For some, the arrival of a new year may mean exercising more and eating better. For others, it might be time to commit to getting out of debt and saving for retirement. Or it could even be a time to learn something new and exciting, like painting or scuba diving.

Whatever it may be and whether we call it a resolution, a goal or something else, January 1 typically signals an opportunity to make a change. We talked to a few Outer Banks professionals to get their advice on making positive changes in the new year, and here is what they recommend.

Health Matters

“One of the most important resolutions you can make this year is to take good care of your most valuable asset – your health,” says Amy Montgomery, Outer Banks Hospital’s senior administrator of operations.

“A great way to get started is to get an annual wellness check-up, which provides a snapshot of your overall health and is a great opportunity to review any age-appropriate screenings you may be thinking about.”

During an annual check-up, she says, patients receive immediate feedback regarding their heart rate, blood pressure and body mass index. You’ll also get screened for blood sugar, lipids and cholesterol.

If you are 50 or older, Montgomery says you will need to be screened for colon cancer, and if you are 55 or older and have been smoking a pack or more a day for the past 30 years, ask your doctor about a low dose CT screening for lung cancer. If you are a woman age 40 or older, you will need to talk to your provider about breast cancer screenings.

Staying physically active, washing hands, eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limiting sugar, sodium and processed foods all play a role in staying healthy, as do protecting your skin from too much sun exposure, not smoking and using moderation if you drink alcohol, she says.

A Goal That’s Right for You

“Goal setting has been linked to increased happiness and greater feelings of personal well-being,” says Shirley Parker, a licensed professional counselor with Outer Banks Inner Journey Center for Self Care and Well-Being in Nags Head.

Citing writer and life coach Christine Carter, Parker says a wise first step when setting a goal might be to ask yourself, in your “heart of hearts,” what you want to feel.

“When you identify a feeling you would like to experience more often and consider what past actions and behaviors have led to that or a similar feeling, you may be led to a more fulfilling goal,” Parker says. “And you may find this goal more motivating and easier to stick to than one chosen because it just logically ‘makes sense.’”

Parker suggests having goals that are SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time based), such as walking 20 minutes, five days per week or practicing breath meditation for 10 minutes a day.

“A little pre-planning can help us stick with a goal, and making our goal emotionally meaningful can go a long way in supporting us to stick with it,” she says. “Goals that leave us feeling good are more likely to be repeated.” A mindfulness practice, Parker concludes, “can be very supportive for those times when we get off track” by first recognizing we are off track, and then using self-kindness and understanding to get back.

A Nutritious New Year

“I always tell my clients that we don’t go on diets,” says Nancy Love-Martin, a clinical nutritional consultant at Lifestyle Nutrition in Kitty Hawk. “Small frequent meals work best.”

Love-Martin has been providing nutrition consultation on the Outer Banks for more than 10 years and cautions against the fad dieting that tends to be popular when it’s time to make new year’s resolutions.

“If you do, you are setting yourself up for failure. My rule is that every diet that attempts to exclude a food group is not healthy. We need all the food groups.”

Instead, she says that eating small amounts of proteins and carbohydrates frequently – about every two and a half to three hours – is beneficial for your overall health and feeling your best. “That’s when your sugars start to drop and you become hungry.”

Love-Martin also says that exercise is a key component and can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. “Whatever you do, start out slow and build up. Exercise helps with nutrition because we are more likely to make healthy choices when we feel well.”

Having a balanced action plan is important so that you have healthy food choices in the house and don’t have to resort to eating out. “If you fail to plan, plan to fail,” she concludes. “We need to be responsible for the calories we consume and do our homework.”

Fitness Should Be Fun

“If you find an exercise routine that is enjoyable to you, it is going to be so much more fun,” says Mandy Savage, a personal trainer and fitness instructor at the Outer Banks Family YMCA and Momentum Fitness.

“With all the options on the beach as far as boot camps, gyms and beautiful open spaces, there’s something for everyone when it comes to staying fit.”

Savage says it’s important to develop a plan. “Any new habit is going to be difficult to maintain at first but if you find something you enjoy, it’s going to be a lot easier,” she says.

She suggests scheduling workouts into each week while being realistic when trying to incorporate fitness into your lifestyle. “Some weeks are going to be busier than others, so we have to be flexible and find times in the day we can fit it in.”

Savage encourages her clients to move each day and build on it. “And if we don’t have time to go to the gym, there are other things we can do. If your child has soccer practice, you can walk or jog around the field. We can work it into our lives. Fitness is a journey.”

Caring for Your Skin

“Everyone knows that eating organic plants and fruits are optimal for body performance, so it just makes sense that feeding our skin with organic ingredients provides healthy skin as well,” says Lloria Ross, manager of Aqua Day Spa in Duck.

Choosing a skin-care product that is made with organic ingredients, like Aqua Spa’s Eminence line, is the healthiest choice for your skin. Ross recommends a twice-daily skin care regimen that includes a cleanser, toner, serum and moisturizer.

At Aqua Day Spa, Ross says a facial starts with a consult with your esthetician, who can examine your skin type, understand what your skin concerns are and address a customized skin-care treatment.

Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays is essential to your health as well and an important part of skin care. Jamie Dalton, a nurse at Tidewater Skin Care in Kitty Hawk, recommends always using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

A skin check is recommended once a year if you have no history of skin cancer, Dalton says. If you have had prior skin cancers, you will need to have skin checks more often depending on the type of cancer.

Take Time to be Pampered

“It’s very important to take care of ourselves for longevity of life,” says Erika Westover, spa manager at Sanderling Resort in Duck. “We hurry about our daily lives, rushing here and there, taking care of family, parents and others and forget to take time out for ourselves.”

Westover says the Sanderling Spa encourages clients to take the opportunity to lock the cell phone away, disconnect from the busy world and “take a moment to breathe, relax and be pampered – whether this involves a massage, body treatment, a facial or simple manicure and pedicure.”

Westover says taking advantage of services in a spa, such as massages and body treatments may not seem like a huge thing, but it is. “Being pampered without worry or cares of other things that are occurring in the world or around you for just a moment will allow time for the body to refocus, thoughts to come together and in some cases calming of emotions to face any challenge you may be experiencing.”

Having a spa experience, she says, is very similar to taking an adult time out. “And in some cases, we can surely use it.”

Planning Ahead for Retirement

Will Woodard, CFP®, is president of Dare Capital Management in Nags Head and specializes in retirement planning. His number one tip for the new year is to get organized. “Savvy consumers will be prepared and ready to act quickly on new laws,” he says.

Woodard recommends that people pay themselves first. “Contributions to 401(k) and traditional IRA accounts lower a taxpayer’s taxable income,” he points out. “Self-employed business owners can deduct qualified business expenses including contributions to SEP IRA and one-owner 401(k) retirement accounts.”

It is important to be aware of changing economic conditions, he adds, citing that interest rates have been extremely low for the past several years but have risen a fair bit since the November election. “Rising interest rates will affect a broad range of financial products, from savings account and home mortgage rates to the performance of certain classes of stocks and bonds,” he says.

Woodard adds that uncertainty is part of the investing puzzle, and investors frequently pay an outsized price for certainty: “By the time the coast is clear on an issue, it’s entirely possible that a lot of the investment opportunity related to that issue has already been realized.”

Dealing with Directives

The beginning of a new year is a good time to consider or review estate planning, says attorney Charles Evans of Kellogg and Evans, PA in Manteo.

“For those who have wills, you’ll want to be sure that nothing has to be changed, and for those who don’t have wills, it certainly should be something to consider. It definitely paves the way for a much easier transition and settlement process when someone dies.”

Evans says that it’s never too early to have a will or other directives drawn up. “Once you’re married, whatever age that occurs, you should definitely begin estate planning because of your spouse and minor children. In your will is where you name a guardian for your minor children.”

Other directives are also important to have in place. Advanced directives serve as a declaration of one’s desire for a natural death. A general healthcare power of attorney will designate a healthcare agent to make decisions for you when you are unable, a HIPAA release and authorization will allow your doctor to talk to someone other than you, and a legal power of attorney will allow someone to conduct your legal affairs if you are unable to do it yourself.

Insuring Your Future

At some point during 2017, homeowners are going to want to review their insurance policies. Jeffrey Aldridge of G.R. Little Agency, Inc. in Nags Head says the biggest thing to look for isn’t the market value.

“You want to be sure that the amount of coverage you have on a dwelling is enough to rebuild your home if it burns to the ground or is destroyed in a hurricane. It really has nothing to do with market or tax value. It’s not about what you can sell it for, but about what you can rebuild it for.”

Aldridge also suggests reviewing the liability portion to be sure you are comfortable with the amount of protection you have in the event that someone is injured on your property. Another key section of the policy to review is related to jewelry. “Be sure to have valuable jewelry appraised and scheduled so that if you lose that diamond, you are covered.”

Financing 101

Experts recommend a financial check-up in the beginning of the year as a good way to be sure you are on track financially.

Bank of America suggests the following steps to saving money in the new year:

- Keep track of how much you spend on a monthly basis. Use credit card or bank statements to help with this.

- Make a monthly budget. Don’t forget to factor in expenses that don’t occur on a monthly basis, such as car maintenance.

- Factor in savings. Aim to save 10 to 15 percent of your income. Choose something to save for, both in the short term and long term, so that you have a goal. Examples of a short-term goal could be a down payment on a new car, while a long-term goal may be saving for your child’s education. After you’ve identified your goals, prioritize them.

- Decide what tools will work best with your goals, such as savings accounts, money market accounts, stocks or mutual funds.

- Finally, make your saving automatic by having it direct deposited from your checking account.

Learn Something New

“Whether one’s goal is a new career, job skills enhancement or just wanting to learn a new hobby, COA can meet your needs,” says Sherri May, coordinator of the Workforce Development and Continuing Education Department at COA’s Roanoke Island campus. “Our offerings in computer skills can prepare you for any job where computer skills are needed. And we offer Quickbooks and Excel, along with web design to enhance any computer skills you may already have.”

May says courses like HVAC, Welding, Basic Electricity and Nurse Aide can lead to new job opportunities. The department also offers a new Hospitality and Tourism Certification program.

Just-for-fun classes include pottery, belly dance, exercise, Spanish, videography, Russian, a variety of arts classes and much more.

Most eight-week courses cost about $70, and fees can be waived in some classes for those who are unemployed.

For more information, visit albemarle.edu.

Help Others

Beach Food Pantry Executive Director Theresa Armendarez works with many volunteers throughout the year and says the key to incorporating volunteerism into your life is to first find an organization that is meaningful to you.

Once you’ve decided on an organization, she says, “Make it part of your routine – choose a day and time and go on a weekly basis. If you volunteer less frequently – do it with others – friends, family or colleagues.”

Armendarez says that volunteering benefits everyone in the community. “Volunteers meet others with similar interests, and their experience and skills may benefit the greater community as they learn firsthand about an issue that they are interested in and how their local community is addressing it.”

She adds that volunteers also gain an understanding of how volunteering plays an important part in helping the organization achieve its mission. Not to mention, she adds, it’s enjoyable for the volunteer. She said she hears from the pantry volunteers over and over again about how fun it is and how happy it makes them to help.

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