Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

January, the first month in our new year, should be a time of optimism and reinvention. Yet many of us find this to be the most difficult month. Now is when the bills come due for the way we have lived from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve—and many of us find it hard to focus, yet again, on regaining control of our lives, time, money, and health. It all seems just too much.

Here are five ways to take control of January and get your optimism back.

1. Learn to say no!  Many women in our demographic enter the new year exhausted from caring for (and about) others. We may have spent all our time, and depleted all our energy, choosing and buying gifts, entertaining members of our extended family, and attending too many holiday parties.  Make January the month when you just say no. No matter what the request, at least counter with, “May I get back to you?” You may find that this is not as hard as you thought it would be.

2. Shake off financial regrets.  Recognize that “buyer’s remorse” causes many people to feel overwhelmed in January as they contemplate the overspending and over-extending they’ve succumbed to during the holiday season. What’s done is done. Create a manageable plan to pay off those credit-card debts and put on that old sweater of budget austerity for the next few months.

3Be optimistic that you can look and feel better by eating in a more energy-sustainable way. Many of us gain several pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.  This is not only depressing, it makes us feel sluggish.  Recognize the problem and fix it, taking a few basic steps.

    • Fill the shelves with fresh produce and low-calorie snacks. Vegetables, with their natural fiber, diminish hunger; V-8 makes a nutritious substitute for diet sodas. Try low-fat cottage cheese with an apple; GG brand crackers paired with low-fat Laughing Cow cheese; and crudités.
    • Make vats of vegetable soups from fresh or frozen ingredients puréed in a blender, then frozen.  These are delicious, warm, and filling.
    • Get enough protein from low-fat, low-calorie sources like fish and skinless poultry
    • Eat six times a day—small amounts each time, tailoring your weight-loss eating plan to your taste and willingness to go without.
    • Find an eating plan for life. The most important thing to remember about all “diets” is that they fail. This is about finding a different way of nurturing yourself nutritionally. Start by getting control of your food choices and portion size. It isn’t rocket science, after all.

4. Commit to daily exercise.  I find that we are all more likely to stick to a program if it is daily. Otherwise we lie to ourselves about . . . tomorrow and tomorrow. I’ll have tips for getting started on this tomorrow.

5.  End the day with acknowledgment of your self care.  Don’t let the self go unnoticed and unrewarded.  Be really proud of your efforts, even on the days where there was time for only two sets of exercises.  This is your special time to celebrate a day in which you included self-care. Find some quiet time for meditation, whether in the form of prayer or just focused breathing.  Remember the gift of this day, and let tomorrow be what it is: just another day.

Next: Fitting exercise into your life—every day.

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