Small Steps to Take for a Healthier 2020
Jan. 9, 2020
It’s the time of year when people start making New Year’s resolutions. Then there’s the debate over whether those resolutions will stick.
This year, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina’s health coach Tina Devlin has some helpful tips for how to have a healthier year — whether or not you make resolutions. Her advice doesn’t take much. You can make some small changes to have a big impact on your health in 2020.
1. Get more sleep
We get it. Getting more sleep is easier said than done. There are many factors that can affect your sleep —stress, schedule, children. But Devlin says whatever you do this year, prioritize your sleep.
Research shows that sleep affects all the other aspects of your health — brain, heart, physical and mental health, to name a few. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t have the energy to be active or make healthy food choices.
People ages 18 to 64 should get seven to nine hours of sleep, while those over 64 should get eight hours of sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation*. Note that children need more sleep.
Make getting more sleep your priority for the year, Devlin says. Set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it. Create a nighttime routine for winding down for sleep.
2. Work on managing stress
Everyone has stress in their lives. This can be stress over good things – waiting in line at a new restaurant. Or stress over life’s big worries — finances, children, relationships. But take some steps this year to manage your stress.
Try deep breathing, which can take only a few minutes. Practice meditation, which requires setting your intentions and being mindful. Go for a walk — it doesn’t have to be a long walk.
Every step you can take to slow down and let go of your stress will be good for your overall health and well-being.
Devlin recommends the American Heart Association’s* website for stress management tips. She also recommends this list of relaxation techniques for stress. Stress has an impact on your physical and mental health and may cause problems like high blood pressure, digestive issues, depression and anxiety.
Start here: Take a deep breath. Hold it in. And then slowly let it go.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness can be more than a daily meditation practice. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your mind on the present moment.
Mindfulness has been used to treat anxiety and depression, and recently has been used as complementary therapy for cancer, stroke and pain, according to Harvard Health*.
You can practice mindfulness to help make healthier choices for food or activity, too. Devlin says to take time to be aware, be present and slow down.
Stop rushing off to the next thing. For tips on getting started with meditation, Devlin recommends this resource.
Ready to get on track with your health but not sure where to start? If your health plan includes health coaching, you can work with a personal health coach who can help you make positive changes at your own pace.Read More
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How to get started
Devlin recommends always working to improve yourself, your life and your health. It doesn’t have to just be done around the new year.
“You can do this anytime, not just at the start of a new year,” she says.
Find what will work for you and your lifestyle, your income and your work schedule. This is not one-size-fits-all, she says.
One way she recommends her clients get started on making changes is to start journaling or making a list.
- What is your vision for your health?
- What is driving you right now to make any kind of change?
- Where do you want to be in five to 10 years?
Now list the things you know will get in the way. Maybe it’s your kids’ extracurriculars, cooking dinner nightly, or meetings, meetings, meetings.
- What are your obstacles?
- What will keep you from achieving your goals?
- How can you plan for those things?
- How can you get over the obstacles?
Set goals that are reasonable and specific. Maybe you don’t set a goal for the whole year. Start with the next two weeks, the next month, and go from there, Devlin says.
This outline will help you find where you can make changes and set an intention for what is most important to you in 2020.
Bring in reinforcements
If you’re ready for help and feel like you need a little extra guidance, call in a health coach. (You can find out if health coaching is a part of your health plan on My Health Toolkit®.) Oftentimes, the hard part is knowing where to go for resources or where to start.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Devlin says. “I provide support and a safe, non-judgmental space to help.”
BlueCross health coaches also provide accountability to help nudge you on to the next step.
*These are independent organizations that offer health information that you may find helpful.
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