10 tips for an emotionally healthy new year

Wellness expert/personal trainer/nutrition coach, Josette Puig, giving a group fitness class. (Courtesy Josette Puig)

Wellness expert/personal trainer/nutrition coach, Josette Puig, giving a group fitness class. (Courtesy Josette Puig)

It’s a brand new year, and you are anxious to start 2013 with vigor, but there’s a small problem –you’re feeling sluggish after about a month straight of holiday parties, drinking, and not eating right.

Not to worry; here comes wellness expert and author of “Frumpy to Fabulous: One Change a Week to a Healthier You,” Josette Puig, to the rescue. She says emotional health and energy are intrinsically tied to your overall health, as well as what you eat.

“People are so overwhelmed with so many diets, they don’t realize processed food is making them ill,” says Puig, whose own doctor gave her antidepressants before she learned it was processed foods and sugar which were making her feel unstable.

What inspired Puig to write her book was the frustration of seeing others not know how to eat as well — depriving themselves entirely of carbohydrates and meat. She recommends doing one change a week to improve your physical and emotional health.

Here are her 10 tips to an emotionally healthy year:

1. The most important thing to do first is detox. — Cut out sugar, processed foods and alcohol from your diet for a good month, at least. They are depressants, physically and mentally; they suppress your immune system. Puig recommends Stevia if you need a sweetener, as it’s natural and it’s not going to harbor any sort of side effects like other sweeteners do. Certainly, if you can keep this up as a lifestyle, even better.

2. Start your day with a motivational quote. — Whether you stick them on your nightstand or your Facebook wall, it triggers something and changes your frame of mind. Puig says that’s one of the biggest things that have helped her, especially in becoming a motivator for others. You can subscribe to receive them daily in your e-mail, or even download a free app for your smartphone.

3. Exercise — even if for as little as 10 minutes. — It releases endorphins, and they make you happy. Ideally, it is great to do first thing in the morning to kick start your day, but get it in whenever you can get it in. Even if you turn on your radio while making dinner, that’s better than not doing anything at all. If you enjoy running, swimming — whatever you enjoy doing, that’s what you should do in order to keep it up.

4. Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up. — It can be something as simple as wheat toast with peanut butter. This will set your energy and pace for the day — not just physical, but emotional energy, too. If you start your day by skipping breakfast, all you are doing is slowing down your metabolism and your emotional energy, as well. If you are not hungry, that’s a huge sign that your metabolism has shut down and not working properly. Puig says it took her four months to get my metabolism working properly like a well-oiled machine. She says if you skip breakfast for long enough, you’re going to start storing fat in places you used to not store fat — this is a red flag.

5. Increase your Omega-3 intake. — This can be found in walnuts, avocados, olive oil and fish oils. Omega-3 helps with the brain, metabolism and helps you lose weight. Puig highly suggests fish oils before bed, as they will help you sleep and feel better. They also help people with depression, as they improve emotional energy.

6. Say “yes” to good carbs. — Make sure you have complex carbohydrates at breakfast, lunch and dinner. This includes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread – and then fit in your snacks with omega-3s in between. You want to stagger it to keep your energy stable all day long. This is better than having coffee and a doughnut for a midday snack, which will give you a sugar high and then crash. Puig maintains great energy the entire day by eating apple slices with natural almond butter, or avocado and sliced turkey roll-ups. As a national fitness competitor, she says she eats six to seven times a day — even Greek yogurt and an ounce of crushed walnuts and honey before bed — which helps her sleep better and helps keep her metabolism up.

7. Drink a lot of water. — The key is drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces of water. If you weigh 150 pounds, you need to be consuming 75 ounces of water. And drink more, if you are trying to lose weight. When people are tired, they think, ‘Let me eat a candy bar,’ but sometimes all they need is water. For every ounce of caffeinated beverage, you are taking away an ounce of water. It’s also great for your skin and relieves headaches.

8. Get rid of the deadweight friends. — Negative people can drag you down emotionally and be very draining. Determine who is anchoring you down, and your real friends pushing you forward. You have to take care of you first. Puig says she has had a better life after doing this and feels she’s setting an example to her four children. She says to surround yourself with positive people, because in this day and age no one is looking out for you but you.

9. Sleep. — So many people aren’t getting enough sleep and that affects their emotional well-being. Not many people know how to turn off the light and roll over anymore, causing them to burn out. Start turning the television off and putting your phone away an hour before bed. Puig says she has noticed her children unwind much better after doing this. She says it’s just a habit that most people have lost in this era of technology. Find something else to do to unwind like reading, meditating, or chatting with your spouse. Have some sort of routine to re-learn how to turn off the light and go to sleep.

10. Set short-term goals. — These help with emotional well-being. Puig says she lost 40 pounds in 2004, by setting short-term goals. She says making one change a week, such as doing pushups on her toes instead of her knees, helped her keep pushing herself. Two years later, she was in a fitness competition. For every day she works out, Puig also puts a dollar in a jar. With the money she saved at the end of the year, she was able to take herself on a cruise for her 40th birthday. It’s just a little thing to keep you going.

Originally published on NBCLatino.com.

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10 tips to follow before you do your taxes

(Photo/Getty Images)

(Photo/Getty Images)

Marianela del Pino-Rivera says Latinos have the tendency to get their taxes paid by “fulano de tal” who was recommended by their cousin’s friend’s brother. She says this is a no-no.

Del Pino-Rivera has more than 25 years of experience as a certified public accountant – advising clients on all aspects of accounting, taxation and financial management. She is on the Board of Directors of the Maryland Association of CPAs and received the Association’s Public Service Award in 2005 for her extensive work running a tutoring center in Old Bowie, MD. She says her passion is financial literacy for all, especially Latinos and youth, and she travels to local high schools, colleges, and women’s organizations to hold seminars on financial literacy and taxes.

Here are del Pino-Rivera’s top 10 tax tips so you can get your best return, the right way:

1.  Go to a reputable tax preparer. – Seek a CPA or an enrolled agent to assure proper training and continuing education. A CPA needs to pass a rigorous exam, obtain at least four-year college degree, and take 80 hours of continuing education every two years. An enrolled agent has passed an exam given by the IRS and must take 72 hours of continuing education every three years. Ask trusted friends and colleagues for recommendations or go to your state’s CPA society web page.

2.  Take advantage of employer retirement plan matches. – Many employers offer retirement plans and will contribute up to a certain percentage of your salary. Usually, you will get this match only if you have contributed a comparable amount. If you don’t contribute to the plan, you are leaving money on the table (sometimes up to 6 percent of your salary).

3.  In this difficult job market, take advantage of educational opportunities. – If your employer wants to send you for training, take advantage of the opportunity. Also, investigate whether your employer offers educational benefits (tax free payment of tuition). Even if your employer doesn’t pay, you may be eligible for the “lifetime learning tax credit” which can be up to 20 percent of the course fee (up to $2,000 per tax return). There are the requirements.

4.  Take advantage of Section 125 plans at work. – These allow you to set aside funds pre-tax to pay for child care expenses (up to $5,000) and un-reimbursed medical expenses. Budget carefully, since these plans are mostly “use it or lose it.”

5.  Health insurance deductions – If you are self-employed and paying for health insurance, you may deduct amounts paid for health insurance (including long-term care insurance) for yourself, spouse, dependents and children under age 27 (even if that child is not your dependent). The plan must be established under the business, and the business must generate net income to cover the expense. The health insurance also includes Medicare payments deducted from social security for a retired person who has their own business. For those in between jobs, who are doing freelance work (and are self-employed), being able to deduct their health insurance is a great tax break.

6.  Moving Expenses – You may be able to deduct expenses of moving, including your household goods and travel to a new home, if the move is a result of a new job location. There is a distance and time test to be met.

7.  Health Savings Account (HSA) to reduce the cost of health insurance – If medical premiums are very high, look into a high deductible medical plan combined with an HSA account. Health insurance is so expensive right now. Sometimes if you can deal with a higher deductible you can get a lower insurance. Set up the HSA account (like an IRA account) and combine it with high deductible medical plan, you can save a lot of money that way. Perfect for unemployed, freelancers and small business owners.

8.  For those that volunteer – If you itemize deductions and volunteer at a non-profit, keep track of your out of pocket expenses since these can be deducted as charitable donations. For example, if you volunteer at your church and buy food for the food pantry, or drive to deliver meals to the home bound, you can deduct the cost of the food purchase and 14 cents per mile for delivering the meals (you must keep the receipts and record of the miles driven). No deduction is allowed for the value of your time, the rewards for that are not reflected on your tax return.

9.  For caretakers of an elderly parent – If you provide more than half of your parent’s support, you may be able to claim the parent as a dependent, and you may qualify as head of household, if  you’re unmarried and meet the other tests. These breaks can help offset the financial burden of providing the care.

To claim a parent as a dependent, you must provide more than half of your parent’s support and your parent must have income of less than $3,700, (do not include the Social Security payments the parent receives). Also, your parent does not have to live with you. If you pay for home health care or adult day care costs, you can claim a dependent care tax credit. Also, you can include medical expenses paid for your parent along with their own medical expenses on Schedule A.

10. Contribute to an IRA – If you had a low earnings year and can afford it, look into the effect of making a contribution to an IRA for 2011 (you have until April 15, 2012 to fund it).

The tax credit is calculated based on a percentage of your retirement contributions. The maximum credit is $1,000 for unmarried filers and $2,000 for married filers. The percentage is determined by your adjusted gross income and your filing status and will be 10 percent, 20 percent or 50 percent. Not a bad rate of return! Have your tax preparer run the numbers before you make any contributions. I usually recommend a ROTH IRA to my clients in this situation.

Del Pino-Rivera recommends this link for financial literacy topics if you have more questions.

Originally published on NBCLatino.com