Your heart beats about 115,000 times and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood every day. It beats 2.5 billion to 3 billion times in a lifetime. Seems like if anyone deserves a Valentine this month, it’s our heart. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that February is also National Heart Health Month!
Heart disease is a leading cause of death for women and men in the United States and is largely preventable according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. And people with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Devoting time to care for yourself can go a long way toward protecting the health of your heart.
The Oxford Dictionary defines self-care as “the practice of activities that are necessary to sustain life and health, normally initiated and carried out by the individual for him – or herself.” It’s an essential part of a healthy lifestyle that not only keeps us healthy, happy, and more in-tune with our minds and bodies; it can literally save our lives.
Great. So now we know what it is. So why aren’t we doing enough of it?
Media messages of magic self-care fixes like spa days, complicated supplement cocktails, yoga retreats, and crystal encrusted massage aparati can associate self-care with selfishness and over-indulgent behavior. True self-care needs to be PART of our regular lives, not something separate. Today’s pop #selfcare culture is a far cry from the medical and revolutionary roots of the term which was first used to describe actions persons with little other recourse or facing systemic barriers to accessing traditional medical care could take to ensure their own health.
While some pieces of self-care are intensely individual (like whether you prefer your yoga Hatha or Bikram and your cauliflower riced or roasted,) others are almost universally beneficial and accessible:
- Drink enough water.
- Eat well – it’s not complicated! Veggies, fruit, and whole grains.
- Get outside.
- Develop a relationship with a trusted health professional.
- Learn to breathe well and practice it.
- Connect with other humans.
- Disconnect – yes, you too.
- Laugh – even if you have to fake it at first.
Finding your optimal mix will take time and may change depending on your needs and the world around you. Learning to keep looking for that right mix of self-care practices and making the commitment to stick with them is the answer. And it’s not even just because you deserve it. In fact, sometimes the decision to make this sort of care a part of your life can help us build the self esteem that makes it easier to lead a healthy life and one we truly believe we deserve; one that is fulfilling because we habitually practice the basics that let us be the people our village needs us to be for a lifetime. This sort of self-care is truly the best gift we can give our hearts this Valentine’s Day.
Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you take steps on this non-negotiable part of your wellness journey. That’s what I’m here for.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness, the original online wellness mentoring system. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant, and that it is only possible to do our best work in the world if we make a daily commitment to our health. Visit facebook.com/erika.taylor.303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.