Ah Valentine’s Day – a day for acknowledging your love to someone special…..how about showing YOURSELF some of that love this month. I would like to share some easy ways to SELF-LESSLY show yourself some appreciation and to nurture your heart at the same time. Primarily I would like to talk about the emotional heart, but lets start with the obvious, physical heart health.
The Physical Heart – heart health starts with nourishing it with a proper balanced diet, reducing added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fat. The heart is a muscle and benefits from at least 150 minutes PER WEEK, of activity to keep it strong and operating optimally. Sounds like a lot? Try breaking it up – go up and down stairs during TV commercial breaks, 5-10 minute walk around the house/office during lunch break, and if you are so inclined, dress up really warm and get outdoors for some fresh air and sunshine and enjoy that winter beauty.
There are many different ways to exercise and get that heart rate up – go with what is available to you and what you ENJOY. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can use objects around the home to add weight to your routine. Grab a friend or partner and do some mall walking. Some free options are YouTube videos for yoga, strength training, and cardio. There are also virtual class options at your local health and fitness venues. And of course, keep on top of your health with routine physical exams with your healthcare provider.
The Emotional Heart – stress, anxiety, worry, depression – all of us have experienced these emotions – especially the past few years. According to University of Ottawa Heart Institute, emotional stress has a direct and indirect effect on heart health. When we don’t verbalize or release our emotions and internalize everything, it triggers a stress response in the body – increases the immune response, triggering inflammation that affects blood vessels and tissues. Elevated stress increases your blood pressure and heart rate, muscle contraction, and improper breathing, and can lead to sleep problems. People that report frequent stress/anxiety/depression/frustration/anger are more likely to choose unhealthy foods to soothe themselves, drink more alcohol, and smoke cigarettes.
So I would like to offer simple ways to be more in tune with your emotions, to acknowledge what they are, and ways to move through it:
- Take 5 minutes away from the stressful situation (bathrooms are great) and name what you are feeling. Close your eyes and do a quick body scan to see where you are tight and contracted. Breath deeply into those areas for a count of 4 and breath out to a count of 5. Repeat at least 3 times. It acknowledges the feeling, where you are holding it in your body, automatically calms the brain, relaxes the muscles, and brings clarity to the situation.
- Set boundaries: say NO to people, activities, situations when possible. Adding on extra obligations only leads to anger, resentment, which increases stress. See above.
- Laugh or smile: not only is it contagious, but it is also an instant stress reliever and releases all the ‘feel good’ chemicals like serotonin.
- At night and upon waking, lie with one hand on your heart and one on your abdomen and visualize your favorite color moving in a figure eight starting at your heart to your belly with the mental message of sending love to yourself and your body and releasing whatever of no longer needed.
- Shut the TV off, put down the phone – play with the kids and pets, cuddle with your partner, or read a good book. Unplug and be KIND.
- Commit to self care 5-10 minutes a day to start every single day. Make it part of your daily routine. Self care is whatever centers you, feeds your heart, and makes you feel good.
- If you are struggling and need to talk, please reach out – family, friends, co-worker, mental health professionals, and other resources are available to you.
From February 14-28, I will be offering 10% off BodyTalk and Reiki sessions to help you nourish yourself and your heart. Always happy to answer any questions you may have. Happy February – treat yourself this month, YOU DESERVE IT.
Check out my website for all services available at Prairie Sky Integrative Health through Stepping Stones Health and Wellness.
Dana Clay, NP