5 Ways to G.U.A.R.D. Your Heart

January 2021 | by jamie beeson

Well, that was crazy, huh? We made it through 2020, and now we're beginning 2021, but maybe with a bit of a 2020 hangover. January is usually when we hear the buzz of a reset. Wouldn't that be nice right now? Just hit a little reset button and start fresh and clean without the collateral damage of 2020. We typically reorganize, reboot, and reenergize our plans, priorities, and paths. More than 50% of the population is generally thinking about improving their health; this year, I imagine more than half of us are thinking about that, but in a new light. Our health was threatened and continues to be under fire. Maybe you don't feel the threat physically, but I'm guessing you've felt it emotionally and mentally. Pandemic fatigue is for real, y'all! 

So we turn the calendar page and hit a new year, and we ask ourselves hard questions like, "What good is a healthy body without a healthy mind?" Let's read that again and give ourselves a moment to think about that one... 

This year is bringing that question to full focus. We have spent a lot of Januarys thinking about our physical body, but this year, we're forced to think of our health more holistically. We start believing that health isn't just warding off a sickness or decreasing fat. I mean, at this point, we realize that our body can be fully functioning and in full health, yet if we're depressed, anxious, or riddled with fear, we feel trapped, limited, and unhealthy. Maybe you look good, but because you have so many negative trains of thought that lead to resentment, bitterness, and hate, your stomach feels tied in knots. You might suffer from migraines because of it. Your muscles might be cut, and you might have a full washboard, but if you struggle to get up in the morning, dread your work, and are overwhelmed, the joy of life will be absent. So again, what good is a healthy body without a healthy mind? Our New Year thoughts should take a deeper dive into what it means to “get healthy” and “stay healthy” this year. 

Recently, I read a book, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, that made a case that our health care should always include emotional and mental health care. One without the other is only symptom-treating versus problem-solving. In other words, self-care IS health care. The state of our mind needs treatment as much and as often as the state of our body. The author pointed out several studies that showed stress suppressing immune resistance; the hormones released in stress hamper the immune cell's function. Have you had any amount of unusually high stress in the last year?  

THE IMPACTS OF STRESS & ANGER: 

Studies cited in this book have shown... 

>>> that people who experience chronic anxiety, long periods of sadness or pessimism, unremitting tension, or incessant hostility were found to have double the risk for diseases like asthma, arthritis, headaches, ulcers, and heart disease.   

>>> when patients recounted incidents that made them angry, their heart showed a 7% drop of pumping efficiency---cardiologists label this as a dangerous drop in blood flow.  

>>> that being prone to anger was a stronger predictor of dying young than were other risk factors like smoking, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.  

>>> depression worsens illness and disease.  

!!! And get this, isolation increases mortality rate by 2x versus smoking by 1.6x! 

We've got some work to do to improve our health this year. I want to give you a head start. Self-care is health care. We can't brush them off as silly buzz words or excuses to treat ourselves; it's a necessary set of habits that we desperately need to adopt. So, while you think of ways to build your strength, build your endurance, build healthy physical habits, here are five ways to guard your heart and mental health.  

G: Gratitude  

  • I'm not talking about a thankful list. I'm talking about acknowledging how you feel, putting a label on the feelings, and accepting that things may not be ok. Don't stop there. Practice finishing your statements with the word but. It sounds like this, "It's been a hard week, and I feel discouraged, but I'm sure glad that I can come home to a family." 
  • Practicing this kind of gratitude allows us to deal with the feelings that will need healing while helping our minds fixated on what IS right. This instigates and keeps hope alive. Hope and optimism have also proven to increase our physical health. 

U: Unplug 

  • Intentionally and deliberately unplug from things or people using your energy and distracting your attention from your priorities. 
  • Unplug from negativity, wherever it's lurking 
  • Make a habit and practice to do this daily and challenge yourself to make a few more permanent decisions of “unplugging.” 

A: Awaken 

  • Tap into your curiosities, your passions, and your purpose. We all have a pilot light inside of us. Find the things that make it glow brighter. 
  • They don't need to be big steps, but they need to be often. Letting the pilot light grow dim is letting our mental, emotional, and spiritual health decrease. 

R: Rest 

  • Resting is not necessarily taking a nap, although many of us need more sleep. Resting is finding a way to renew and restore your mind, heart, and body. 
  • Discover new ways that bring true rest to you and plan rest into your rhythms. 

D: Disconnect 

  • Sometimes, we need a thinking and a doing break. Deliberately disconnect from past things, future worries, and current to-do lists. After all, you and I are human BEINGS...not human DOINGS. 
  • Teach yourself to just be. It takes practice, and it's not easy, but living free has a lot to do with learning to be. 

Originally printed in the January 2021 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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