January 10, 2019

Health and wellness in 2019

UC Davis Health chief wellness officer offers tips for self-care


Although they’re everywhere at the moment, no one likes New Year’s resolutions. They’re cliché, sometimes annoying and they don’t work because, let’s face it, most of us ignore them after a few days. Still, climbing out of the holidays and turning a page on the calendar does give us a chance to reset.

"As we look ahead into 2019, this is a great time to think about ways to take care of ourselves, both physically and emotionally," said Peter Yellowlees, chief wellness officer at UC Davis Health and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "I’ve seen that staying healthy means more than just a better lifestyle for you, it can mean better relationships and connections with friends, colleagues and family."

Yellowlees offers a few tips for taking care of yourself. They are decidedly not resolutions or demanding goals, they’re simply guidelines to help you live healthier, happier lives.

  • Regularly take some time out for yourself. It’s too easy to put other tasks and concerns ahead of your own wellbeing, especially when you’re busy. Get used to taking time for yourself and it will become a natural, comfortable respite.
  • Also take time to stay in the moment. Deliberately focus on the sights, sounds and smells around you and concentrate on them. Get used to enjoying your surroundings rather than looking at your device or another distraction or thinking about plans and obligations. If you’re walking through a park, enjoy the landscape, not your phone’s screen. Even walking to work from the car or bus can be a “moment.” It may take a bit of practice, but it’s a nice way to reorient and focus yourself, particularly if you’re feeling stressed or are about to do something hard.
  • Exercise regularly. Walk, run, swim or play a sport you enjoy. Keeping physically fit is good for your mental health, too. Something so simple as a walk around your neighborhood is very useful, and can create great “stay-in-the-moment” time, too.
  • Give to others. Helping people in need and contributing to worthy causes are great ways to feel better about yourself and can remind us all how lucky we are compared with many other people.
  • Don’t avoid problems, engage them. Focus on possible solutions, not the barriers. It’s so much healthier for us to try to resolve an issue, even if it’s just taking small steps. Putting off decisions or actions that you know you’ll have to do eventually leads to more stress. Addressing problems, even with those small steps, prevents them from eating at you or feeling unsolvable.
  • Say “no” to things that you don’t want to do. You can’t please everyone, so don’t try at your own detriment. We all need to set boundaries in our lives – even if that means turning down social invitations from people you care about. Monitor yourself and your feelings about how much you’re taking on and whether it’s too much. Besides giving you space to breathe, you’ll find that people understand when you have to say “no.”

"I work in health care, and we are often the last people we look after, an irony that can actually hurt our job performance," Yellowlees said. "That’s a reality no matter what you do. So many of us in all fields tend to put everyone and every task ahead of our own wellbeing – often increasing the stress we feel, which spreads to be more stress on colleagues, family and friends."

Yellowlees reminds us that taking care of yourself also means you're taking care of the people in your life, which is a pretty good direction for starting a year – especially since it’s not a resolution.

"Here’s to a year filled with good health for everyone." he said.