Are you ready? 1994 means you get another chance to mend your ways

January 01, 1994|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

What new year starts without a mythical to-do list? We'll eat less, exercise more, save money, spend time with the kids, attend church, clean out the garage, get a better job, discipline ,, the dog and vacation in Europe.

Whew. No wonder most of us nap or watch a bowl game today. Resolutions, like juicy secrets, are tough to keep.

But rather than giving in to slovenly predilections, it's possible to find a new, improved you buried beneath all those bad habits.

In the spirit of the day, we consulted pros in various fields -- including health, finance and fitness -- for their best advice on how to lead a better life in 1994. Skip the pie-in-the-sky plans, we said, and offer instead guidance about how we can spend the next 365 days doing more, looking better and being happier.

Keeping your head on straight

Had it with feeling stressed, burned-out or angry?

To get mentally healthy, Towson psychologist Janan Broadbent recommends taking a realistic look at changes you want to make and breaking them down into small steps.

* Focus on what's important and force yourself to look at positive as well as negative aspects of your life.

* Balance time for yourself with time for other people. This serves as a bridge to your inner and outer world.

* Be sensible. Eat right, rest and exercise to better cope with stress.

* Take five minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon to anchor yourself in the day.

* Consider paying someone to do things you dislike, such as shoveling snow or cleaning house. If you can't afford it, try to turn those chores into family activities.

* Pick one small thing that makes you feel good and try to do it every day. It may be listening to music, taking a bubble bath or walking the dog. Little pleasures can help you cope with bigger problems.

* Accept that risk and failure are a part of life. Mentally healthy people take chances and are not devastated when they don't succeed. Allow yourself to define risk-taking, though. For one person, that may mean investing thousands in the stock market, while for another, it could be saying hello to a stranger at a party.

Navigating the money maze

With holiday credit card bills looming, it's useful to take a financial inventory, says Lee Warner, president and chief executive officer of the Warner Companies, financial planning services in Timonium.

Because many consider making a budget as appealing as visiting the dentist, Mr. Warner suggests giving yourself an incentive. Agree to spend a certain amount of time -- several hours usually -- writing down savings, investments, debts and monthly expenses. Then take a break. Computer aficionados may want to buy a personal finance program that lets you simply plug in the numbers.

Or if you really need help, consider hiring a professional. Nothing gets you more serious about tracking your cash flow than paying $35 to $200 an hour for it.

The sore spots in most budgets: underestimating, by as much as 60 percent, what is spent on entertainment, clothing and vacations.

Other smart financial moves for 1994 include:

* Reducing credit card bills.

* Accumulating 3 to 6 months of your budget in savings.

* Reviewing insurance policies to make sure you're not paying for what you don't need or lacking what you do.

To stick with the plan, Mr. Warner says, "Reward yourself. Some people say, 'If we can save $1,000, we'll treat ourselves to dinner.' "

Here's looking at you

Never mind baby doll dresses, wafer-thin models and crew-cut hairdos.

More than ever, men and women are ignoring runway trends and developing their own style, says Ruth Shaw, owner of the Cross Keys store that bears her name.

"Keep it simple," she says. "The days of someone going out and buying an outfit with the matching pocketbook and shoes and little coat are gone. If people want to look good and be modern, they have to develop a different attitude about clothing."

Stick to several basic colors -- such as black, white, navy and beige -- and use reds, browns and other shades as accents. Avoid buying seasonal clothes. "Clothes cost more money today. You should get a lot of mileage out of them," she says.

But store manager Ray Mitchener cautions against letting boredom creep into your wardrobe. He sees too many women refusing to try anything new. "Take a chance. Be risky. Clothing should be fun. It should give you a big boost," he says.

Whatever you do, though, remember your head and feet.

Ms. Shaw hates to see women buy one pair of shoes to wear with everything. Or, she says, "They'll buy expensive clothing and forget they're wearing a hairdo from their prom 20 years ago."

Bypassing the burn

The buzzword in fitness these days is moderation. After years of going for the burn, Americans are discovering exercising regularly and reasonably is the way to good health, says Roger Ralph, co-owner of the Bel Air Fitness Club.

"People are less enamored of showing off their muscles and more enamored of feeling good inside," he says.

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