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

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

Simon and Garfunkel once warned, “Wait, you’re moving too fast.”

Today, that musical advice can be a self-care anthem — the act of making our health and well-being a priority. While it can include kickin’ down cobblestones, as suggested in “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”, good self-care covers much more.

“It’s an overall well-being,” said Dr. Helen Lavretsky, M.D., 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 to the bottom of the list of priorities. Experts say it should be on top.

Prevent fatigue, said Dr. Laxmi Mehta, who co-authored an opinion letter from the American Heart Association and other cardiology groups on physician health and the importance of treatment. Mehta is the faculty director of the Gabbe Health and Well-Being Program and director of the Division of Preventive Cardiology and Women’s Cardiovascular Health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

She said you are not selfish. “You maintain your health so you can do all the things you want to do with your life.”

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

Doctors have provided these steps that a person 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 run empty forever. We create chronic disease by not listening to our bodies. You listen to your car, because it will not work if it breaks down. We do not do this with our bodies.”

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

move more

“Exercise is key,” Mehta said. “Not only does it help physical well-being, it helps mental well-being.”

Federal physical activity guidelines require at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both. The guidelines also discourage people from being immobile.

“If you sit eight to ten hours a day, it’s not good,” Mehta said. “Set a time to get up and walk around.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, staying physically active can help people think, learn, solve problems, and maintain better emotional balance. If exercising regularly on a busy day is challenging, the CDC suggests taking short walks, dancing in your house, and sitting or walking in place during commercial breaks while watching TV.

Research suggests that moving for just three minutes once an hour can help keep blood sugar levels in check.

Eat a healthy diet

Mehta said: “Diet is important, so eat healthy foods and avoid sugary drinks which can affect mood as well as physical health.

A Mediterranean-style eating pattern is among those supported by the Federal Dietary Guidelines and Healthy Food Acidity. It includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and small to moderate amounts of dairy, eggs, fish and poultry. This eating pattern is associated with better overall heart and brain health.

If finding time to shop and cook meals during the work week is a challenge, Mehta suggests planning on weekends and having items ready for the week.


Lavretsky, who teaches breathing techniques as part of her practice, said spending time focusing on breathing reduces stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure. “Even a minute of breathing takes you out of excessive stress and into a more reflexive and controlled state,” she said. “You make wiser decisions and don’t have quick reactions. It’s a tool for self-regulation, and that’s good for self-care.”

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

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

Avoid harmful substances and overdo anything

“The number one thing to avoid is smoking,” said Mehta. 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.

She said all nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, should be avoided.

“Avoid overdoing everything,” Lavretsky said. This includes not overeating, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, or working out too much. Overeating and drinking can be a quick fix, she said, “but they will never please anyone.”

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

Get enough sleep

The American Heart Association recently added sleep duration — seven to nine hours a night for most adults — to its list of key measures for good heart health, known as Life’s Essential 8, and the list also includes not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough fitness. . Activity and keep blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and blood glucose levels in the normal range. The list also includes not smoking, eating a healthy diet, engaging in adequate physical activity, and keeping blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and blood sugar levels in the normal range.

“Sleep is critical 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 tells her patients to also practice gratitude every morning when they wake up. “Focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have.”

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

start now

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

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

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