Health Watch/Katie Kolb, Clinical Information Systems Tech

In Honor of Valentine’s Day

February is traditionally known as Heart Health Month. Often times when we talk about heart health we focus on physical health, exercise, healthy eating etc. The American Heart Association suggests that we focus on “7 Key Health Factors” to lower our risk of heart disease. These are: 1.Get Active. 2. Eat better. 3. Lose Weight/Maintain a Healthy Weight. 4. Control Cholesterol. 5. Manage Blood Pressure. 6. Reduce Blood Sugar and 7. Stop Smoking. I would like to add a number 8 to this list and focus this article on emotional well being and loving oneself in honor of Valentine’s Day. I recently was looking at a web site . This website focuses on ten healthy things that we can do for our emotional well being. Let me share them with you.

Express your emotions. Allow yourself to feel positive and negative emotions in your life without shame or guilt. Suppressing negative emotions can lead to depression, anxiety and stress.

Be social. This is a difficult one for me. I am not naturally social. But I find that it is possible to encourage yourself in this direction and feel good about the outcome. I am a person who can get lost in my work. Work life balance is important.

Focus on the positive. Here’s a suggestion: every night before going to bed write down three things that you are grateful for. They don’t have to be big ticket items, maybe the sun was shining and you are grateful for that. Life feels better when you are positive. If I feel like my day is going badly, I’ll stop what I’m doing and stop thinking negative thoughts. I just won’t let those negative thoughts grow. I’ll think about what good happened today instead of focusing on what went wrong. Try it, it often works for me.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Negative things happen that are out of our control. Let it go. Don’t dwell on it. And if you did make a mistake, accept it and learn from it and stop thinking about it. It really doesn’t help to beat yourself up about something that has occurred.

Respect and accept yourself. If you are a mom or dad, daughter or son, sister or brother or in any other type of relationship you probably know what unconditional love is. We need to learn how to love ourselves unconditionally as we love others. Remember that no one is perfect. Respect and accept yourself.

Practice meditation/yoga. Meditation/yoga/deep breathing etc. allows us to find peace and energy and improves concentration. If you have the opportunity to practice any of these relaxation techniques either alone or in the company of others, I strongly urge you do so. Yoga allows me to completely clear my mind. We all need time to be able to deal with whatever happens at work or home. Yoga simply makes me happy and allows me to cope during times of stress.

Enjoy your alone time. By this I mean you should be comfortable enough with yourself that you don’t need others around you to entertain you. I work at a job where people are regularly asking me questions and looking for answers. I find that it’s nice to be able to be alone without constant stimulation. Try to take some time for yourself. You may find crafts such as knitting relaxing. Just let your brain relax.

Avoid black or white thinking. Thinking that things are either right or wrong may lead to disappointment. Look to explore the middle ground. People at times may feel frustrated because something either did or did not meet their expectations. Be happy with the journey.

Foster your creativity. Identify and explore your interests and creativity. When I was a teen, I found solace in my interest in photography. Photography allowed me to see things differently. Someone might walk on a beach and see a bunch of rocks whereas looking through a camera lens narrows what you see so you identify each rock’s individual difference.

Laugh loud and often. Laughter can be good in many situations. Even during stressful times laughter may lighten the mood.

Now I know that each one of these suggestions will not work for everyone. But perhaps you will find one idea that will help you improve your emotional health. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Editor’s note: Katie Kolb is the clinical information systems tech at Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health & Hospice.