Ah, December! The end of the year is a flurry of activity and emotion: making plans, tying up loose ends, trying to compartmentalize. On top of it all, nearly two years of pandemic living has left many of us feeling exhausted. We’ve dealt with uncertainty, defined (and redefined) the next normal, and navigated the return together (an ongoing process).

In the short time left in 2021, I hope you will slow down, stop, and reflect. Give yourself a chance to acknowledge and honor what occurred throughout the year: the moments and memories that brought joy and a sense of accomplishment as well as the ones you would prefer to erase. And please, don’t erase the uncomfortable memories too quickly! The purpose of reflection is to grow and improve our lives moving forward, evaluating the “what” of the past year as well as the “why” and “how.”

“Danielle, this is hard!” Yes, it certainly is. Hard questions are critical. They propel us to be better researchers, scientists, scholars, partners, friends, citizens, and, most of all, better humans.

Next, take some time to restore. Remember that the word means to “return (someone or something) to a former condition, place, or position.” (Raise your hand if you feel like the end of the term has got you feeling like you need a long winter’s nap, time with your loved ones, or a break to return to wholeness again!) Without taking time to restore yourself, you risk bringing old energy or habits along into the new. 

Restoration is an opportunity for the self-care that you put off during the term. Resist the urge to use all this time to catch up on writing or squeeze out a few extra hours in the lab. Refocus on taking care of yourself and your wellbeing. What brings you joy? Do that. Alternatively, use some time to prepare yourself for success for the next term. What resources can you draw on in 2022 that will help you start the year off right?

Without taking time to restore yourself, you risk bringing old energy or habits along into the new. 

Once you’ve reflected and are feeling restored, renew your goals. First, look back to the beginning of the year. In January 2021, I encouraged you to create New Year’s goals to help you “Stay SMART.” (As a reminder, SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.) How did you do? Did you revisit your goals frequently to adjust as needed to keep a sense of flexibility and control when things got hectic? Make a list of the goals you achieved including places where your progress fell short. Did you have the right recipe for success? If so, what were the ingredients? If not, where did things go off track?

What SMART goals do you have for 2022? Write them down somewhere that you will go back to often throughout the year. Then, share them with someone you trust. (Whoa! Vulnerability moment!) Remember that web of support I often talk about? Identify a “web person” and ask to have a conversation about your goals. This should be someone who can help you keep yourself accountable, help you track your progress, and help you revisit your goals whenever you’re feeling stuck. I am a fan of the mantra “one day at a time.” Commit yourself for the day, and if you don’t fulfill your goal, simply resume tomorrow.

Finally, try this short mindfulness exercise: Inhale deeply for four seconds. Reflect on 2021. Hold your breath for four seconds. Think about restoring yourself during this time. Now exhale for four seconds, looking to the renewed goals you have formed for 2022.  

Remember to be kind and to take good care of yourself and others. Remember to visit B-2 in 2022. And please “B-Well”!

B-2 B-Well: Reflect, Restore, Renew

Photo by Tony Rinaldo