Another year has come and gone. 2020 is dead; long live 2021. With a new year, many of you may be considering some New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you want to work out three days a week, cook half of your meals with healthy ingredients or cut back on caffeine. Those are all perfectly reasonable, healthy goals to have going into 2021.
Forget all of them.
Here’s what I mean by that—you’re going to fail at all of your resolutions. Wait, that doesn’t sound any better.
Here’s the real takeaway you should have going into 2021: it’s okay for things to suck. We’ve all been ground down so much by the pandemic, racial justice protests and the general political and social upheaval of the last year that I’d bet most of you are at the end of your rope. We literally started off the new year with a mob storming the United States Capitol. Classes have been mostly or fully online since March, Zoom meetings have sucked the collective life out of us and whichever four walls you’ve lived in for the last year are probably getting pretty old—at least, that’s my experience. In short, 2020 was an absolutely exhausting year.
If you really want to go gung-ho into New Year’s resolutions—if you’re a real type A personality that wants to start the year with a burst of self-improvement—go right ahead. But, if you’re like me, you probably don’t feel that energy going into the new year. Personally, my 10 pairs of sweatpants have seen a lot of use lately. And you know what? That’s completely fine.
If you’ve survived the pandemic so far, count that as a blessing. You may have gained or lost weight, spent too much time on your phone, skipped “class,” eaten nothing but ramen and cereal or formed any number of habits deemed unhealthy during this endless quasi-quarantine/lockdown period. I definitely have. Granted, that’s not a great way to live in normal times—but these aren’t normal times.
Loneliness is a diagnosable psychological condition, and this is one of the loneliest times in modern history. Most of us are at home most of the time, cut off from friends and family and only able to communicate via the internet. Loneliness is a major risk factor for chronic health conditions like inflammation and heart disease; It can compromise your immune system and send your cortisol, or stress hormone, levels much higher than normal—stress levels which are likely already raised due to the fear of catching a deadly disease. Loneliness can impair cognitive performance. (Having trouble concentrating lately?) Additionally, loneliness can be a serious contributor to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
Simply put, we all feel like shit right now. It’s a biological condition.
Add the uncertainty and instability of our society today, and it’s a miracle so many of us have made it this far. I tried to form some healthy habits at the beginning of the pandemic. I baked bread, I cooked, I worked out. I made a sourdough starter, for God’s sake. That lasted for about a month. I’ll be honest—I’ve worn pretty much nothing but sweatpants and fuzzy sweaters since March. I’ve mostly eaten comfort food. I’ve watched trash TV and campy movies and played way too many video games. I’ve listened to far too many podcasts for my own good.
At a certain point in the pandemic, I came to realize none of that was bad. In fact, it’s good—it’s good that I can find pleasure in things I would otherwise consider stupid, unhealthy or both. So many of the pleasures of the before times, like meeting with friends or going to new places, are cut off from us indefinitely. Travel seems like a distant memory. Now more than ever, we have to grab the things that we can find in this strange new world and hold on to them until we can ride out of this storm. For me, that’s playing hundreds of hours of Fallout 4 and downing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in 30 minutes. (Okay, maybe that is a little unhealthy.)
For this new year, try to adapt your resolutions for the pandemic. Find a way to virtually connect with friends and family in a meaningful way. Take a faux-vacation to a new country from the comfort of your home. Challenge yourself to watch even more Netflix shows. Put together a virtual gaming group with your friends. And, if you really want, do the traditional resolutions: work out more or cook healthier meals. Just don’t feel too bad when you fall short. Just surviving this new year is a worthy New Year’s resolution. My advice for 2021? Embrace the sweatpants. Don’t be afraid of failure. And, most of all, recognize that even if you might not meet all of your goals this year, surviving is enough. We can worry about thriving later.