Self Care for the New Year
By Lisa Adams Walter
The last couple of months were naturally focused upon end-of-year activities which include celebrations, parties and festive holiday gatherings. Clearly, social interaction and acts of giving, lend positive benefits. Yet, a loss of routines, absence of regular eating habits and jumbled schedules, coupled with much colder weather and fewer daylight hours, may have led to feeling a loss of personal normalcy. Yes, a loss of control!
January, marking the begging of each new year, is traditionally the time to take a look inside. Self care is always important, and many of us are so intent upon everyone else that we forget to take care of ourselves. My goal this year, rather than create a massive list of resolutions that are likely impossible to keep, is to go back to the basics of self care in a few easy areas: healthy eating, regular exercise, mindfulness and quality time.
“Eat simple. Choose foods that are less processed foods,” said Tawnya Dorn, RDN, CDCES. This leads me back to the mantra for most things in life: Less is best.
Dorn, as a registered dietician, went on to advise on how to begin a Clean Eating program. “One way to begin Clean Eating is by choosing less packaged foods. One-ingredient foods are great to achieve simple, cleaning eating. For example, fruits, vegetables and proteins.”
“Grains can be more complicated, but they do not need to be! Choosing foods such as oatmeal, wild rice, brown rice and quinoa, to name just a few, are grains that do not come with added ingredients,” Dorn added, “If you choose packaged foods, choose those that list a limited amount of ingredients that you can actually pronounce, and you know what they are.”
I regard to food, Dorn concluded, “Behavior goals around food can help too. Slowing down your eating pace, a meal should take you 20 or more minutes to finish, without adding second helpings.” Yes, sit down, enjoy your meal, or as your parents likely told you, mind your manners.
Additional exercise is important for me this year, and I have
some plans. Even on days I am milling around the house, I have some lightweight strap-on ankle and wrist weights that will add some minor resistance. Walking my dog further, even in rain and cold, is another easy exercise that also adds to the category of quality time. Additionally, I spend a good portion of each work day at a standing desk. If you too work at a desk, this can be easy to achieve with either an affordable riser, or finding an appropriate counter top height space. A few years ago I read a news piece on the topic of “sitting is the new smoking.” It really is bad for us, for all of us, to sit too much. There is a reason that recess was created, and a recess for adults is healthy too.
To easily incorporate exercise, Dorn suggests starting with increasing your lifestyle activity. “Take the stairs versus the elevator. Park further away in the parking lot. Do you live close to work? Consider walking or riding a bike if it is safe for you. Wearing a pedometer, your smartphone or watch can also help you achieve walking more each day. Monitor how many steps you walk in an average day without trying, and then add 1,000 or more steps to that number.”
In terms of being mindful, do your best to be at peace. A friend gave me the idea a few years ago to begin the morning with meditation music. Ever attend a yoga class, or spent some time in a spa? The background music in those spaces is the vibe to seek for peace. The slow repetitive cadence of both ancient tunes and new age music, centers our hearts and calms our minds. Most all music platforms have meditation, spa, yoga, and new age playlists and stations.
Practicing gratitude is another mindful activity, whether you write it down in a journal or say it to yourself. Begin with the macro such as this beautiful place, the Napa Valley, that we call home, and then move on to more personal gratitude such as appreciation for our families and those close to us, as well as the tiniest and most heartwarming natural beings. I am personally grateful for all of the hummingbirds I see outside the windows of our home every day. They are amazing, like wow! Gratitude can happen at any time, in any place, and it feels pretty good when we each realize that there is much for which to be thankful.
Finally, quality time is essential to our existence. Many of the activities already mentioned, such as preparing healthy food, exercising, relaxing, being grateful, being mindful, all happen in the space of quality time. Spending quality time with friends, family members, our pets, and even alone with ourselves, is a huge act of self care.
To create your own version of self care, now is the time to plan. Registered dietician Dorn said that some of her patients find that to meet their goals, it is helpful to log their food intake online using an app or to write down what they eat in a journal. Remember most anything can be journaled, and that there are apps for most everything ranging from meditation, to exercise, to healthy eating and mindfulness. In this new year I wish you happiness, health and joy, and I gently suggest that you take care, of you.