New Year's day has come and gone and if you haven't set a resolution for 2016 yet you're likely reminded through various forms of media multiple times a day. When you're struggling with infertility, "having a baby" feels like an obvious goal that's constantly on your mind. However, I encourage my clients to choose a resolution that they can be 100% responsible for. Infertility, as we know, is very often outside our control. So when you're consumed with thoughts about your next treatment, phone call with xyz adoption agency, finding your surrogate, or the miscarriage you're still mourning, it's important to find a way to harness your energy to navigate this stressful, anxiety producing time of life.
Setting a goal for an entire year can certainly be intimidating. As a therapist, I've spent a lot of time helping clients develop and modify goals, resolutions and aspirations. Using the SMART acronym helps me help my clients get set up for success; every goal needs to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. I also coach my clients towards choosing resolutions that promote their overall well-being, and specifically their mental health.
Some of the most popular resolutions I've heard that support the big picture of having a baby this year include: yoga, meditation, walking, running, reading, healthy eating, connecting... What do these have in common? They will improve your well-being regardless of when or if you bring a baby home in 2016.
Choosing a resolution
Take a moment and think to yourself: What do I need more of in my life? Really, I encourage you to stop reading for a moment (after you read these next three sentences), close your eyes and take a deep breath. Maybe two. Then, ask yourself: What do I need more of in my life this year? If you're coming up blank, here are a few questions to spark ideas: Could I benefit from a stronger mind-body connection through yoga, or running? Should I scale back on exercise and focus on building a meditation practice, walking, or being in nature? Nothing yet? How about your connections with others? Ask yourself if you need to take time this year to reconnect with those you love, or deepen your connection with yourself? Maybe you've been holding in too much for too long and really need to seek the support of a trained therapist this year. Dealing with infertility is intense. It can creep up on you just how stressful it is to juggle this unexpected life turn along with your day to day life.
Setting your resolution in motion
So now that you've chosen your resolution for 2016, it's time to dig in. Lets make sure it's a SMART goal. I'm going to share one of my resolutions for 2016 as an example. But before I share my goal, please take out a piece of paper and pen or open up some app on your phone and work along with me. Here we go- My resolution is to camp more. Being in nature, unplugging from all there is to unplug from and taking a break from the day to day grind while breathing in fresh air and sleeping closer to the stars always makes me a happier person. It gives me the chance to connect more fully with myself and my fellow campers... It's food for my soul.
While I'm instantly at ease envisioning this goal coming to life, it's hardly a SMART goal as is, so lets see how using the SMART format helps me flesh it out--
My goal of camping "more" is not very specific. What's "more" for me might be less for some avid campers, right? According to the SMART Goals Guide, make sure your goal includes the "who", "what", "where" and "when". So, I'm (who) going to camp (what) 5 times in 2016 (when) in California (where). Specific- check.
How will you know you've achieved your goal? Can you see, hear, feel or taste it? Camping 5 times in CA- Measurable, yes! At the end of 2016 I'll be able to look back and see whether I've reached my goal.
This is a key step in setting a SMART resolution. It's important to reflect on your own capabilities and skills when creating a goal that's attainable. Only you know what's going on in your life, what's a comfortable stretch and what's not. If you hate bugs and must have a flushing toilet, your goal would look different than mine. As an experienced camper, I feel my goal is very doable.
While your resolution should urge you to stretch and grow, maybe even learn a new skill, it should also be something you are capable of doing. Is the goal you're working on SMAR so far? I feel my goal is in fact realistic. But I have a confession to make: I originally wrote my goal as camping 10 times this year. But as I thought about it, I realized that last year I only camped once!!. ONCE. So I'm glad I went through this process and reassessed what is realistic for ME this year. Five will likely be a stretch after a mere one time last year, but there were other years I camped more, so it's a comfortable stretch and goal for ME. I'm stressing the ME here because setting a New Year's resolution is personal and only applies to one person- YOU. So make sure it's realistic so you can set yourself up for success in 2016.
Having a deadline for completing your goal is crucial. Since we're discussing New Year's resolutions, our deadline is built in. As we close out 2016 we'll check our progress and celebrate our success!
How's this going for you? Do you have your SMART resolution now? If you're wondering what you can do next to get moving on your New Year's resolution, I want to invite you to 1, share your resolution for 2016 in the comments below, and 2, share this blog post along with your SMART goal with one other person. Think of that someone who you feel comfortable sharing with -- a good friend, your partner, your therapist-- and put it out there. Being accountable to someone other than yourself can be extremely helpful in reaching your goals. You can do it!
If you're struggling with infertility, pregnancy or infant loss, or a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, and think you could benefit from additional support in setting or accomplishing your New Year's resolution, feel free to get in touch by phone or email.