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Be Good to Yourself in 2021

It goes without saying that we are all looking forward to a better year in 2021. This past year has proven to be one of the most challenging in recent history. With vaccines on the way, we all hope a more normal way of life is close behind. The COVID pandemic has affected all of us in many different ways. Some have lost loved ones, most have felt financial burden, we all have dealt with a lack of socializing (in person) with family and friends, the juggling of home schooling the kids while working from home (worse than it sounds). The typical places we’d go for fun were closed or if they were open, they weren’t as much fun. Stress, anxiety, and uncertainty were all felt much too commonly in 2020.

so long 2020 - h

As we move closer to the “new norm” in 2021, one of the best ways to deal with these added stresses is to be good to yourself. I don’t mean go out (or stay in) and purchase something nice for yourself, I mean be good to yourself by eating smart, getting regular exercise, and getting adequate rest on a daily basis. This may not be at the top of your current priority list, but it should be.

How many of us have seen the effects of the stresses we have been experiencing in the form of “COVID pounds?” (At least that’s what my doctor called it last month during a routine physical). Yup, the weight we have gained since the start of the pandemic. Who wants to think of eating healthy when we all have plenty of other things to worry about during these times? Getting take-out and eating quick (unhealthy) meals have overruled healthy choices, not to mention the holiday season has been filled with turkey pot pie, extra mashed potatoes, mom’s lasagna, and any dessert within a 6’ radius. (I call that dessert distancing). Exercise? This has been a challenge for many of us as well. The added burden this pandemic has put on us has made it easy to forget about exercise. Colder weather has brought us indoors, most gyms and other workout studios have shut down or have limited activities. In general, most people STILL do not make a point to exercise on a regular basis when at times like these, they need it the most. Rest? How many people actually get 8 hours of sleep every night? I sure don’t. Juggling work, kids, school, and everything else life throws at you makes it near impossible to get enough sleep, pandemic or no pandemic. These added stresses over the last 10 months or so have taken quite a toll on most of us but reducing some of this stress may be easier than you think.

As the manufacturing manager at Boston Centerless for the last 15+ years, I stare at a quote at the top of my standard work form that I print out each day. (For those of you who aren’t very familiar with lean manufacturing, standard work is a list of recurring to-dos and items that need to be addressed each day in order to help support a lean culture). “The most effective way to do it, is to do it,” is a quote from Amelia Earhart. This quote is something that has stuck with me over the years and when I feel challenged at work or at life in general, I go back to it. This very quote is key to getting on track to a healthier, happier 2021.

As far as our diets, forget about the things we have eaten in the recent past. The holidays are a time to indulge, at least for me). My theory behind eating right is that if you read the ingredients and you don’t know what something is, or better yet can’t pronounce it, then it’s probably not good for you. Stick to wholesome foods with natural ingredients. A hard-boiled egg and fruit & nut bar on your commute to work instead of a sausage McMuffin will do wonders. It is much easier (and tastier) to eat healthy than you think. How about a piece of baked chicken with broccoli instead of that chicken parm sub with soggy bread you picked up on the way home? Yes, eating healthy takes some extra time and prep, but it is so worth it. There are countless resources online that can help you select foods and recipes that will help you to feel your best, and most of the recipes are quick meals. You probably already know all of this so let’s get back to the quote, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” As far as exercise, put that hat and those gloves on and go for a walk. A chilly day won’t kill you, but a lack of exercise over time just might. I understand that each individual’s age and level of health will determine what type of exercise you can do (and to cover myself, please consult your physician before performing any new exercise), but challenge yourself (safely) and do what works for you. Virtual workouts are becoming more and more popular and are more fun and motivating than you might think. Again, a ton of resources are available if you know how to use Google. The point is, make exercise a small part of your daily life. It will work wonders, both physically and mentally. Now comes the sleep part. For me, this is the most difficult. Obviously, you should get as close to 8 hours of sleep as possible each day. Watch your favorite Netflix series on Friday nights or Saturday mornings instead of a work night. Shut that laptop down earlier, it will make you much more effective the next morning. No matter how difficult it is when life is so busy, you must dedicate time for yourself to sleep.

I’ll never forget a retirement speech given by a co-worker about 10 years ago. Towards the end of his speech he said, “Don’t wait at the bottom of the hill, walk up that hill and sled down with your kids or grandkids.” This gentleman retired at a young 65 years old and was in better shape than most people half his age. You bet he ate smart and exercised daily.

Eating smart and getting regular exercise and enough sleep will do wonders for your mind and body at a time when we are challenged the most. You will be surprised after only one week of eating right and exercising just how much better one can feel. Maybe losing a few pounds or lowering that stress level a bit this month will be the start of a better year to come. If you don’t believe me, give it a shot, but remember, “The most effective way to do it is to do it.”

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2021!

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