By Certified Pilates Instructor Maria Angelova
With New Year’s Eve on the horizon, people all over the world are making a list of resolutions to achieve in the upcoming year, one of the most popular being a greater focus on health and fitness. In reality, the heart of what they should be working on is self-care, which can be surprisingly difficult to remember during times of transition like the new year. For this reason, we have asked our friend Maria Angelova, a certified Pilates instructor with her own studio in Sandy Springs and founder of Rebellious Intl, a health and wellness program, to compile a list of guidelines to keep in mind this upcoming year.
While changes can be positive or negative, both disrupt our routine and frequently take us out of our comfort zone. Unquestionably, a change presents an opportunity for personal growth, but we are often faced with a choice of how to embrace the change while still remembering to focus on self-care.
The below guidelines are applicable not only during periods of transition, but at any time. Our society is too rushed, and we often appreciate self-care once urgency presents through health issues. Self-care ensures our whole self is nurtured through body, mind, and spirit.
1. MOVE. Our bodies are designed to move. On top of all of the known physical health benefits — stronger muscles, healthier bones, better circulation, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduced blood sugar, etc. — exercise invigorates the mind, creates a positive outlook, and boosts confidence. Physical activity is a wonderful way to tune in with the body, step away from the to-do list, and quiet the mind.
2. BREATHE. Everyone is aware of the physiological need for breathing. Breath focus is a shared feature among several relaxation techniques. From slowing heart rate to lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and anxiety, and increasing focus, breathing is a fix for everyone, everywhere and anytime. Perform breathing techniques as a daily habit or as needed when you feel overwhelmed.
One of the most popular and basic breathing techniques is belly breathing. Find a comfortable position sitting or lying down. Take a deep breath through your nose and allow your belly to push out. Breathe out through your mouth with pursed lips as you let your belly go in and push all air out. Repeat 5–10 times.
3. MEDITATE. Meditation is known for its therapeutic and stress relieving properties. The ultimate goal of mediation is to liberate the mind from attachment to things it cannot control. However, for most people today, meditation focuses the mind on now and takes away an uncontrollable mind spin. Thus, meditation is another tool that does wonders for mental clarity and emotional calm while sharing similar physiological benefits outlined for breathing above.
For most beginners, it is helpful to start with guided meditation — Insight Timer App is a favorite — or with focus on breath.
Sit down or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Simply breathe in and out and feel the tingle of each breath go down and up your body. Stay focused on the breath and do not allow the mind to wander. Start with a couple of minutes of practice and gradually increase time.
4. ELIMINATE TOXINS. Whether toxic chemicals or toxic relationships, take the time to free yourself from both. Environmental toxins contribute to anything from inflammation to fatigue, allergies, brain fog, bloating, disease, etc. Unhealthy relationships increase stress levels and can contribute to chronic inflammation and other health problems.
Reduce toxic load. Eliminate or reduce processed foods, sodas, refined carbs, saturated fats, and GMO foods. Minimize the use of household and personal care products loaded with harmful ingredients and substitute with natural alternatives. Avoid plastics, the microwave, and exposure to too much technology. Use the Healthy Living App to check health ratings of your favorite foods and personal care products.
As much as possible, stay away from people and circumstances that weigh you down. Set boundaries. If needed, find a professional to share your perspective and seek unbiased clarity. Concentrate on relationships and activities that nurture the soul, reinvigorate, and uplift. Build your support network of people who make you feel good and fill your cup.
5. EAT WELL. Nurture your body. Eat a diet rich in colorful fruits and veggies. Whenever possible, and especially for produce on the Dirty Dozen list, pick organics. Avoid processed, prepackaged, sugar-loaded foods. Select non-GMO foods and health products whenever feasible. Consume grass-fed meat and eggs.
6. HYDRATE. Water makes up about 60 percent of an average adult body. It is essential for myriad physiological processes, including normal metabolism functions, waste elimination, beautiful skin, and much more. Drinking water is an easy way to feel good! There are varying recommendations for daily water consumption, but 2 liters per day is a good minimum.
7. SLEEP. Be consistent with your sleep schedule. Create a bedtime routine that calms you. Including breathing or meditation as part of the evening or morning ritual is sensible. Avoid electronics and technology prior to going to bed and upon waking up for at least an hour. Remember that the bed is for sleeping and sex.
8. LIVE INTENTIONALLY. This is easy yet so hard. Do. What. You. Enjoy. Play. Go to a concert. Walk barefoot in the grass. Meet friends for dinner. Take a crazy workout class. Be silly. Dance as if nobody is watching. Sing as if nobody is listening. Follow your purpose. Travel. Let the adrenaline rush rejuvenate your body, mind, and spirit.
9. PRACTICE GRATITUDE. Focus on all the good things in your life! Think about them consistently and always search for more. Gratitude focuses our perspective on the good and positive opportunities. It keeps the mind open. It keeps us upbeat and fun to be around. It reduces stress and thus improves health. Gratitude practiced regularly has tremendous benefits for ongoing personal growth.
10. PRACTICE SELF-LOVE. … by practicing the steps above! Self-love means appreciating, accepting, and forgiving oneself. Self-love is being kind and compassionate to oneself. It is dynamic, it flourishes as we grow as individuals. Self-love is expressed with actions that support our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. We practice self-care once we believe we are deserving and worthy of receiving it. To amplify your practice of self-love in 2019, be sure to check out Maria’s 30-day Health and Wellness Transformation for the new year. To find out more information, go to http://uniquerebel.mykajabi.com/p/30DayResetIntroduction.