Monday Medical: Relax your resolutions
January 7, 2017
Editor's note: This article is the first in a two-part series about tips for a healthy new year.
Every new year is an opportunity to write resolutions. This year, Rachel Van Parys, health and wellness coordinator for Yampa Valley Medical Center, recommends trying a kinder, lighter approach.
"I think you need to take it in a low pressure kind of way and realize you're human," Van Parys said. "You have to take it one step at a time, one day at a time, one meal at time. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up with unrealistic expectations."
In fact, before even getting to the ever-popular resolutions of diet and exercise, Van Parys recommends checking in with yourself on stress, energy and sleep.
Recognize this is a stressful time
"For me, this is really the time of year when stress and burnout rear their ugly heads," Van Parys said. And stress isn't something to take likely — it has real physical impacts, such as compromising the immune system.
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"We're coming out of this season of fun holidays and parties, but all of these things take a toll on us," Van Parys said. "It's important to give your body and your mind the chance to reset and recover."
If you find yourself with a cold that won't go away or feel like you're dragging through the day, you might need to take that sick day or put your own needs first.
"You have to give your body what it needs, and you have to set boundaries if you want to have a productive and creative and happy year," Van Parys said.
Understand your personal energy equation
Though it might sound like it's straight out of a hippie commune, the idea of understanding your personal energy equation — what gives you energy versus what's taking energy from you — is a tenet of wellness.
For instance, when Van Parys finds herself getting busy with work, the first thing to go can be her workouts. But that ends up making things worse.
"When I do that, I feel more exhausted, and that's because, for me, exercise is energy giving," Van Parys said. "You really have to figure out what gives you energy and what drains your energy and then prioritize."
If it seems hard to figure out what helps energize you, Van Parys recommends setting short routines for the morning and evening. It doesn't have to be too involved — try a few minutes of stretching or meditation or a walk outside followed with a big glass of water. After a week, you'll likely notice what helps fuel your day — and what makes it harder.
"It kind of gives your body a little reminder to check in with yourself," Van Parys said. "You may start to realize what's missing or get clues as to the changes you might need to make."
Take some time to unplug … and sleep
Between phones and computers, televisions and tablets, it's not surprising we spend a lot of time every day on electronic devices.
"We all say we're going to unplug, but we never do it," Van Parys said.
But a small break can go a long way. Van Parys recommends turning phones and tablets off half an hour before going to sleep. And that doesn't mean just switching the ringer to vibrate.
"It really helps your body naturally learn how to unwind, which can help you recover from stress and burnout," Van Parys said.
It can also help improve sleep — not a small thing, considering even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers sleep deprivation a public health problem.
This year, before you make your list of resolutions, don't be afraid to give yourself a bit of a break.
"We have these grand ideas about what we're going to do this year, and that's great and so important," Van Parys said. "But before you dive into anything, you want to go back to basics and build a foundation."
Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.