Self-care is not complacent, and you can start now with these tips

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“Slow down, you’re going too fast,” Simon and Garfunkel once warned.

Today, this musical advice could be the anthem of self-care – the act of making our own health and well-being a priority. While that might include kicking cobblestones, as suggested in the duo’s “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy),” good self-care covers so much more.

“It’s overall wellness,” said Dr. Helen Lavretsky, resident professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, environmental and societal – self-care should address most of these components.”

But self-care often falls low on the list of priorities. Experts say he should be at the top.

“Often people think self-care is selfish and that you’re indulging yourself,” said Dr. Laxmi Mehta, who co-wrote an op-ed for the American Heart Association and other cardiology groups. on physician well-being and the importance of preventing burnout. Mehta is faculty director of the Gabbe Health and Well-Being program and director of the Women’s Preventive Cardiology and Cardiovascular Health Section at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University in Columbus.

You are not selfish, she said. “You stay healthy so you can do whatever you want to do in your life.”

Lavretsky agreed. “It’s not a luxury, it’s a must,” she said.

Doctors have come up with these steps that anyone can take to better manage their overall well-being.

Pay attention to your body

“The first step is to listen to your body’s needs,” Lavretsky said. “In Western society, we are taught that we can drive empty forever. We create chronic diseases by not listening to our bodies. You listen to your car, because it won’t work if it’s broken. We don’t that with our body.”

This doesn’t just mean going to the doctor if you feel sick. This includes regular health and wellness exams to check blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, Mehta said. “Know those numbers and act on them.”

move more

“Exercise is key,” Mehta said. “It not only helps physical well-being, but also mental well-being.”

Federal Physical Activity Guidelines ask for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both. The guidelines also discourage people from being sedentary.

“If you’re sitting eight to 10 hours a day, that’s not good,” Mehta said. “Allow time to get up and walk around.”

According to Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention, staying physically active can help people think, learn, solve problems, and maintain better emotional balance. If it’s hard to exercise regularly on a busy day, the CDC suggests taking short walks, dancing at home, and doing squats or marching in place during commercial breaks while watching TV. .

Research suggests moving for just three minutes once an hour can help control blood sugar.

Adopt a healthy diet

“Diet is important,” Mehta said, so eat healthy foods and avoid sugary drinks that can affect mood as well as physical well-being.

A Mediterranean-style eating pattern is among those supported by the AHA and federal dietary guidelines. It includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, and low to moderate amounts of dairy products, eggs, fish, and poultry. This dietary pattern is associated with better overall heart and brain health.

If it’s hard to find time to shop and cook during the work week, Mehta suggests planning for weekends and preparing foods that can be eaten throughout the week.

To breathe

Taking time to focus on breathing reduces stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure, said Lavretsky, who teaches breathing techniques as part of her practice. “Even a minute of breathing gets you out of stress overload and into a more thoughtful and controlled state,” she said. “You make wiser decisions and don’t have knee-jerk reactions. It’s a tool for self-regulation, and it’s good for self-care.”

Lavretsky teaches a technique called “box breathing” which involves inhaling for three seconds, holding your breath for three seconds, exhaling for three seconds, and pausing for three seconds before taking the next breath.

Tai chi, yoga and meditation all help people focus on their breathing, Mehta said. But just taking a few minutes each day to take a few deep breaths will help.

Avoid harmful substances and any excess

“The first thing to avoid is smoking,” Mehta said. It is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

All nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, should be avoided, she said.

“Avoid excess,” Lavretsky said. This includes not overeating, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, or working too much. Eating and drinking excessively may seem like a quick fix, she said, “but they’ll never make anyone happy.”

And don’t spend too much time on social media, Mehta said. “If you have time for this, you definitely have time for yourself.”

Get enough sleep

The AHA recently added sleep duration — seven to nine hours a night for most adults — to its list of key metrics for good heart health, known as Life’s Essential 8. The list also includes no no smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising enough physical activity, and keeping blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar within the normal range. The list also includes not smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting enough physical activity, and keeping blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar within the normal range.

“Sleep is essential to being in your best physical and mental health,” Mehta said.

Cultivate gratitude and joy

“Spend at least five minutes a day doing joyful things,” said Lavretsky, who instructs his patients to also practice gratitude each morning upon waking. “Focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have.”

Research shows that happiness and a positive attitude can lead to healthier behaviors and a longer, healthier life.

Start now

“You don’t have to wait until you’re exhausted,” Lavretsky said. “You don’t have to wait for a heart attack to start practicing yoga.”

American Heart Association News mental health coverage is supported by Diane and Daniel Shimer. AHA News is solely responsible for all content and editorial decisions.

If you have questions or comments about this American Heart Association News story, please email [email protected].

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