As many people do at the beginning of a new year, I’ve been thinking of what I can do differently and better for my heart health as well as the other health issues I have and overall health. I’ve never been one to do well with resolutions, and I’m not sure why.
When it comes to our health, I know that we’re ultimately responsible for our health, not our doctors. I know there are pretty simple lifestyle changes I could make that would have a big impact on my health. Yet, I procrastinate. After all, there’s always tomorrow. Right? Do you find falling into that trap too?
This year, knowing that heart disease in one area in which I need to focus, I’m making promises to my heart. Since so many of us are in similar situations, I also thought I’d share my promises with you:
I promise to be more physically active. Sitting at a desk working at a computer all day hardly helps my heart. So, I’m going to use the treadmill in my office every day as well as getting in some yoga and tai chi several days a week.
I promise to pay better attention to nutrition. There are three main parts to this for me:
- I promise not to be so lazy about cooking. Prepackaged foods and mixes are so convenient, but they’re usually also so unhealthy. With just my husband and myself to cook for, I can easily cook main dishes in quantities for two or three meals, then put meals in the freezer. That way, if things are really hectic, or if I don’t feel well, there will be a healthy meal just waiting in the freezer.
- I promise to substitute fruit for unhealthy desserts. Yes, I have a sweet tooth and love desserts. That said, many desserts are packed with fats, carbs, and calories. Fruit is healthier all the way around. In the winter, when some fresh fruits aren’t as easily available, frozen berries are beautiful and tasty!
- I promise to make better nutritional choices when traveling. I’m terrible about letting nutrition slip when I travel. That might not be so bad for just a day here and there, but there are several times a year when I travel for a week at a time. Not good.
I promise to get plenty of sleep. My intentions are always good when I head to bed, but intentions don’t quite cut it. I lie in bed and read at night as a way to get the day’s events out of mind so I can rest. The problem arises when I get too interested in what I’m reading and stay up too late. I’ve addressed my sleep disorders and the like, so I get good quality sleep. Now I need to be sure I get enough sleep AND on a regular schedule.
I promise to manage and avoid stress. There are two kinds of stress - eustress and distress. Eustress is the “good” stress of daily life and can be motivating. It can come from family celebrations, promotions at work, getting engaged or married, etc. Distress is the “bad” stress that comes from issues such as financial problems, problems at work, relationship issues, and more. Eustress can become distress if it exceeds our ability to cope with it. For me, eustress turns to distress when I’ve taken on too many tasks or projects, or when other people involved bring their personal dramas into them. I will be taking on fewer tasks and projects and insisting that others keep their dramas out of them.
I will learn and practice better time management skills. Part of this promise involves keeping my promise to manage and avoid stress by taking on fewer tasks and projects. I also need to do better with things such as answering personal emails and social media direct messages when referring people to the appropriate online content or support groups could provide what people need without utilizing as much of my time.
I promise to do more to raise awareness of heart disease issues, especially in women. You’re the Cure has a great web site that offers many quick and easy opportunities to raise awareness, such as sending email to state legislators, the U.S. Senate and house, and more. They also have information about getting more actively involved such as visiting state capitols to meet with legislators. If you’d like to know more, see Heart Disease and Stroke - We Can Be the Cure.
I promise to maintain a positive attitude toward my health. Our minds are so very strong that they can overpower our bodies. If we’re pessimistic, feeling sure that lifestyle changes won’t improve our health or that treatments won’t work, that’s most likely exactly what will happen. In psychology, it’s called self-fulfilling prophecy. In medicine, it’s called the nocebo effect. Since my mind can take charge of my body, I’m going to take charge of my mind. When I think logically, I know that lifestyle modifications and the medications my doctors prescribe can help me be healthier and feel better. I will not let my emotions override that logical thinking. When I’m having problems with this, I’ll seek help.
Are there promises you’re making to your heart? If so, please post a comment below, and share them with us.
From my heart to yours,
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.