New Year’s resolutions losing steam? (Or maybe you didn’t make any to begin with?) As we come to the end of a long, cold January, it’s not too late to make a fresh start. From ways to be brave to where to find support, here are 25 simple, mostly-local tips to help you look, feel, and be your best—or at least make it through the winter.
By Samantha Baars, Tami Keaveny, Laura Longhine, Erin O’Hare, Lisa Provence, and Susan Sorensen
Be a kid again
A room with wall-to-wall trampolines and a massive foam pit isn’t just your childhood fantasy—it’s a spot that exists in town, called Jump, and you don’t have to wear pigtails or watch cartoons to qualify for admission. And don’t overlook Decades Arcade, where you’ll find dozens of old-school pinball machines with high scores ready to be beaten. The
bevy of board games up for grabs at family-friendly brew houses like Champion and Kardinal Hall aren’t just reserved for the rugrats, either. And although a bit of your childhood died along with Toys ‘R’ Us last year, Shenanigans on
West Main and Alakazam on the Downtown Mall are still full of fun. That’s right, take a moment to feel the unbridled joy of squishing that glittery silly putty on the display table between your full-grown fingers. After all, you deserve it.
Do something that scares you
When Eleanor Roosevelt said you should do one thing every day that scares you, she wasn’t talking about seeing the latest installment of Halloween or going skydiving. Roosevelt wanted people to get out of their comfort zones and confront their everyday fears. Simple courage, the former first lady knew, takes practice. And with that in mind, here are some suggestions for being brave this year:
Talk to a stranger. Ride a Bird (or a Lime). Speak up at a City Council meeting. Ignore your cell phone. Audition for a play at Live Arts. Throw a block party. Ask for a raise. Start your novel or memoir with a class at WriterHouse. Travel alone. Take dancing lessons at Ix or Carver Rec. And maybe hug that guy on the Downtown Mall.
Need a wilder life? Communing with nature can be uplifting for the senses and the psyche. Luckily, we’re never far from a trail, hike, or nature class.
City dwellers have easy access to the Rivanna Trail’s 20-mile loop, while out in the county it’s possible to climb to a breathtaking view on the Turk Mountain trail in less than an hour. And if you want to drill down on what kinds of wood the woodpeckers in our region are pecking, the Ivy Creek Foundation offers classes on bird-watching and tree identification.
At Monticello, you can join a group to watch the sunrise from one of the estate’s ascending paths, and in Shenandoah National Park, rangers will lead you through fields full of wildflowers in spring, and amateur astronomers will help you identify stars and meteor showers in summer.
For women who prefer to honor themselves and nature while staying in place, the Women’s Initiative combines art and ecotherapy in classes that use wintertime quiet to rejuvenate the heart.
Set a functional fitness goal
New year, new you. Or so the advertisements promise. But when it comes to setting realistic fitness goals, we turned to Leanne Higgins, a personal trainer at ACAC. The key to success, says Higgins, is a “functional goal, something you’d like to do that you cannot do right now.” If you get winded climbing stairs, Higgins suggests short bouts of stair climbing every day, combined with leg exercises, which will “produce a measurable result: climbing stairs with ease.” A lot of people zero in on appearance and weight as measures of success, she says. “But if you focus on what your body can do, and work on what it cannot do, you will find the appearance and weight issues often fall into place.”
Know your neighbors
Sure, you wave to your neighbors from the car, but how well do you really know them? Colette Hall, a former president of the North Downtown Residents Association, says that whenever anyone new moves into her neighborhood, she drops off a note—and a sweet treat—with her and her husband’s contact information. “I only do this when I know they are home, so I can meet them in person,” she says. “This can be time-consuming, but it’s well worth it.”
It’s also worth it to chat with your neighbors while walking your dog or collecting the mail. Invite them to join you the next time you’re downing gin and tonics on the front porch. And if your neighborhood has an association, join it! You just might make your street a better place—and find a new friend or two in the process.
Now that you’ve settled in to 2019, it’s time to bust out of your everyday routine—and getting out of town is one of the best ways to leave your ordinary behind. When you take a trip, you step “into a whole other experience, whether it’s a relaxing getaway that allows for time to think, breathe, and reflect at a slower pace, or an adventure to a foreign land where life might look, sound, smell, and feel entirely different,” says Julie Arbelaez of Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters.
But it’s not just the adventure itself that’ll shake things up. “The idea of the trip, the planning and anticipation, can create a sense of movement in our lives that creates change,” Arbelaez says, adding that places both near and far can be inspiring.
If hopping on an airplane isn’t in your future, the staff at New Dominion Bookshop reminds you that when you read, you can cross centuries and continents without leaving your living room. “Inhabiting someone else’s life, even if imaginary, exercises the part of your brain that encourages empathy,” says Sarah Crossland, the shop’s marketing director. That “can lead to stronger personal relationships and a compassionate approach to considering new perspectives.”
Studies have shown that trees, especially in urban areas, can increase your physical and emotional well-being. So take a step against climate change and plant one yourself.
You can find tips on selecting, planting, and caring for your tree at charlottesvilleareatreestewards.org—the organization also offers free classes and guided tree walks.
Find your people
Dr. Seuss famously asked, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” But most of us understandably flourish when we find a pack of other weirdos just like us. Are you into English country dancing? There’s a club for that in Charlottesville. Adult anime? There’s a club for that, too. And if you’re tired of knitting alone in your recliner, bring those needles and that ball of yarn to The Women’s Initiative’s semi-regular knitting circle (or to others at the public library and local yarn shops). Where else can you find your people? Let CvilleCalendar.com be your compass.
Eating well and eating out tend to be opposite goals, but Jessica Clements, a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist at Bill Burnett’s Success Studio, says there are ways to do both. Here’s her cheat sheet for local faves—and don’t forget the farmers’ markets!
Bodo’s Bagels: It’s a staple of C’ville, so my tip is to build your own lunch-type sandwich for breakfast. Load it up with turkey and hummus for satiating protein, and add watercress to boost nutrients like vitamin K and antioxidants. It’s guaranteed to keep you full longer than your usual go-to breakfast.
Brazos Tacos: Go for breakfast, where you can get the Flora taco: scrambled eggs, sautéed spinach, black beans, queso fresco, and roasted tomato. A delicious and satisfying start to the day with protein, fiber, and nutrient-rich veggies.
Citizen Burger: Everyone loves a burger, but to cut the saturated fat, try an alternative to beef. Start with the locally made whole wheat bun, add a chicken or turkey burger, lettuce, avocado, tomato, and mustard or a small amount of their garlic aioli or sriracha mayo (you’re saving some calories and fat on the burger so you can spare a few with the sauce). Then choose the side salad instead of fries.
Three Notch’d Brewing Company: You can’t go out on the town in Charlottesville without spending time at one of the local breweries. At Three Notch’d, you can get a wonderful plate of hummus with pita, cucumber, and carrots. It’s a healthy way to snack while partaking in some local libations.
Beer Run: While on the subject of beer, Beer Run is a place in town where you can get pretty much any beer that suits your fancy—and they have great food too. The Verdura Rustica Plate is healthy and delicious. It’s mostly grilled vegetables including eggplant, radicchio, and local squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach on top of organic brown rice sprinkled with mozzarella and drizzled with basil-parsley olive oil. I’d call that five serving of veggies for the day! Even if you aren’t a practicing vegetarian, this dish is so hearty you won’t miss the meat.
Albemarle Baking Company: No one wants to skip dessert. While it’s never really nutritious for you, moderation is the key. ABC has a ginger molasses cookie that’s scrumptious. The ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, and the molasses is rich in vitamins and minerals. So they’re practically a health food (wink).
Take a deep breath
Feeling stressed? Take a moment to focus on your breath, says Hot Yoga Charlottesville instructor Julia Gilchrist. Slowing the breath, particularly exhales, calms the nervous system and lowers heart rate and blood pressure.
Here’s how: Any time you can steal a moment, “sit in stillness and listen to your breath. Inhale through the nose for a count of four and exhale through the mouth for a count of six. Hold empty for two seconds, then take another round of breath.”
After six to 10 rounds, close your eyes and notice how you feel. Chances are, you’ll feel better.
The technique is a good way to calm yourself down in tough moments, Gilchrist says—whether you’re wigging out over a deadline, having an emotional day, or stressed about locking the keys in the car (again).
Get enough sleep
For an adult, the sweet spot is somewhere between seven and eight hours a night, according to Dr. Chris Winter, a nationally recognized sleep expert and founder of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine. Make sure you’re going to bed at a decent time, and if necessary, set an alarm to remind you that, as fascinating as that Candy Crush game is, it’s 10:30pm and you need to go to bed.
If obeying your bedtime isn’t always an option, or if you had a particularly long night, Winter suggests thinking about your sleep as the need to rack up about 50 hours each week. Have to kick off the covers uber early to meet a deadline at work? No sweat, he says. Take a nap that evening, or use the weekend to catch a few extra Zzzs.
Inevitably when you’re in resting-face mode, someone—grandma, a photographer, or a random passerby—will urge you to smile. These cheerleaders may not realize that your clenched lips are masking a cosmetic dental issue. But don’t be afraid to say “Aaah!” because Dr. Jody Yeargan, of Yeargan Family Dental Care, says there are a lot of options.
“Yes, your teeth can be brighter,” says Yeargan. “And I also discuss what orthodontics would do in terms of moving one’s teeth to a more aesthetic position.” He’s been offering the Invisalign brand for years, and says, “it’s my go-to.” As for the mail-order smile equipment, that “may not work as well because the client doesn’t know what to ask for”—talk to your dentist first.
Of course Yeargan’s main focus is maintaining oral health. In addition to having healthier gums, and teeth less prone to tooth decay, he says people with good oral care tend to be a little more successful. And don’t skimp on flossing. “If you’re only brushing your teeth, then you are only cleaning half of them,” says Yeargan.
Delving into your past on a therapist’s couch isn’t the only way to feel better: In equine-assisted therapy, experts connect you with a horse to ride and care for, to improve both your physical and emotional health.
Ride With Pride at Cedar Creek Stables uses innovative programs like Whoa-ga (horse riding and yoga) and cowboy poetry to help a range of clients including traumatized youth, veterans, and people with physical handicaps.
Program Director Kelsey Lasher says “the relationship that naturally develops between the rider and the horse, and the requirement for providing care for the animal, fosters responsibility, independence, self-esteem, and trust.”
Reduce your carbon footprint
You don’t have to be a superhero to save the world. Local environmentalist Anna Bella Korbatov, who chairs the Cville100 Climate Coalition, offers 12 tips for small ways you can make a big difference:
1. Eat a whole-food, plant-based diet with less meat. Korbatov cites a recent study that found that if every American substituted beans for beef, that alone could bring the U.S. close to its goal of a 17 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2020.
2. Reduce your food waste by freezing fruit and vegetable “odds and ends,” such as strawberry leaves or vegetable peels, to make vegetable stocks or enhance smoothies and salads. Or try composting.
3. Use reusable water bottles, grocery bags, food storage containers, and produce bags.
4. Opt for laptops over desktop computers—they use only a third to a fourth of the energy.
5. Unplug! “Vampire power is a real thing, and it’s scary,” says Korbatov. Plugged in devices suck up electricity even when turned off.
6. Invest in energy-saving light control strategies. New innovations include occupancy/vacancy settings, systems that dim the lights when daylight is available, and plug load controls.
7. Use blinds and curtains to decrease cooling costs in the summer and heating costs in winter.
8. Use sleep settings, built-in timers, and energy-saving modes on appliances.
9. Line dry your clothes.
10. Take showers instead of baths.
11. Wash your clothes with cold water—and while you’re at it, buy fewer of them, and only clean ’em when they’re dirty. Clothes are increasingly being made of plastics such as nylon, acrylic, and polyester, she says, so opt for natural fibers such as cotton, wool, and hemp.
12. Take your car to the shop for regular maintenance, use the eco setting if it has one, make sure your tires are properly inflated.
Take some me time
You cannot pour from an empty vessel.
It may sound cliché, but it’s true, says Debbie Miller, a certified professional life coach with Timbermountain Coaching (and C-VILLE’s CFO). And modern life, with all of the professional, personal, and social stressors we encounter daily, can be a serious drain.
Miller says that self-care is an important part of keeping the vessel—one’s emotional reserves—full. And it can be accomplished in small ways.
It starts with figuring out what feeds you emotionally, she says. Think about an activity, or a place, where you feel emotionally satisfied. Where you feel calm, relaxed, joyful—what is that activity? Where is that place?
Maybe it’s listening (and only listening) to a piece of music every day. Maybe it’s cooking, cuddling on the couch with your dog, or watching two hours of an old-school sci-fi TV show. Maybe (gasp!) you love your job.
If you’re not sure what feeds you, just try something. If it turns out that sitting on a park bench with birdsong in your ears and sun beaming on your face doesn’t feel good to you, try something else. If it does feel good, find a way to do it more (maybe even set a reminder on your iCal).
Miller emphasizes that there’s often a lot of fuel in simple things like taking a walk, savoring a square of chocolate, or inviting a friend over to share a meal.
By taking care of yourself in the ways you know you need (and minimizing your guilt about it), “you’re investing in yourself, so that you can be the best person you can be,” she says, and the benefits of that are many. You’ll be more productive at work, feel more balanced in your life, and perhaps best of all, says Miller, your relationships will be better, because your proverbial vessel will have plenty for pouring.
Skate your troubles away
With free skates, irresistible dance hits, and a relaxed, family-friendly vibe, there’s no better place to find some joy than roller skating at Carver Rec. Skating is free and open to the public on Fridays from 5-7pm, as well as Sunday afternoons from 1-5. Coast around the gym and channel your carefree younger self (bur remember your wrist guards!).
Thinking about going to therapy, but not sure where to start? Judith Carlisle, a licensed counselor, trauma specialist, and life coach with Thriveworks Charlottesville, says many practices offer a range of therapists with different backgrounds, specialties, and approaches, and it’s okay to shop around. “Therapists are never hurt if someone comes to see them and doesn’t think it’s a good fit,” she says. She recommends that clients try out a few different practitioners. Look for someone you connect with, where you “feel safe in the room.”
That said, if you’ve tried several therapists and don’t feel a strong connection, choose the one that seems like the best fit, and be patient with yourself. “Connections in life are built over time,” Carlisle notes. But it’s worth the effort, not only for those dealing with trauma, but for anyone who wants to grow: Therapy is a place where you can be safe enough to find your own voice, Carlisle says. “It’s really a luxury.”
Be a mentor
The United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area is volunteer central. Its website—cvillevolunteer.org—lists organizations that need help and Caroline Emerson, VP of community engagement, encourages wannabe mentors to come into the United Way office on East High Street. They know where immediate needs are and can help set you up with organizations, including Book Buddies, Literacy Volunteers, the Adult Learning Center, and many others. “We are very happy to work with people,” says Emerson.
Find a mentor
The United Way can help you with that, too, says Emerson. Agencies known for mentoring adults include Literacy Volunteers and SCORE Central Virginia, which matches entrepreneurs with mentors who can give business advice.
Hunching over the computer? If you catch yourself in a literal slump, Robin Truxel, certified pilates instructor and owner of TruPILATES, who also holds a master’s degree in physical therapy, suggests this quick move:
Uncross your legs. Feel your feet connecting to the floor, and feel your butt bones connecting to your chair. Visualize the crown of your head reaching up toward the sky, taking your spine with it. (Take care not to perch on the front of your butt bones or thrust your ribcage forward.) Enjoy the feeling for five to 10 full breaths, a few times a day.
Truxel says this should feel good—if it doesn’t (maybe because of rigid hip flexors and/or back muscles) it could be time to visit your doctor or a chiropractor to see what’s up.
Everyone knows you can get books, CDs, and DVDs from the public library. But there’s a whole lot more on offer.
Charlottesville’s downtown branch has just introduced “health kits” and “maker kits” that come with both equipment and instructions that you can take home for three weeks at a time. “Getting started with yoga,” for example, includes a yoga mat, block, strap, DVD, and instructional materials. Maker kits include knitting, embroidery, calligraphy, and more. Parents can check out toys, free passes to the Virginia Discovery Museum, or a parking pass good for any Virginia state park, along with a backpack filled with pocket naturalist guides.
Staff at every branch can proctor exams or notarize documents for free, and can provide one-on-one tech training, says reference librarian Abbie Cox. At the downtown branch you can also digitize your photos, negatives, slides, and audio or VHS tapes, all for free by appointment.
From the library’s website, you can download e-books and audiobooks onto your phone, and access databases for language learning, investment news, auto repair, and much more. Use the “What Do I Read Next?” page to get personalized book recommendations based on your reading interests.
Finally, don’t forget all the in-person classes and events at every branch—including books clubs for all ages, crafting groups, movie nights, story times, and special events, from a discussion on homebrewing at the Crozet branch to a stuffed animals sleepover at Gordon Avenue. Pick up a program guide at any branch or go to jmrl.org.
“Fashion you can buy, but style you possess,” American style icon Iris Apfel told Elle in 2013. “The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There’s no how-to road map to style. It’s about self-expression and, above all, attitude.” So whatever it is you wear, whether it’s a thrift store dress, a worn T-shirt, a three-piece suit, hospital scrubs, or steel-toed boots, it seems that the secret to wearing your clothes could be, well, you.
Get some (parenting) support
Caring for young children can be exhausting and isolating, especially if you don’t have family around to help. Parent groups can help provide support. The Women’s Initiative offers a free, parent-to-parent discussion group on Tuesday evenings, for parents with children of all ages. There’s also a Monday morning group for moms with babies.
Co-op preschools, where parents are partners in running the school, can be a great way to meet and bond with other parents, and Charlottesville has two: Chancellor Street and Molly Michie.
Downtown favorite Bend Yoga offers support for new moms (like postnatal yoga classes and a free lactation group) as well as parent-child classes. And dads can find each other through groups like Dads with Diaper Bags, on meetup.com. Parenting is tough—don’t do it alone!
Pay yourself first, says financial adviser David Marotta. That means putting money into savings, something not enough people do.
Automating makes it easier, and he suggests putting your paycheck into a savings or brokerage account and withdrawing what you need to spend for the month, rather than depositing it into checking where it’s more likely to evaporate. He also suggests increasing contributions if you have a 401(k) with your employer. “While saving is good, saving and investing are what it takes to build wealth.”
Before you can do that, you’ve got to get rid of debt, the bane of financial well-being. Marotta says those who carry credit card debt owe $9,300, on average.
Financial columnist Michelle Singletary advises debtors to list everything they owe and pay off the card with the smallest balance first, because it’s motivation to pay off the rest.
One other tip from Marotta: Cancel a subscription. “Cable just costs too much.”
Know your city better
In Charlottesville, City Council meetings have become a spectator sport. Held on the first and third Mondays of the month, they’re mandatory for an engaged and vocal group of regulars, and must-see entertainment for others. The public is welcome to attend the 6:30pm meetings in City Hall, or you can watch from home on Charlottesville TV10, or through the TV10 Facebook page.
Watch councilors who have admitted their dislike and distrust of each other try to do the people’s business. Watch speakers castigate councilors during public comment, and councilors sometimes snap back (ahem, Wes Bellamy). And wonder which of three incumbents—Bellamy, Kathy Galvin and Mike Signer—will skip reelection announcements and say, “I’ve had enough.”
Not that the circus-like atmosphere has discouraged candidates. So far at least six people have declared they’re running, and if you have lived in the city a year, you can, too. It takes 125 signatures to get on the ballot; get started by checking in with the city registrar’s office.
Want to start smaller? Charlottesville has open positions on 14 boards and commissions, and City Council is accepting applications through February 21. The Housing Advisory Committee, Human Rights Commission, and Police Civilian Review Board all are looking for citizens to participate—find out more on the city’s website, charlottesville.org, where you can also learn about and give your feedback on the city budget.
Outside of the city, Albemarle County lists 22 boards with openings. And if you live in the White Hall, Scottsville, or Rivanna districts, there are open seats on the Board of Supervisors. The meetings aren’t as contentious as in the city, and because the supes meet in the afternoon, you’ll be home well before midnight.
If politics isn’t your style, there are plenty of opportunities to learn more about our town. The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society hosts lectures, tours, and Third Fridays talks, with upcoming discussions on the history of housing in February and eugenics in April. Monticello and the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center are also places to go to learn more about the area’s not-always-stellar history.