New Year, New You

Another year has slipped by, and if you follow the time-honored tradition of making New Year's resolutions, it is time to get started on making a new list. How well you did with last year's list, and what changes you would like to make in the New Year, should come together to light the way for self-improvement. A good way to get a handle on what to accomplish in the New Year is to review last year's list. See what you accomplished, and what you might need to re-think. Was number one on your list the same as it has been for more years than you care to admit to yourself or others? Don't try to hide from your failures, for the best way to succeed is to LEARN from our failures.

"For those people who think that having a smoldering rear-end is the only way they can kick-start themselves, then I can only shake my head and hope that they don't die of a heart attack at a young age."

If you did not achieve your resolutions, then re-evaluate, and decide to either work harder or strike them off your list, and accept the fact that you are doing the best you can. Do not beat yourself up. It wastes valuable strength. Recognize your limits, and forgive yourself for being less than perfect. Besides, perfection is only for the Almighty.

The three most common New Year's Resolutions are: lose weight, stop drinking or abusing drugs, and stop smoking. These problems, are all part of a group of behaviors classified as compulsions. A compulsion is a behavior you are driven to repeat, irrespective of your conscious desire to stop. If you try to stop, then you become aware of how powerful your enslavement to that behavior is. If you suffer with serious, life threatening compulsions, then you should seek professional help. For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on manageable goals that you can achieve. We are going to discuss how to enjoy life and empower yourself so that you can make the kinds of changes that will help you be the best you, you can be! (Sounds terribly close to the Army commercial, but I promise this is much more gentle.)

So, review those old lists so that you are mindful of the changes you want to make, but then start by taking a look at the stresses in your life, because managing your stress will be the key to your success. Stress is this catch phrase that few people really understand. Stress is pressure applied either internally or externally. I define stress as the kerosene poured on a fire. Some people view stress as a good thing. They feel they can get more accomplished if they have a fire lit under them. For those people who think that having a smoldering rear-end is the only way they can kick-start themselves, then I can only shake my head and hope that they don't die of a heart attack at a young age.

Stress is a fact of life that can be managed in a healthy, positive way. My approach to dealing with stress is a threefold.
1. Keep a positive attitude and try to maintain acceptance towards circumstances that may seem negative. While an event can produce stress, your attitude towards that event will determine the amount of stress you experience, and the damage that ensues.
2. Take time to review your life and prioritize. Today's world can be tough and demanding, and it is easy to lose sight of what is REALLY important in your life.
3. Make happy and healthy plans. You may not be able to reduce certain stresses, but you can ABSOLUTELY do things that feel good and counteract the negative effects.

The best immediate help I can give you is a short list of ways to de-stress the distress. Remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Making sure you have a comfortable pair of shoes would probably not be such a bad idea.

Things You Can Do To Reduce Stress
1. Surround yourself with music. Choose your favorites and add a soundtrack to your day.
2. Do something nice and anonymous for another person. This is a great way to feel good about yourself. The higher your self- esteem, the nicer you will be to yourself.
3. Put yourself first when it counts. Always being last on your list is a mistake. If you are taking care of yourself, you are taking care of the world.
4. Take a GREAT bath, complete with candles, bubbles and scents. For those of you who cannot get into a tub, then take a nice hot shower, and lounge, bundled up in a space you have prepared with candles and wonderful aromas. This is very relaxing for the senses.
5. Create a quiet moment, and take deep, diaphragmatic breaths. This is the type of breathing technique singers and musicians who play wind instruments use. To do it, place your hand on your tummy, and as you take a deep breath, try to push your hand away from your body. Do not move your shoulders. This takes practice. It can be used to break stressful moments, or bring a gentle calmness to your day. Be sure not to hyperventilate - that means if you start feeling light headed, return to your normal breathing pattern, until that feeling passes and then resume your deep breathing. Each session should only last a few minutes.
6. Share quality time with a person or people. Isolation is at the heart of unhappiness. There are many people who pride themselves on their ability to fly solo. You don't always need a co-pilot, but an occasional extra passenger, or passengers, can turn any activity into an adventure.
7. If you cannot always eat healthy foods, at least take turns, with the promise that you may skip a junk food turn now and then. A healthy diet is really an important part of our sense of well-being. If we make small changes, we can take pride in the fact we are in transition to a better place. Small steps are big steps!
8. Spend a little time interacting with a pet or a child. Both encourage us to play, and as adults, we often forget the importance of play.
9. Get a great massage from a qualified, experienced therapist. My promise is that a great massage can wring out your stress like you wring water from a sponge, but with less twisting.
10. As you start to feel better, and you will, if you try as many of these suggestions as possible, NOW take a quiet moment to make a set of New Year's resolutions. Keep your goals small and achievable. Instead of setting a tough goal like, "Lose Weight", try breaking it down into smaller steps that you can commit to like, "Eating Healthier". Instead of "Stop Smoking", how about, "Join a Quit Smoking Group". Remember, it's a cinch by the inch, but hard by the yard.

Happy New Year and Happy New You.

Jan Rose Kasmir, SCLMT#4319, has been the owner and primary Medical-Massage Therapist and Life Coach of Massage Therapy Associates for over 20 years. She is a 1986 graduate of a New York medical massage college, and possess extensive credentials and training. Jan works on Hilton Head Island, and is starting a free pain support group in New River, near Sun City, called, Living Free. Her family includes her 16 year-old daughter, Lisa, her Pug, Cleopatra, and her cats, Pidget and Tigger.

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