In many ways, it seems like this year has zoomed by, yet when I think back on 2018, there were days that felt like they'd never end.
That's why it's important to strive for balance in our lives. There will be ups and downs that can test the strongest of wills and stress the strongest of bodies.
Here are some key things to do this year so you can weather life's ups and downs and stay on track with your health and well-being:
- Set up your well-woman visit. This annual preventive care visit is key to keep you on top of your health. You'll get a full checkup, plus any immunizations and screenings you may need. Meeting with your health care professional also gives you a good opportunity to address any concerns and set your health goals.
- Practice self-care. It's not selfish; it's necessary. You need to take care of yourself emotionally, physically and mentally to function well in this crazy, busy, demanding world. Self-care can be as small a gesture as varying your routine and taking another route to work or as large as treating yourself to a day (or a week) away. Another example: Learn to say no. To all those people-pleasers out there and to those who feel that they can (and should) take on the world: You can't always do everything, nor should you. Avoid stress and burnout and just say "no." Most often, there's no explanation needed. "No" can, indeed, be a complete sentence. Read Why We All Need to Practice Self-Care.
- Age actively. Research has found that lifetime exercisers, compared to adults who don't exercise regularly, are able to defy the aging process. Their immunity, cholesterol levels and muscle mass are on par with those of a younger person. If you haven't been exercising regularly, it's never too late to start—you can still reap big benefits.
- Master a new skill. Learning is much like exercise: You're never too old to learn a new skill. Learning something new keeps your brain cells thriving and growing. Although it may be more challenging to learn new things as you age, it's far from impossible. Boost your brain power and learn to paint, play a musical instrument, speak a foreign language or take an online class. There are endless opportunities to boost your cognition.
- Eat smarter. Small and easy changes can really add up. Pack a lunch once a week, eat five or more fruits and veggies each day, eat mindfully and without distractions, chew your food slowly and incorporate healthy fats (but don't go overboard) with foods like nuts, avocado, olive or canola oil. If fresh fruits and vegetables are not in season, don't hesitate to use frozen. They're picked at peak ripeness and frozen immediately, so their nutritional integrity and freshness are preserved.
- Ditch the word "diet." Instead, aim to change your habits and incorporate better ones into every single day. Pay attention to your body's hunger and fulness signals, and eat what you want in moderation. (Yes, it can be that simple!)
- Practice gratitude. Rather than focus on what you don't have, focus on what you do have. Feeling thankful and appreciative boosts your well-being and happiness and improves your relationships, health, optimism and self-esteem.
- Taste your food before salting. Some people automatically reach for the salt before they've even taken one bite of food. Get used to the real taste of food—you may find that salt is unnecessary. Doing this can reset your taste buds, too. Leaving the salt shaker off the table at home can be a good start to shaking your salt habit.
- Nix the late noshing. Snacking after dinner can add unnecessary calories to your diet, not to mention set you up for heartburn and a restless night of sleep. To reinforce the signal that the "kitchen is closed," turn off the kitchen lights (or shut the door, if you have one) after dinner, keep any snacks out of sight, switch off your screen early to avoid mindless munching, floss and brush your teeth, and curl up in bed early with a good book.
- Keep your emotions in check. Better emotional health equals better physical health. Think before you act, make time to enjoy the things and people you love and manage your stress with deep breathing, mediation and exercise. Spend more time on the things that bring you joy (conversely, cut back on things that drain your emotions). And don't hesitate to reach out for professional help if you feel unable to cope. It's not a sign of weakness, but, rather, one of strength!