Get yourself fit for a year of challenges ahead

It's hard to stay focused on internal goals, when the external world intrudes so awkwardly

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The Independent Online

Ten days into the new year, and how's it going for you? Still not touched a drop of alcohol? Sticking to the 5:2 diet? Or have you gone all macrobiotic in the hope that you'll end up looking like Gwyneth Paltrow?

How are you finding those early-morning sessions in the gym? Detox? Green tea and psyllium husks? Or did the passing of the old year encourage you to re-assess your personal life? Have you sought to rekindle the fire in your relationships, just like Dave and Nick? The new you does take quite a commitment to maintain, particularly when the backdrop provided by what might be called real life is, depressingly, rather familiar. It's as if the world doesn't know we're now on a new page. Can you believe that it is only 16 days ago that we were looking forward to Christmas? That feeling of levity, jollity and frivolity is now but a distant memory, and in its place is something much less attractive: austerity, austerity and austerity.

While we were munching away on our eating and drinking sabbatical, even the dread fiscal cliff assumed almost mythological proportions, as if it were part of the landscape in The Hobbit, and although we may have been able to avoid the latest from the economic frontline over Christmas, we will find it less easy to sidestep its consequences as 2013 progresses.

Those who have travelled to work by train this week have already pushed closer towards their own precipice with some hefty price hikes, and the appearance of the Prime Minister and his civil partner this week to renew their vows with their talk of "economic challenges", "difficult decisions", and a "Ronseal deal" was a gloomy reminder that not only have we got to creosote that fence, but that more personal, financial pain is on the way. (By the way, on the subject of Ronseal, I would like to know what it actually said on the tin marked Coalition, given that, even according to their own audit, they have missed dozens of election pledges.)

No wonder so many people give up their new year regime before January is even out: it's hard to stay positive, and focused on internal goals, when the background noise of the external world intrudes so awkwardly. I did my first yoga class the other day, and apart from discovering that I have a quite astonishing lack of flexibility, I found the whispered exhortations to clear my mind and centre my energy rather difficult to achieve. Try as I did, I found it impossible to stop wondering about interest rates, what's going to happen to the property market, even the Leveson Inquiry. (It's not settled yet, plenty more discussions about self-regulation, and Hugh Grant on Newsnight, to come, I'm afraid.)

These are difficult times, and many experts are predicting that 2013 is the year when the global economic situation really hits home, so to speak. All the more important, therefore, that we are fit and strong to meet the challenge. So my advice is this: don't worry about things you can't control, and stick to the mung beans!