Setting intentions can feel kinder to yourself.
We’ve all entered into a new year, bringing with us baggage from the past year, an ongoing pandemic, and the expectations of New Year’s resolutions.
New year, new me.
There’s a general feeling of displacement that has been present since 2020, and yet, the world continues on. It continues on with expectations of renewal, “business as usual,” and motivation. The world expects you to be here, now, and future oriented.
If you have experienced a NICU stay or are still there, you may not be thinking about yourself in the here, now, and future. You’re mostly concerned about when you’ll be discharged or upcoming specialist appointments for your baby. If you have experienced a loss and are actively grieving the loss of a child, you may be replaying past events and things you wish you would have done.
The new year and its flurry of expectations and goals can be overwhelming. In order to set realistic resolutions, you have to have the cognitive ability to orient to time, space, person, and situation. Orientation to time, space, place, and person are things therapists assess clinically without asking a person directly. It’s just knowing you’re here, today, in your house, at this time, on this date, and you are reading this article. But traumatic events impact the brain’s ability to orient oneself.
Renewal isn’t a one time thing. It isn’t something you have to do each January of the new year. You can practice renewal any time! But it does need attention and cultivation. It needs accountability. And If you’re in survival mode, self-care can feel superficial. Personal goals can feel selfish. “All focus should be on the baby’s health and well-being.” How can renewal, rest, or goal setting happen?
Instead of resolutions, try setting intentions instead. Setting intentions can feel kinder to yourself. Intention setting is about focusing on a theme, where resolutions tend to be very specific and goal oriented. When resolutions aren’t achieved, it can trigger feelings of failure and abandonment, which NICU and Bereaved parents may already be feeling.
Intentions embrace a gentle movement in the direction you’d like to go. Examples of intentions can be:
- I would like to incorporate more movement into my week. This doesn’t have to be specific days or exercises. Perhaps this is the walk you take on a break from the NICU. Perhaps it’s parking a little farther (if able) from the front doors to the hospital to get a few more steps in.
- I would like to drink more water. Hydration helps with cognitive functioning! Buy a bottle that gives you a sense of how much you are drinking.
- I would like to rest more to feel alert during the day. Perhaps another family member can visit the baby on a different day, giving you a moment to yourself. If you’re already home, ask for help! Have a friend or family member come over to give you a break.
The best part about setting intention is that you are able to define how general or specific you’d like it to be. Renewal is about resuming an activity that has been paused. If self-care and intention setting has never been a part of your life, you may still feel like you’re running on fumes. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Reflect on the energy you need to continue to show up for yourself and your family.
Renew. You deserve it.