Tips For Staying on Task With Your Heart Health Goals

What are Your Heart Health Goals?

We are starting a new month and January is behind us.  How did you do with your health goals last month?  Did you map out your needed appointments to cover all of your preventative screening tests for the year?

Doing this now gives you direction and also allows you to save any money needed to cover any deductibles or co-insurance.  If you don’t have insurance you have time to find available resources in your community through your local community health centers or health departments.

You may be asking what screenings do you need?  The United States Preventative Services Task Force has a list of screenings that you should discuss with your clinician every year to see what actions you need to take to improve your health.

February is the month where we celebrate Heart Health.  There are basic things that you need to know in order to focus your attention on this aspect of your health. You cannot change some of the risk factors that put you at risk for heart disease such as age, race and gender but you can work on the ‘modifiable’ risk factors.

Modifiable risk factors

Do any of the following apply to you?
  • I am a smoker.
  • I don’t exercise on a regular basis.
  • I don’t know what my cholesterol levels are or my levels are too high
  • I haven’t checked my blood pressure recently.
  • I need to be at a healthier weight
  • I have not been screened for diabetes or my diabetes is not well controlled
  • I need to lower my stress levels
  • I do not follow a heart healthy diet

take action on defining your goals

If any of the risk factors apply to you, you need to promise yourself that you will make a plan to address it.  The key is to start somewhere. Here are some tips for staying on task with your heart health goals.

Figuring out where to start can be overwhelming.  Take a deep breathe and focus on one thing at a time.  Let’s look at cholesterol screenings:

  • Pull out your medical records or log into your patient portal.  Gather whatever information you can collect and make note of what your baseline status was or is.
  • Do you know what your levels are?
  • Do you understand what they mean?
  • Has it been more than one year since you had your levels checked?  
  • If you have a prescription for cholesterol meds, are you filling it and taking them as instructed?
  • Are you following a heart healthy diet?

When you get to the point to where you ‘know your numbers’ and have an action plan, you can move on to the next topic.  Try focusing on one risk factor a month.  If you take it one step at a time and commit to making an action plan for each risk factor, you will have an action plan for improving your heart health by the end of 2021.

That’s not too hard is it?  Remember that self care is not selfish.

Which risk factor will you focus on this month?

 

 

Set Health Goals That Match Your Why

Monday Motivation

I worked with someone who sent me this list of goals:

  • Smoke less
  • Drink less
  • Have less fun

I love this!  In theory, these are great goals.  I wasn’t sure about the ‘have less fun’ goal but she explained that when she goes out to bars and ‘has fun’, she drinks too much which then gives her the urge to smoke.  She feels that she can go to other locations if she wants to be social without feeling like she has to drink.  

Why do you feel the need to set health goals? You must ask yourself why something is important to you. Set health goals that match your why so that they remain a priority to you.

So the first thing we did was to change the order of her goals.  She feels that she is a social drinker and smoker.  She knows that these are not good for her health and she was ready to make a plan for herself.  The first thing we did was to change the order of her goals since they are all related.

Have less fun > Drink less > Smoke less

When we are looking at health goals, you are more likely to succeed when you can answer ‘what is your why?’  Make them personal!  The 7 Levels Deep approach comes from Dean Graziosi’s Millionaire Success Habits and is used to keep fine tuning why you are setting out to make a goal and why it is important to you.  Here is an example of this using her goals:

    • What do you want to do?  I want to go out to bars less.
    • Why is that important to you?  So I can drink less.
    • Why is that important to you?  So I can smoke less.
    • Why is that important to you?  It isn’t healthy.
    • Why is that important to you?  I have asthma.
    • Why is that important to you?  It makes me cough too much.
    • Why is that important to you?  Coughing makes me pee on myself.

All kidding aside, this is just another approach to help you make goals that you can reach.  There are many tools available to help you write out your thoughts and to give you guidance on how to make them happen.  The most important thing is that you are thinking about what is important to you.  

Think about it, write it down and then make an action plan.   

 

Are Your Personal Affairs in Order?

Are your personal affairs in order?  January is a great time to review your ‘official paperwork’ to see if anything needs to be updated. If you find that you do have some time on your hands this weekend, let’s revisit our discussion on how important it is to have a Last Will and Testament in place alongside other important documents. Part of taking care of yourself is making sure you ease the mental burden that comes from losing a loved one.

The Caring Hub website is a great source of information and by signing up for their newsletter, you get a daily assignment that will assist you in getting things in order. There is even a chapter dealing with pets. At the end of 30 days, you and your family will have everything in place.

If you have already done this, use this time to update any information that is outdated. If you are newly married or divorced, make sure to see what changes need to be made.

By visiting the website, you will get a step-by-step plan to do this. Keep this information in a binder, folder or on an excel spreadsheet and make sure that someone else in your family knows where this information is.

Start with collecting this information for anyone that you are caring for. Make this a family event so that you all can share stories as you review birth certificates, marriage licenses, armed forces documents and any other historical document that you need to have on file.

If you are not ready to do this for yourself, do this for your kids.

For the record, there is a excel file on my laptop labelled ‘Look Here If I Die.’  This is a computer file that houses all of the digital links to all of my personal accounts for my husband and me. My kids know to look here and they know where to find the password to my computer and this spreadsheet if something happens to me.

Points to consider:

  • What does your file, binder, or folder look like?
  • Do your loved ones know where it is?
  • Do you need a key to get to it?
  • Does someone know where the key is?
  • Do they know where to find the password to access your computer if it is password protected?
  • Do they know where to find the password to access your file?
  • Do you have a copy of this information outside of your home? What if your only copy is in your home and you have a house fire that destroys it?

January is a great time to get your personal affairs in order.  Go ahead, take a deep breathe and get started. It may take a few weeks or months to get it all in order but get started.  

 

Being Self Reliant Will Improve Your Overall Health

‘Me’ time, self care and self reliance…

These are the three core topics that we focus on in this group. We covered the overview of ‘me’ time and self-care the last two Mondays so be sure to go back and read them again.

You may question why self reliance is in this group but did you know that financial stress is one of the top conditions that can impact your physical and mental health?  Financial stress is one of the conditions that can impact your health and can cause relationship issues.  Being self reliant will improve your overall health.  A few examples of how it impacts your health are listed below.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Guilt
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • Denial
  • Insomnia
  • Blood pressure problems

Over the last 30 years, I have spoken to so many women who are at a loss when it comes to their own finances. Not because they are being lazy but because they either rely or relied on their partner to ‘take care of all of that’ or they feel overwhelmed about how to get the financial information that they need.

One of the many things that 2020 showed us was that we cannot rely on one stream of income. Things beyond our control can impact that one paycheck. We have also seen how relying on the government to bail us out is NOT an option.

I am going to ask that you take a hard look at where you are financially. Do you have a consistent stream of income? Do you have multiple streams of income? Do you know how much debt you are in? Do you have a plan for how you are going to reduce and eliminate your debt? Do you know how to access all of your accounts? The list of questions is a long one but we will cover them in January.

I feel that it is crucial for all of you to become financially literate and financially independent so that you can be in a position to walk away from a toxic work environment or a toxic relationship. You should NEVER stay in either situation because you cannot afford to leave.

Let’s flip the situation. Are you the person in your family who is in charge of the finances? Are you responsible for overseeing your parent’s finances? If so, do others know where you keep all of your information so that if something happens to you, they will know where to look?

So I have a homework assignment for you for this next month. Gather all of your banking account information, pay stubs, and all of your bills. Yes, the holiday damage will take a month to sort through if you put your purchases on a credit card.

Put it all in one stack and we will begin working our way through a simple process so that you can organize the information and make a plan for how to ensure that you fully understand what is in front of you.

If your partner usually does this in your family, explain what you are doing and why. Ask them to teach you what they know. This may a tough conversation to have so prepare for some pushback.

My goal? Develop one more stream of income that brings in $1000/month.

What does one financial goal for 2021 look like for you? 

Self Care Should Be High On Your Priority List

Self Care is where you focus on your own physical and mental health. Self care should be high on your priority list.  How do you do this? How do you know what guidelines to follow? Do the generic guidelines that you read about apply to women your age?
 

The Well-Woman Chart by the Women’s Preventative Screening Initiatives guidelines are used as a baseline. They can be found at the website where you can download the document or use the interactive tool.

 
All of the scientific references are available for your review or you can search by your age group and it will tell you what preventative health screenings you need to discuss with your healthcare clinician.
 
You, and only you, are responsible for your health status. This pandemic has shown us how important it is for each of us to work on ourselves. Whether you are 18 or 70, there are things you can focus on.
 
If you are overweight, you only have to lose 5% of your body weight to begin seeing improvements in your blood pressure or levels of glucose in your blood.
 
Keeping your lungs healthy right now is probably the most important thing you can do and this is something you can address quickly. If you are using tobacco or vaping products, you need to seek help as soon as you can.
 
You will not see major changes happen overnight. Change is very hard and it is harder when you don’t have in-person access to your support network. Trying to motivate yourself is tough but you need to commit to making this a priority if you have not committed to this yet.
 
Take a few minutes and download the document. You can also find it in our Resources page.  Review the information and we will begin reviewing the topics again in the new year.
 
Have a great week

The Importance of Scheduling ‘Me’ Time

There are 3 topics that we strive to discuss in this forum; ‘me’ time, self care and self reliance. For the next 3 Mondays, I will be providing a brief overview on each of these topics and why I think they are the 3 topics hat we need to focus on. 

‘Me’ Time

All of us need a few minutes each day to focus on ourselves.  The importance of scheduling  ‘me’ time cannot be overstressed.  By unplugging from others or your work, you allow your mind to take a break.  This allows you to reset.  According to Happify Daily, women have 25 hours of leisure time each week while men have 28 hours.  Using snippets of time to focus on yourself will improve your relationships, make you more productive and can set a great example for those around you, especially children.

The amount of time is not as important as what you do for that time.  I use a 30 minute time period but this is a random number I picked out because I like to exercise or walk for a minimum of 30 minutes each day and this is my main form of ‘me’ time. Walking outdoors is a huge stress reliever for me. This also allows me to take pictures of my favorite animals or views.

You get to pick out what you want to do and for how long. You may be in a season of life where you have a newborn (or two) and there never seems to be time for anything else. You may be caring for an elderly parent or family member and it may seem that you do not have a minute for yourself. You may be the caregiver of an adult child with special needs who needs your undivided attention. You could be single and responsible only for yourself.  You may be in charge of a household with a partner and children or young adults under your roof.

Your situation is your situation. I am going to challenge you to change your words from ‘I don’t have time for me’ to ‘How can I find time for me?’ The only person limiting this is YOU!

The first place to find time is to quit reading this post and pick out a different activity! Replacing your screen time on social media is the easiest place to find time.  Analyzing your leisure time to identify blocks of time is the next thing.  You can use our Activity Journal
to help you keep track of your activities over the course of the week to see where you are duplicating effort.

Remember that our group came up with a list of 30 Things You Can Do During ‘Me’ Time.  There are other tools that you can use under our Resources table.

Start small and work your way up to 30 minutes. It may mean that you wake up a few minutes early or stay up a few minutes later but make a promise to yourself to make this a priority.  Make an appointment with yourself.  By being intentional you will find that this becomes your new normal.

Ten Ways to Decrease Holiday Stress

The weeks between Thanksgiving week and New Years can be very stressful during most years.  2020 is no exception with COVID cases increasing across the county.  As you continue to work on taking care of yourself, look for opportunities each day to help combat this.  Let’s look at a ten ways to help decrease daily stress during this holiday season.

Ten Ways to Decrease Holiday Stress

Savings

    • Financial stress can cause medical problems so look for ways to not overextend yourself.  Did you make a holiday budget?  Scrub your gift list.  Draw names and set limits on family gifts.  Set spending limits.  If you have to buy something, can you buy it from someone locally?  If not, search the internet for any savings you can find.  

Say No

    • You are in control of your daily schedule. If someone is trying to convince you that they need your help in order to complete a task or to run an errand, feel free to say ‘no’.  Politely, of course.

Schedule ‘Me Time’

    • This is a great month to continue to work on this. This is a priority and trumps anything else.  Don’t say yes to another commitment if it means you lose this time.  Say no so that you can say yes to yourself.  If you need to find the time to do this, use our Activity Journal to find the time.

Shut Up

    • Do you talk just to hear yourself talk? Ha!  I think this goes back to my high school classroom days.  Speak less and listen more.  Listen and ask questions, especially if you live with someone elderly.  Write down what you learn.  Capturing your family’s stories is priceless.

Sing

    • Turn on some music during your down time. You don’t have to carry a tune to enjoy this.  Trade one Netflix episode with music videos while you are cooking dinner, folding clothes or cleaning up.  Listen to new genres if you are feeling brave.

Simplify

    • As you are going through your holiday decorations, purge anything that you are not using this year. Gift it to someone else who can use it.  If you can’t find an individual who can use it, donate it to your local  charitable donation center.  Reducing clutter can be calming.  Do you really need a tree in each room?  If the answer is yes, then put it up.  If the answer is no, keep it simple.

Sleep

    • Strive to get at least 8 hours of sleep every day. Work backwards to determine your bedtime.  For example, if you have to be up at 6 am, you need to be winding down by 9 pm so that you can turn off lights at 10 pm.  Maybe you need to begin turning off electronics at 8:30.  Play with your daily routine so that you have an unhurried morning routine.

Soak In a Tub

    • Pamper yourself. Use a bath bomb or essential oils to improve the ambiance.  Candles are a nice addition if you have the shelf space.  If you don’t have a tub, soak in a hot shower for five extra minutes. Let the water hit your upper back and practice your neck, shoulder and upper back stretches while you relax.

Solitude

    • Find a quiet place to read, knit, paint or meditate. You pick your activity.  You may be in cramped quarters but speaking to the others you live with and working out a schedule where there is nap time, bath time or quiet time will help everyone out.  Use our member’s recommendations if you need ideas on what to do.

Stop Complaining

    • Instead of pointing out the negative aspect of something, find something positive to say instead. Purposefully think about what you are going to say and figure out how to say it with a positive spin.  This can change your family’s culture if all agree to work on this.

Sunshine

    • Shorter days increase the chance that you may feel depressed. Find short blocks of time to take a short walk outside or to sit by a window facing the sun so that you can just shut your eyes and ‘sunbathe’.  If this is not an option, there are lighting fixtures you can buy to help with this.

Pick one or more topics to work on each day and you will see an improved outlook.  Be intentional about what you are doing.  Share this information with others in your circle and work on these things together.  

Taking care of yourself should be a priority despite the season. Continue to find ways to make your personal situation better.  Review the list, pick a topic and make a plan.  

 

 

 

Don’t Let the Holidays Derail Your Work on Your Health Goals

Here we are on the first day of December. As we close out the year, you have one month left to focus on your health goals for this year. Letting your guard down just because it’s the holidays does not give you a pass.  Don’t let the holidays derail your work on your health goals.

Who is taking care of you?  You and only you are responsible for your health.  There are many things that impact your health status so I chose to focus on these three topics; ‘me time’, self care and self-reliance. Each of you are in a different personal situation and you need to develop the skills that are most pertinent to you.

I use the word ‘self’ in many ways. This does not imply that you need to be living alone or supporting only yourself. I am asking you to develop the skills you need so that if you find yourself alone, you can continue to support yourself. I also ask that you make your own health a priority. You cannot take care of others if you are not in the best health possible. I include ‘me time’ as a separate focus so that you can learn to carve out key times during the day to do something for yourself.

If you have already identified ways to improve your health and you are working on some goals, you need to make an extra commitment to them as you may be facing daily events or foods that will test you over the next four weeks.  Colder weather may also impact your exercise  goals.

What can you do this month?    December is a tough time to begin but this doesn’t mean you can’t start analyzing your current habits.  What will you do today?  Are you struggling to find 30 minutes each day to focus on yourself? If you are new to this site there is an Activity Journal under the Resources tab to help you work through this process if you need help finding the time to do this. The Resource page also has different activity lists in case you need other ideas. 

Don’t let the holidays derail your work on your health goals but be intentional on the items you will splurge on.  Plan ahead and work in movement every day.  Sample food and drink in moderation.  You can enjoy the season while maintaining your health goals.

Cheers!

 

 

Who Is The Event Planner In Your Family?

This next week is the kick-off to the holiday season and I am expecting that it will be different for each of you in comparison to previous years. Between my parents and the families of my five siblings, we usually split up the menu, the cleaning, the decorating and errands. Cooking occurs in 4-5 different kitchens before it is all brought together in my parent’s home. This process makes feeding 20-30 adults appear easy.

My family will not be traveling to Texas this year so I started to take stock of what all needs to happen this week. There will only be five of us this year in my home. I could feel anxiety building up as I pulled out my Thanksgiving planner and realized that there was a lot to do. Eeeek!

 

What do gatherings look like for you and your friends and family?  This year the festivities will probably be different.  What all has to happen and who usually does it?  What can you afford to do?  

Let’s look at this week’s activities.

  • What is your family going to do this year?
  • Who are you going to spend the day with?
  • What needs to be done?
  • Who’s the event planner in your family?
  • What will be on your menu?
  • Who is paying for what?
  • Who’s the shopper?
  • Who’s the cook?
  • Who cleans up?
  • What else?

If the answer is ‘me’ to most of these questions, what can you do to reduce your stress and anxiety this week? If you do not own any of the duties listed above, what can you step up and do?

 Look at the invite list.  Is there anyone who can share the workload and errands? How much meal prep can occur ahead of time and who will do it? How are you going to build in a way to make sure that you get to enjoy the day as well?

Holidays should be enjoyed by all.  By planning out the day and the participants, you can come up with a plan to ensure that everything gets done and that everyone gets to enjoy the day.  

As you look forward to all of the different celebrations coming up in the next 6 weeks, apply this same approach to all of them.  After everyone has enjoyed their feast, make a preliminary plan for any upcoming gatherings so that everyone knows what their future tasks will be.  By laying the framework out, it will make for a more pleasant and less stressful experience for all.

 

Invest In Your Health By Setting Health Goals

I am so not a cold weather person. I am in Pittsburgh for a couple of days and arrived yesterday to very windy and cold weather. One of my first thoughts was ‘I am not walking in this!’

 

I am asking for you to invest in your health by setting health goals.  As you think about how to do this, think about building in movement into each of your days.  What challenges do you face? You may not be able to set up an exercise plan due to medical conditions or disabilities but if your clinician has given you the green light, find something to do that makes you move more.

 

Hot, cold or rainy weather, home situations, shorter days, new COVID restrictions on gyms, malls and other outdoor venues may all impact your ability to get a workout in.

 

Look around you.  Your setting may be in a shelter,  on a couch with a friend or in your home.  You may not have the room or specific equipment (treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical or weight lifting equipment) available to you but if you can sit or walk, you can move.  

 

 

Invest In Your Health By Setting Health Goals

  • I will talk to my clinician about starting an exercise routine.
  • I will look at YouTube videos or other online resources and find a series that I like and set a start date within 2 weeks.
  • I will look at my calendar and schedule three 30-minute blocks of time for exercise each week.
  • I will invite my spouse/friend/family member to join me in these exercises.
  • I will keep all of my appointments with myself and not cancel any of the sessions.

We have a  Monthly & Daily Health Goals  planner for you to use.  Write out your weekly and monthly goals.  Writing them down and posting them on the fridge or your mirror will allow you to see them daily.  This will help keep you on track.  You can also click on the Resources Tab to find this planner.

This is a great time to do this.  This will keep the extra holiday pounds at bay, provide natural endorphins to help you counteract the mental stressors that you face every day and make you physically stronger.  Are you ready to do this?