As we get set to shake off the pandemic and move forward with hope, it’s a good time to reflect on how we can improve our lives. Annelise Piers, a qualified Hatha and Yin yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance USA and a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) master practitioner and trainer, shares with us how to do that by embracing good habits and setting the right pace for ourselves for 2021. Annelise uses a potent mix of NLP and Yin yoga to coach leaders in corporate and women's health interventions.

2020 has been a tough year for all of us. While many people used the changes to their advantage, a lot of people were adversely impacted. Keeping this in mind, how should people set their priorities? What approach to resolutions should they take this year?

2020 has been hard for most of us. My uncle lost his battle to COVID-19 and another family member is still dealing with post-COVID challenges. But I've taught myself to be an optimist. It’s not a sense of false positivity, but faith that everything is working out for my good.

I don't make “resolutions” but I have a resolve, that BIG calling in my heart that I work toward. Focusing the mind on what you’re drawn to and letting life work through you beats making a list of shoulds and must nots.

It starts with detailing what your ideal day is like. What you see, hear, taste, smell and feel in different areas of your life: health, relationships, career, finances, etc. Get clarity on what you are doing specifically to attain the life that you desire. Then find out why this is important to you and good for everyone in your life. The HOW will follow.

For most people, the past year has been a challenging one, professionally. How can we balance the pressure of work while taking care of our mental and physical well-being?

What works for me is planning: Having a great big visual calendar that shows me how my day, week and month look. Blocks of time for me, my family and quality work. Spaces for breath. A great mantra I follow is to “keep the main thing, the main thing.” If anything that's claiming your time isn't taking you closer to your goal, it's not a priority.

Learning how to say “no” is also an art. It’s important for us to look at our beliefs around our current behavior and our underlying fears. Write down your thoughts about this and question them from a neutral party’s perspective.

For example:
Limiting belief: I can’t say “no” to those in authority.
Questions to challenge this belief: What if you did? What would happen if you kept saying “yes”?

How can mindfulness help us in our personal and professional lives?

Mindfulness can be different things to different people. Some engage in targeted mindfulness practices and others build it into their everyday life, being aware of everything in the present moment.

If the past nine months has taught us anything, it's that stress can sneak up on us and it wears many disguises. Our adrenal glands are so overworked, often unable to distinguish real threats from the imagined. Even a five-minute quietening of the mind at different times of the day can help ease stress and improve focus.

Journaling can help calm the noise in your head and give you perspective.

Take a few moments out between tasks to do nothing.

My third hack is a few gentle Yin yoga poses. Yin is a form of yoga with longer-held poses that can release tension in the tissues and emotions.

My favorite “go-to” is sitting at my desk between Zoom calls and doing the “eagle arms.” I adjust my arms to find a juicy sensation in the shoulders and then gently focus on my breath. I settle into the pose for a minute and a half, releasing any muscular tension. As long as there's no pain, you've given yourself a deep release.

Another one is making a number 4 with my legs as I sit through long training calls to release the tightness in my glutes.

“Yoga Nidra” is a mindfulness tool to help bring more of intentionality to life. There are some great nidras on YouTube and many good yoga teachers offer online nidras.

Most professionals set annual goals for themselves with an aim for career growth. How does one adapt and adjust their goals without losing hope, when an unforeseen hurdle leads to a setback?

Neuro-linguistic programming is a great tool that helps one reprogram the way one thinks and find more choices.

I had plans for 2020—to travel to different yoga hubs and work from there. Come March, I realized I had to change gears. I signed up with a yoga platform that had begun to offer free classes to help people during the pandemic. I picked up pace on my online course and launched it in May.

I’ve done EXACTLY what I wanted to do… it was just a different path.

Your advice for those who want to improve their lives in some way this year…

Start with the questions:

What do I want?
What do I want to feel more of in 2021?
How do I want to be this year?
Whom do I want to be around?
What do I want to do more?
How do I want to spend my time?
What do I want to learn?
What do I want to stop doing?
What’s my ideal day, week, month, year like?

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