In search of a calmer 2014

The holidays can be full of joy and revelry but they can overflow with too much of good thing — too much running around, too much eating and one too many drinks.

With the season behind us, a new year sparks a desire for more balance and sense of calm in our lives.

Listening to music, looking at pictures, calling friends, reading and meditating can all be effective in wiping away stress. The goal, according to Dr. Rick Blue, an Atlanta psychologist, is being proactive and finding what works for you.

“Everyone has to find those things that give them joy and learn to be ‘in the moment’ to appreciate what they have,” he said.

Here are some tips from other local experts on kicking off 2014 in ways that re-energize us and restore our inner peace.

Dr. J. Kip Matthews, Athens area psychologist on goal-setting:

We often want to see big changes — and quickly — as we ring in the new year.

“We have numerous things we want to change and we yearn to see immediate results, a perfect recipe for disastrous outcomes, said Matthews.

The trick to success? Take it slow, step-by step, according to Matthews. For example, if the goal is to exercise more, start with three days a week for 30 minutes (as opposed to going for an hour of cardio, six days a week). For those seeking family dinners, start with at least one home-cooked meal with the family per week and then gradually move toward three days a week.

The same goes for learning an instrument. You don’t need to devote hours every day to your new interest. Start with one lesson per week and practicing twice a week. Add time little by little. And remember, he says, there will be the occasional “slips” along the way. It’s important to anticipate these lapses and have a strategy for how to move through them. This will help avoid the urge to just give up.

Aleasa Word, Duluth life coach on learning to say no:

Word said a key to creating more balance in life is setting aside regular “me time.” The life coach recommends reserving at least 20 minutes of “me time” every day for winding down and relaxing. Weave this time into your daily schedule just as you would a meeting, she said. If you like singing in the shower, schedule 10 minutes to rock out as soon as you get home to unwind. If you like to garden, give yourself time to garden on a regular basis.

Word said it’s important to be proactive in fighting stress. And a key piece of this is learning to say no.

She suggested practicing saying things like, “I would love to, but with my current load, I’m sure this is not a good time.” Or you can say, “Thank you for thinking of me but I will have to pass.”

Other ideas for keeping the calm include exercising for at least 10 minutes every day, decorating the bathroom with colors and scents you love to turn the room into a nice escape. She also encourages creating a “Happy Living Board.” Add photos or clippings of things you’ve always wanted to do on this board. Work once a week on small things and once a month toward accomplishing the bigger goals. Mark a big X through each finished goal so you can see your accomplishments.

Lena Beal, therapeutic dietitian with Piedmont Hospital on foods that can help us feel more balanced:

Beal said while it’s a good idea to cut excess calories by cutting back high-fat, high-sugar foods, she discourages an “all or nothing” way of thinking. If you overindulge one day, just get back on track the next day or the next meal, she said.

As we seek to eat healthier and lighter in the new year, Beal suggests substituting fruit for sweets, drinking plenty of water (add lemon, orange slices for a twist), skim the fat by making hot cocoa with skim milk over whole milk, and opt for whole wheat flour over white flour carbs. Give yourself a boost of nutrition by loading up on fruits and vegetables. She recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. (More color added to your plate equals more vitamins and minerals).

For those eager to lose weight in 2014, Beal urges the following steps: create an action plan, set specific goals and avoid skipping meals because that often leads to over-eating. Add exercise, even in three small, 10-minute increments each day. And don’t forget to reward yourself with anything from a book to a vacation — just not with food.

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