’t going to be the year you begin an ambitious fitness or weight loss plan. If you can hardly keep your head above water right now, don’t pressure yourself to start your grad degree, write that book, buy your first house, or land that new job. The world might look different in a few months, so don’t give up on your goals—just make sure they are realistic.

Make Small Changes

This time isn’t going to last forever. Things will change and they will get better. Keep your goals in sight, but take the time to refine them, decide why you want them, and map how to achieve them in small manageable steps. Are you trying to save money? Start cutting out small expenses. Do you want to be more fit? Start with 25 squats or jumping jacks every day or try 15 minutes of yoga three times a week. If you’re delaying an advanced degree, find a couple of webinars to keep you moving forward toward your goal. Clear out one catch-all drawer instead of tackling the whole kitchen. Those small successes lead to bigger ones.

Care for You

Nurses find this to be one of the hardest tasks on their lists. There is always something more important to take care of, more pressing to fix, or more demanding to pay attention to. What makes you feel cared for? As 2021 dawns, it’s going to be essential to find that and fit it into your life in a way that makes sense and doesn’t put more demands on you. It could be as simple as adding a few houseplants to clean the air and offer restful greenery to look at. Maybe it’s having the softest socks to slide into when you get home or finding a funny (or scary or spiritual or just interesting) podcast to lift your spirits. It could be spending quiet time in nature or perfecting your kickboxing moves—you’ll know it when you want more of it in your life. Listen to that and make it happen whenever you can.

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Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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