Maia Alexander, Vice President, Talent and Culture
Working in any demanding industry can be taxing to your physical health, particularly for one vital organ: the heart. It can be challenging to achieve a level of balance between personal and professional demands. However, it is important to create healthy habits that not only work for you, but also protects your heart. With February designated as American Heart Health Month, now is a great opportunity to take personal inventory of how you can make better choices that support a healthy heart and life.
Did you know that, according to our client, the American Heart Association, 47% of U.S. adults are estimated to have hypertension and only 1 in 4 adults in the United States report achieving or making time for aerobic or muscle strengthening activities that can potentially prevent or lower the risk of heart disease?
Heart health starts with preventative care, understanding your genetics and risks, and proactively managing your health goals. An extension of heart health is your personal wellness. There are several components of leading a healthy life, however we spend a quarter of our time each week at work, so it is important to establish habits that support heart health and ultimately overall wellness.
One of the best ways to protect space and time that belongs to your personal wellness is committing to a routine or to the things that are most important. For example, establish an end-of-workday exercise routine. After sending the last email, making a to-do list for the next day, and logging off, make time to exercise for 30 minutes. Performing this routine daily soon becomes more than two hours of exercise each week.
As you find balance in the facets of your life that require much of your time and energy, your stress levels will also level out and become easier to navigate. Then, as your stress levels shift, you may find the need to make adjustments in your diet and sleep pattern, as well as eliminate habits that put your heart at risk such as smoking.
Healthy habits are a starting point, but it’s also important to seek professional advice and medical care. Annual preventative health appointments are useful and necessary, but often medical insurance covers benefits for which most aren’t taking advantage. Less-used benefits include nutrition counseling, acupuncture, chiropractor visits, and mental health care. Some find it easier to go to these providers and self-pay, but there are providers that accept insurance, greatly reducing the cost of a visit. For those without insurance coverage, there are also organizations that provide free resources like on-demand classes and workshops that can further your knowledge.
With healthy habits and professional care, you may start to notice progress in your mental or physical health. The biggest hurdle in pursuit of your goals is consistency so it is important to find an accountability measure that works for you. Options include wellness planners, habit trackers, and apps designed to help define your commitment and track your progress. Set up milestones and personal rewards for achieving wellness goals. Celebrating yourself provides an opportunity to reflect on your progress and celebrate the commitment you’ve made to your wellness. This doesn’t always mean buying yourself a new item or finally eating the piece of cake you’ve been craving. It can be trying a new experience or taking a mental health day. Find ways to reward yourself with moments of joy that give you something to look forward to at the next milestone.
The journey of finding balance and seeking additional support is important as you optimize the components of a healthier lifestyle, but most important, a healthier heart. Set small goals toward healthier habits, check out your underused insurance benefits, and dream about rewards for yourself. There’s no better way to show love to yourself than protecting your heart by taking simple, but important, steps toward a healthier lifestyle.