Why not take advantage of the first of the year to follow the tradition of making changes? It’s a good opportunity to take stock of where you are and where you’d like to be a year from now. Here’s some ideas to think about if you are planning to make some New Year’s Resolutions.
Eat real food. You may not be able to follow all of Michael Pollan’s rules all the time, but you should at least know about them. Make a resolution that fits your life, but start with a) decreasing processed foods and b) increasing fruits and vegetables. If you aren’t familiar with the principles of good nutrition, resolve to learn more by reading textbooks, information on line or books like In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, Food Matters by Mark Bittman, or Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating.
Eat breakfast. There are a lot of reasons this is a good thing to do! This is an easy resolution for the new year.
Lose weight to a healthy BMI. If you are in the group of people (like many of us) who struggle with weight this is a hard task! Do not “diet” – it’s doomed to failure. Instead, find small changes you can make on a consistent basis that will decrease your calories by 250-500 calories a day. For example, if you drink soft drinks (150 calories each), eat a bagel in the OR lounge (300-400 calories), or eat at McDonalds on call (1000-1500 calories), change to diet sodas, cereal and bringing a sandwich from home. If you think having the support of an on-line or real group would help, consider Weight Watchers or Spark People.
Exercise (almost) every day. Consistency is more important than quantity, so find something you like to do and “Just do it!” It’s not easy to fit exercise into a busy schedule, but deciding to try is the first step!. Another strategy is to increase your activity at work, especially on days you can’t actually work out.
Love what you do. You can decide to be a “romantic scholar”– to find enjoyment in difficult work and awe in learning. It’s really easy to get caught up in how hard this work is and forget how amazing what we do is… and what a privilege it is to do it. Make up your mind to cultivate a sense of awe about your work. Keep a notebook, and write down what you learn from and about your patients. Read more than you are asked to read, learn more than you are expected to learn – not to be a “gunner” but because you love medicine.
Nurture relationships with family and friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the hours and hours we spend learning and practicing medicine. Resolve to spend one night a week as a “date night” with your significant other, call close friends on a regular basis, keep in touch with relatives you don’t see very often.
Develop ways to deal with stress. Learn how to meditate and start a practice. Spend time playing a musical instrument (or learning how to play). Take yoga classes. Join a church, synagogue or other religious community. Get a massage once a month. Develop an exercise program which is one of the best ways to decrease stress (another reason to make this a New Year’s resolution!).
Tackle your debt. Financial issues just add more stress to an already stressful time. Assess where you are financially and develop a plan for dealing with the debt that all medical students and residents have to deal with.
If you need help with a personal issue, make an appointment. If you drink too much, use legal or illegal drugs inappropriately, suffer from depression, or have significant anxiety, please call and make an appointment with a health care professional.
Best wishes to all for a New Year filled with joy, health, success and happiness!