We are coming up on another round of New Year’s resolutions. Maybe the annual ritual of hopefulness doesn’t feel so hopeful because it reminds you of all the times you’ve promised to get in shape (save more money or some other goal) – but didn’t. Don’t fret, it is okay to feel hopeful in spite of past failures. This is a brand new year, give yourself a break. Besides, you are unlikely to do better by making yourself feel worse. Instead, forgive yourself for past failures; set small, measurable goals and begin again. You can do this.
In a recent issue of the Atlanta Journal Constitution Helena Oliviero offered an article titled, Balance in Life Starts with you. Oliviero shared tips from various life coaches and wellness gurus. Gabby Reese, fitness guru, mom of three and entrepreneur, contributed these eight nuggets of advice for achieving balance in life. I added some thoughts about Gabby’s advice. Take what works for you and make it your own.
- Schedule exercise – Appointments with yourself are just as important as appointments you make with and for others. Write workout time on your calendar and show up for yourself just like you show up for everyone else. Think investment rather than chore.
- Plan meals in advance – Deciding what you will eat in advance makes it more likely that you will choose foods that help you feel your best. Last minute or convenience choices usually dishonor healthy eating goals.
- Leave work at work – Technology makes it easy to blur the lines between work and home. For many of us it can feel like we are always working, even when we are “off” Blurred lines between work and personal time can rob us of the rest time we need to restore and be our best.
- Decide what is important and write it down – It can be very clarifying to commit to personal priorities in writing. Use your list to stay on track and minimize distractions. As you make daily choices it can be helpful to look at your list and ask yourself – is what I am about to do going to move me closer to or farther from my goals and priorities?
- Concentrate on one thing at a time – Multitasking may seem like a good idea but studies show that doing one thing at a time is more efficient. Multitasking slows you down and increases stress levels.
- Keep only one calendar – Writing everything down in one place can make it easier to see all work, life and family plans so you can spread them out and not become too overwhelmed. Wouldn’t it be great not to be overwhelmed at all? Work on that!
- Schedule at least one thing you look forward to everyday – This is something just for you. Pick something you love – it doesn’t have to cost money – and find a way to fit it in for at least a few minutes everyday. It could be coffee on your deck with relaxing music or a book, yoga, a walk with your dog or a visit with a friend. Whatever it is, give yourself permission to make it happen.
- Set up some accountability – Ask someone who is emotionally healthy enough to be supportive of your self-care plans. Check in about how you are doing. You may even consider doing some things together. Maybe if your goal is to try a triathlon or learn how to swim, you can sign up and train together. It is harder to skip your workout when you know your fitness buddy is waiting for you.
There is a saying that goes, if it is to be it is up to be. That is especially true when it comes to taking care of yourself. It really is up to you. Make it happen for yourself.
The September issue of Yoga Journal cites a recent study that points the way to calm, even for those with a crowded schedule. In that issue, Yelena Moroz Alpert reports the International Journal of Yoga found you don’t need a whole hour of yoga to enjoy the benefits. According to researchers, self-described high stress study participants said they felt more calm and focused at the end of two weeks of sun-salutation for 20 minutes. They also said they felt less worry and more joy.
Why not give it a try? The key is to slow down and place awareness on your body in the moment. You can benefit from yoga even if you can’t bend and stretch like a rubber band – so no excuses. You don’t have to be able to touch your toes to boost your mood with yoga, you just need an open mind.
Exercise can ease depression or anxiety by giving you a mood boost, a feeling of control and/or serving as a complement to prescriptions. Here’s how:
- Exercise provides a distraction from troubling thoughts. When your mind is racing it can feel like you are trapped in a painful thought spiral. Getting active can interrupt this spiral by shifting your focus from your mind to your body in motion.
- Exercise gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Many things that happen throughout the day feel like they are beyond our control. Deciding to head for the gym or for a walk around the block provides a positive focus with immediate positive feedback. You benefit from pride in making and keeping a promise to yourself as well as the mood boost of being active.
- A Harvard Health Publications article titled, Exercise and Depression asserts that regular exercise improves mood in people with mild to moderate depression. Researchers believe this is because exercise releases endorphins, chemicals that impart a feel good effect as they course through the body. You may be able to reduce symptoms of depression with just a 35 minute walk, 5 days a week.
- Exercise may also offer some people alternative or complementary options for managing anxiety and insomnia.
If you are looking for a fun way to boost mood, banish depression and ease anxiety, exercise is it. Countless studies have shown that exercise is like medicine. Use it as your personal prescription to not only look your best but to feel your best, too.
You don’t have to be a size two to cut your risk of diabetes or to be healthier. According to John Hopkins Medicine losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58% . That is only 10 to 20 pounds if you weigh 200. Go ahead and get started on your fitness plan. Exercise is a great way to practice self care because it feels good and it is good for you.
Start by setting small goals
You have probably heard the expression – a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Why not make fitness a part of your journey toward wellness? Think of health changes such as losing weight and inches or committing to a self care fitness plan as points along the journey. Establish mile markers along the way to keep yourself feeling encouraged. Here are some examples:
- I will start my exercise program on August 1 and exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes for the next four weeks.
- I will lose five pounds in the next four weeks.
- I will lose three inches in the next four weeks.
- I will be able to run for 30 seconds without stopping by September 1
Although your overall goal may be to lose twenty pounds you are more likely to be successful if you set smaller goals along the way. Setting incremental goals keeps you encouraged because you give yourself the opportunity to see results and experience success quickly. You are also more likely to stick with your plan, which means you develop trust in yourself about doing what you say you will do. Use the feeling of being successful to motivate yourself to keep going or push even more. Before you know it your doctor will say you are safely out of the danger zone.
Starting where I am is good enough and much kinder to my sense of self than never starting at all.
Getting started with exercise – The Centers for Disease Control advises adults to exercise at least 150 minutes at a moderate pace each week. Don’t let that number overwhelm you. Start where you are:
- If you have a minute or two, swing a kettlebell, jump rope or dance to your favorite song.
- If you have 5 or 10 minutes, take a brisk walk, do jumping jacks or lunges.
- If you have a pedometer, challenge yourself to take more steps each day.
- If you don’t have 30 minutes all at once, exercise in 10 or 15 minute increments.
You don’t have to start perfectly, you just have to start. That’s how you build trust in yourself – you do what you say you are going to do. Knowing you can count on yourself to come through is pretty powerful. If you have made a promise to yourself to exercise how will you keep it?