Next Gen: Healthy habits for the New Year

By Susanna Barbee | Jan 01, 2014

Through the years, I’ve read time and time again that exercise helps decrease anxiety and depression, so then I wonder why when I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I work out less.

When life is sailing right along happily and cheerfully, I exercise more. It’s a strange sort of self-imposed catch 22. And one that is not working for me at all.

For my family, our community and the world in general, 2013 was not an easy year. I had a parent suffering from two types of cancer, a father-in-law who passed away and a mother-in-law who cracked her vertebrae during an accident and had to wear a neck brace for three months.

Dear friends and colleagues here in Haywood County suddenly passed away leaving the rest of us in shock and utter grief. I could keep going, but there’s no need to remind everyone of our individual heartbreaks. We think of them daily.

I bought a pair of tennis shoes last May and before Dec. 18, I had worn them twice. Twice! Once was at the Power of Pink Run at MedWest and the other was to walk around the track for 20 minutes while my 4-year old took swim lessons. So essentially, from May to December, I “worked out” twice.

I was exercising some in my daily routine walking around our neighborhood, playing with my two boys, and being active in general, but I was not exercising in a way that was elevating my heart rate or generating any blood flow.

As someone who once ran every day and who grew up snowboarding and taking gymnastics, I know what it feels like to exert oneself to exhaustion, to wake up the next day appreciating the soreness in every muscle. Until last month, that was something I had not felt in a very long time.

Though it was going to be a New Year’s resolution, we decided to go ahead and buy a gym membership just before Christmas. During the week leading up to Christmas and the week after, I worked out more than I had the entire previous year. After one boot camp class, I was sore for four days, and it felt wonderful.

As we all know, when mom feels good, everyone feels good. To be the best mom I can be and because I can’t foresee the stressful situations that life will present, this gal has decided to take some action and hit the gym, run around the lake, do Pilates in the living room floor, whatever it takes.

Unlike adults, children possess an innate ability to stay active, even if it’s just chasing one another around the house with wrapping paper rolls or riding bikes in circles around the basement. The boys will take some classes at the Fitness Center and I of course will be taking them outside to play if the weather is not bitterly cold, but really, it’s the adults in our family that need to exercise more.

Along with exercising, I have changed what and how I eat. I feel much more energetic when I limit carbohydrates and sugars, so limiting carbs and maintaining strict portion control are two things I plan to do more. With two small boys and a husband who eats a traditional diet, it would be challenging to change up the meal plans too much.

We already have the requirements of serving fruit and vegetables with every meal, drastically limiting sweets, and only drinking milk, juice, or water. We eat pretty healthy most of the time, but there’s always room for improvement.

Stress is a given, and it’s apparently here to stay. Instead of lamenting it, I’ve decided to combat it. Over the past two months, I’ve already seen what exercise can do for my mood. It’s been a drastic change for the better. I also know that what I put into my body significantly affects how my body reacts to situations; therefore, how much and what I eat will also be changing.

I know New Year’s resolutions can be lame and often remain unresolved, but if you do make any, let them be for your health. Your future self will thank you.

Susanna Barbee is a Waynesville mom, writer and educator. Find more on her blog, Reach her at