February is Heart Disease Awareness Month. Though most women know what they need to do to live healthier lives, many report that family, caretaking responsibilities, fatigue and lack of personal time keeps them from making wellness a priority. Learn why making self-care a priority might just be the most important thing you do for both your heart health and your overall quality of life.
Unfortunately, knowledge does not always translate into action. Though well-schooled in what is necessary to live healthier lives, many women report that family, caretaking responsibilities, fatigue and lack of personal time keeps them from making wellness a priority (Mosca et al., 2011). We are fearless caregivers and often put the needs of others ahead of our own until we are compelled into action by a serious health crisis. The prevention piece to heart health will always be problematic until we recognize how important it is and begin to make self-care a priority.
Michelle Segar, Ph.D., addresses this issue in her book, No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness. She offers an empowering message that self-care is not “selfish.” Instead, it is the fuel that allows us to be there more fully for the people and causes we care deeply about. Segar highlights the promising paradox of self-care by sharing, “The more energy you give to caring for yourself, the more energy you have for everything else” (Segar, 2015).
According to Segar, giving yourself “permission” to carve out time in your day for healthy activities such as regular exercise is the key mindset shift necessary for taking bold first steps toward daily self-care. The practice of permission empowers you to take back control of your choices and connects you with meaningful and motivating reasons for seeking and maintaining good health. What once seemed like a chore or additional commitment to your already overstuffed schedule, becomes a “gift” you give yourself and the people in your life you care deeply about (Segar, 2015).
Putting yourself first may feel uncomfortable initially, but as you reap the physical and emotional rewards of a healthy lifestyle, your confidence and motivation to make changes will grow. Try on these five ideas for practicing permission this month and begin to feel the transformative benefits of self-care. Give yourself:
- Permission to claim health and happiness as your birthright. Feeling worthy of the full potential of your life will give you the spark of courage needed to create space and time in your busy schedule to manifest the healthy life you deserve. Try creating a wellness mantra such as “My health and life are important” to move past initial feelings of fear and self-doubt.
- Permission to prioritize your daily schedule around self-care. Positioning your needs higher on your to-do list recognizes the benefits of recharging your body, mind and spirit so you can be there more fully for yourself and others. Try starting your day with a morning practice such as quiet meditation, journaling or exercise to validate your intention to make wellness a priority.
- Permission to carve out time in your day for activities that are unique to “you.” Making time for personal interests and creative hobbies that bring joy and fulfillment to your life connects you with meaningful reasons to take better care of your health. Try reframing healthy habits such as exercise as vehicles that support deeper personal values such as a love of travel or a desire to live well into the freedom of your retirement years.
- Permission to ask and accept help from others. Learning to effectively communicate your needs and accept help to lighten the load frees up precious time, energy and motivation to invest in health-enhancing activities. Try sharing your self-care intentions with important people in your life and asking for their support in your journey.
- Permission to say “No” more liberally. Creating healthy boundaries around your time, energy and emotional well-being ensures there is something left in the “bank” for you. Try making a list of things in your life such as unhealthy habits and mindsets that no longer serve you, and then choose one to practice the art of saying “No.”
Maya Angelou once said, “Nothing works unless you do.” In honor of Go Red for Women Month, take the courageous leap into self-care. Reach out to a friend and support one another to work through this empowering list of permissions. You may be surprised to discover that practicing daily self-care not only saves your life, but makes it one that is truly worth living.
Mosca, L. et al. (2011). Effectiveness-based guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in women—2011 update: A guideline from the American Heart Association. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 57, 12, 1404-1423.
Roger, V. L. et al. (2011). Heart disease and stroke statistics—2011 update: A report from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123, 4, e18-e209.
Segar, M. (2015). No sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness. New York, N.Y.: American Management Association.
Stampfer, M. J., Hu, F. B., Manson, J. E., Rimm, E. B., & Willett, W. C. (2000). Primary prevention of coronary heart disease in women through diet and lifestyle. New England Journal of Medicine, 343(1), 16-22.