We’re midway through January, and at the start of this month I really wasn’t feeling the New Year vibes. Aside from the fact that I much prefer to be carried by the spring energy when setting new intentions or plans, as I shared, I was having a bit of a rough time before Christmas and I was facing a busy 5-6 weeks at the start of the year.
I am currently on some medical leave after an operation which required two weeks out from my PhD, and I feel like this has been a really good and timely reminder for me. It has also got me thinking back to what is important and setting (or maybe revisiting) some intentions and values that I might normally dream up around the New Year.
A few weeks before Christmas I published a blog post about where I was at, and it wasn’t too good. Thankfully, after taking some of my own advice things are feeling a lot better now. I feel like I was able to learn from that period of time and turn things around. It can be really useful to look back on things and see what our situations were trying to tell us, or where they were trying to guide us. For me it was about slowing down and trying to feel things again.
I am now in quite a reflective place surrounding my operation and my recovery and am starting to see what an incredible message and reminder it has brought me at a really important time in my PhD journey.
When starting the PhD (after burning myself out during my MSc and over working during my gap year) I was absolutely adamant that my health would not be affected by my doctoral studies. I was 100% committed to doing the PhD in a way that worked for me and that did not sacrifice my health or well-being. Up until recently, when other things became challenging, I had been able to maintain this.
However, now, I realised, that things have slipped. Only a little, but my health has not been at the forefront of my mind. For me, my health (physical, mental and emotional) is the foundation of everything I do. Without good health in these areas, I won’t be able to give my all and more importantly, I won’t be able to enjoy doing so.
I am now faced with the diagnosis of condition that I will need to try to manage and overcome, in itself, the diagnosis is a huge relief – I have an explanation for symptoms that have been making my life very difficult. However, the diagnosis brings another huge gift with it. A big kick up the butt.
It has reminded me of my core value, the importance of maintaining my health. The thing that means more to me than anything else. I can see that over the last six months or so, for various reasons I have been trying to cope in the best way possible, and unfortunately, because of the demands of that, I have let my value of good health move to the back of my mind. And when our values are at the back of our mind, we can’t make decisions based on that value. We can’t make choices that lead us to where we want to be.
I have been alerted that my priorities have changed, and though my condition is by no means my fault, it has reminded me that I must be responsible for my health and prioritise it, I am the only one that can. It is what is important and valuable to me and I must defend it, care for it and protect it at all costs.
And I guess this brings me to the advice I want to share. Sometimes, around the New Year it is difficult to see everyone else making big plans or trying to better themselves when you are simply living with the intention to survive or ‘get through’ whatever is being thrown at you. It can be difficult to think ahead when actually, being where you are is really challenging and demanding of your time. That was me two weeks ago, and in some ways, is still me now.
I want to share that the New Year doesn’t need to bring big resolutions or claims that you need to share with the world. You don’t have to decide or plan or resolve to anything. You don’t have to make intentions, have goals or set yourself a challenge. You don’t need to do any of these things if it doesn’t feel right. I have seen that exactly two weeks ago, I did not want to think further than putting one foot in front of the other, and I allowed myself to do that for two weeks, it got me through a surgery and most of the recovery and now, I am able to slowly start thinking ahead again.
If you don’t have the energy, the will or the motivation to plan and dream or scheme for your life at this time of the year, please go easy on yourself. Take things as they come, ride the waves, don’t beat yourself up and just do what feels right for you. Mentally, I completely ignored the fact that it was a New Year. I treated it like any other time of the year, I refused to put pressure on myself to think ahead when I just couldn’t. It didn’t feel good to do so.
Who says that we have to pin everything on January? Who says that our ‘clean slate’ or our ‘fresh start’ has to begin on January 1st. It begins when you decide it does. You could read this post and decide that in five minutes your fresh start begins, you could also decide that you don’t actually want a fresh start right now. Because admittedly, fresh starts require energy and momentum, and you just might not be in the place to spend that energy on your ‘clean slate’. You might have a pretty crowded slate to be dealing with already. I realise now that I needed to preserve as much energy as possible to get over my first hurdle of the year, and I am glad that I did because I am bouncing back and starting to feel better.
If and when the time comes around that you do want to start thinking ahead, to having some intentions or plans for the future, whether that be for a month, six months, a year or a longer term plan. I urge you to think about what is important to you, what your values are, how you want to feel, what you want to give to this world – and let them be your focus for the year. Let them guide your decisions, your plans and your energy.
I’ll be returning to this in the Spring, when (if I feel like it!) I will be doing some reviewing and thinking ahead.
Take care of yourselves, until next time 🙂