February 20 may feel like a weird time to discuss New Year resolutions, but that’s exactly what we’re doing today. At the beginning of 2023, I chose to just share my goals for my house and not any personal goals because truthfully, I didn’t really have a clear vision for personal goals. It took almost a month for me to settle into 2023 and realize I actually DO have inspiration for goals this year and once the idea struck, motivation and excitement came right away!
My thought process was: January 1 is an arbitrary date, why do we place so much emphasis on THAT date being the start date for goals? Why can’t every month be a start date? In fact…what if I treat every month like it IS a start date?
Enter: monthly goals.
It was easy enough to start. Back in November 2022, I decided I wanted to do the Whole30 plan. I knew my nutrition needed an overhaul; I was snacking so frequently throughout my days and the food choices I was making were not nutritious. On top of that, I wasn’t feeling great. I had low energy and felt tired all the time. I wanted to reset my cravings and introduce more whole foods into my days. I also wanted to enjoy the holidays and seasonal treats, so I planned and prepared to start the Whole30 on January 1. (Side note: this planning and preparation was actually really crucial for my success. I had time to search and plan for meals, make Whole30-compliant swaps in our pantry as we ran out of items, start making some small daily changes early so it didn’t feel like such a dramatic 180 on January 1, etc. It made things much easier!)
I didn’t have any other 2023 plans, just the desire to reset my nutrition and take a step back to better health and feeling like the best version of myself. And about halfway through January, I realized I was ready to REALLY start feeling like myself again.
Let me explain a bit. I am many things in life: a woman, wife, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, volunteer, DIYer, reader, etc. These are all important parts of who I am. But, very understandably, one role has been dominant over the past six years: mama.
It’s been a role I’ve added and one I’ve cherished. I know the value of “AND” though. I am a mother AND I’m still Sarah. I have found such value in purpose in motherhood AND I still enjoy things outside of motherhood. I love the ways in which my life has changed AND I miss some of the old things I don’t have much time or energy for anymore. I will miss the pregnancy/infant stage of life AND I’m looking forward to getting back to my body just being mine.
To elaborate a bit on that point, my body hasn’t quite felt fully my own for years now. I had been pregnant or breastfeeding since February 2017 (with the exception of only 5 months in between Vi and Ollie where I was neither). Don’t get me wrong, I’m so so grateful for all my body has gone through. From our first loss to three pregnancies to two successful breastfeeding journeys to one not-so-successful journey . . . my body has stretched to the max and sustained new life and recovered from three c-sections and breastfed and carried and rocked and held and done so many things. I’m so incredibly grateful for all of this and I do not take it for granted. But I also miss prioritizing it for ME and not just for other people.
Now that my last breastfeeding journey is done and we are finished having children, 2023 feels like the year to prioritize Sarah. I’m always going to be mama and I wouldn’t change that for anything. But I want to prioritize the “AND ___” part this year.
I mapped out the year and chose one aspect of health or “getting back to myself” to focus on each month. Some are big goals, some are smaller. I wouldn’t place the same level of importance on them all (mental health > hair for example) but they’re all things that I know will compound into the overall goal of feeling more like myself. My hope is that habits will form in the month and will become routine and low-effort, so they’ll continue long after the month is over. The Whole30 is finished, but my nutrition dramatically shifted in the course of that month and now it’s not difficult to continue to implement better choices and meals. I’m hoping the same for other months!
It feels like a win-win. My kids will get a happier, healthier mama and I will feel better and more like my FULL self.
I was very careful to stick to one aspect each month. I’m still a busy mama and I just know adding too many goals at once is setting myself up for failure. I want to focus on doing ONE thing well at a time. Is it possible that New Year resolutions fail because it’s overwhelming to work on 7 things for an entire year? Maybe. It certainly feels way more manageable and possible to focus on doing one thing for one month! Here’s how I mapped out the year:
January – Nutrition
My goal for this month was to overhaul my nutrition and I’m proud to say Justin and I both successfully completed the Whole30. If you’re not familiar with the Whole30, it’s basically taking out processed foods and focusing on real, nutrient dense whole foods for 30 days. This month worked just as I wanted it to: it was a great way to tackle my cravings and kind of reset my body while learning new habits, meals, and substitutions that I can easily continue indefinitely. Justin and I have several new meals that we are keeping in our regular rotation going forward and we’ve also found some substitutions that we don’t mind making permanent (things like no sugar added bacon, ketchup, dressing, etc. that are just as delicious as their added-sugar counterparts). I have so much more energy and feel great and it’s not been hard to maintain significantly better nutrition (not perfect! Perfection was never the goal) into February.
February – Exercise
This month, I’ve been focused on incorporating more exercise into my days. With each additional child, it’s been harder and harder to prioritize time for this, but now that Ollie is sleeping through the night, I’ve been utilizing early morning hours again. I’m focusing on a mix of cardio and strength-training and am shooting for 5 days of exercise a week. I love the sense of accomplishment in getting my workout done before the kids even wake up and I can definitely notice a difference in my strength, energy levels, and overall feel of my body.
March – Hair
I have always been really low maintenance about my hair, but the past 6 years I’ve lived in messy mom buns. Nothing wrong with that, but also…maybe I can find some super quick and easy alternatives to pull my hair back? Maybe I can start actually using a product or two in my hair? Maybe I can invest in a nourishing hair mask or something to encourage regrowth from all the postpartum hair shedding? I’m never going to spend an hour on my hair each day, but I know there are easy additions I could use to put in some effort here.
April – Skin
I’ve got my first appointment with a dermatologist lined up for April. I’m also planning to focus on the specific skincare products I’m using on my skin and look at what may need to be added/removed/tweaked as my skin ages and changes. As for makeup, I used to care more about wearing it. High school, college, dating, when I was teaching everyday . . . I’ve never been one to wear much, but since the age of about 13, I have almost always at least worn something. Since staying at home all the time, that’s fallen by the wayside and while I get that it doesn’t really matter, it does feel different when I put in a bit of effort. It feels like prioritizing me just for me, does that make sense? Is it the most important thing? No. Do I want to get into an elaborate daily makeup routine? NO! But I can’t deny that hopping on a Zoom meeting for work or going into the grocery store or even just looking in the mirror as I wash my hands feels better when I have at least a quick swipe of mascara on. Even if I’m just upping my effort from “nothing” to “slightly above nothing” it will feel like a return to self of sorts.
May – Sleep
Probably goes without saying, but this month I’ll be focusing on limiting screens before bed, establishing a solid bedtime and nightly routine, maximizing our sleep environment, etc.
June – Mental Health
I think I’m going to keep most details about this month’s plan private, but I will say that I plan to involve both prayer and therapy. Nothing is “wrong” but I think that’s a stigma that needs to be dismantled – therapy is such a kind thing you can do for yourself and it doesn’t mean you’re at a breaking point or something is wrong with you or your life. We focus on the health that people can see (diet and exercise) but the unseen health (mental and spiritual) is just as important for your life. I may try to swap March and June, but so much of starting therapy is going to depend on availability and childcare options and I have many many more options available to me in the summer.
July – Water
This month is both for monitoring/maximizing my water intake and hydration, but also getting in the water. Swimming with my kids, actually getting IN the water instead of watching from the sideline, making memories with my family, etc.
August – Friendship
More phone calls, more snail mail, more coffee dates, just more time and effort connecting with friends near and far.
September – Wardrobe
Did I pick this month because it’s my birthday month? Maybe 😉 But if you’ve been around since the beginning of this blog, you know I used to share my daily teaching outfits. I enjoy putting together a cute outfit! My needs have obviously changed and I don’t want or need a big wardrobe these days but I do want some new options that feel good and fit well. Instead of a bunch of trendy fast-fashion items, I care about buying fewer, more versatile pieces that are made to last and particularly want to support clothing companies that use sustainable practices and pay fair, living wages. That often translates to a higher cost for me as the consumer (understandably!) so I haven’t wanted to invest in new clothes during the constant back-and-forth cycle of pregnancy and postpartum. I’ll be 13 months postpartum at this point and I’m hoping I’ll be at a place to be able to think and buy long-term for some wardrobe staples.
October – Financial
Justin and I regularly keep track of our financial goals but I want to set aside a month to really analyze where we’re at with our spending/saving/planning goals for the year and the future. I’d like to set up better systems for goal tracking and preparing for future wants (travel, home renovations, etc) and really spend time looking at maximizing some of our investment options. It also feels like a good month to hone in a plan for holiday spending and what our goals for gifting are. I could see us also using this month as a “no spend” time to reduce extra spending in preparation for the higher-cost months of November and December. We’ll see!
November – Rest
December is crazy busy. I want to be very intentional with carving out time to rest in November to both prepare myself for the craziness and also to train myself to know that rest IS productive. I once read that “good work requires good rest” and I know that’s true. I want to get my mind and body used to having pockets of “off” time so that when December hits, I can hopefully still be able to rest and enjoy.
December – Vitamin D
I feel myself depleting as December goes on. There’s so many fun things happening, but it takes a lot of energy. Days get shorter, activities ramp up. It’s a lot! I have a vitamin D light therapy lamp that a friend gave me last year and I didn’t utilize it well this winter. I know that it would have made a big difference, so my December goal is to use it daily!
I’m feeling so motivated and energized by the thought of each of these months and I’m truly excited to work on these goals. I’m using a habit tracker to keep track of my monthly progress and it’s honestly so satisfying. If you didn’t do resolutions but are wanting to set some personal goals, March 1 is coming up and might just be the perfect time to start. 😉