Heart awareness

The holiday that most people often celebrate, or think about during the month of February is Valentine’s Day which is recognized on February 14th. Since early childhood, most of us learned that Valentine’s Day included cards, candy, and telling your “sweetheart” that you love them. It’s a time to remember and cherish relationships and to recognize new loves or revitalize long term ones. I think it’s time we look at another love that is often forgotten, it is called “self-love.” Loving ourselves, having self-confidence, and being mindful of our own physical and mental health is often neglected or seen as a challenging task. Many people fail to recognize self love as an important aspect of leading a healthy lifestyle.

Throughout my years as a therapist I have learned more about myself than I could ever have imagined. The clients I have worked with and the groups I have lead all assisted me in developing a better understanding of healthy love. Healthy love happens when you are truly accepting yourself as an important and wonderful human being capable of deserving love and capable of giving love. If you do not love yourself how do you accept the love from another person? People in unhealthy relationships often feel insecure or jealous as they do not feel worthy of the love they are receiving. Once you feel desirable, and worthy of love it is much easier to accept that another human being could possibly love you. It all starts with “you”.

Is it a coincidence that February is also American Heart Awareness Month? I found it interesting that the month of “love and hearts” was also chosen the month to recognize the human organ of the heart. So when people are talking about the importance of heart disease and making better physical lifestyle choices we need to also talk about emotional heart awareness. Stress, anxiety, depression, etc. are all factors associated with heart disease and it’s important to take care of our heart physically and emotionally. The American Heart Association listed several activities such as making small eating changes, adding physical activity to your lifestyle, asking doctors and nurses about ways to prevent heart disease, etc. Once you begin making these changes to your lifestyle, I can guarantee you will begin to feel emotionally better as well. Here are a few emotional tips to add to the list in helping to take care of your heart:

Daily Positive affirmations. Positive self talk may sound difficult or unusual but many times we look for validation from other people and when we do not receive it we feel upset or depressed. Be the person who lifts you up! Stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself all the positive things you see. Avoid negativity! No one is perfect anyway, right?

Talk to someone or write in a journal. Holding feelings and thoughts inside can lead to depressive thoughts or anxiety. Getting “it” out relieves pressure and it feels great to verbally share with yourself or someone you trust.

Start group therapy. There are some wonderful self help groups or coping skills groups out there. Stress Management groups and skill building groups are different than just sharing your problems, they teach you concrete skills to apply to life situations and it feels good to know you are not alone and that other people struggle as well! There truly is strength in numbers.

Avoid negative people, especially when you are feeling vulnerable to that negativity. It’s OK to walk away, change your routine, or tell others you are busy. Especially when your health has to matter the most. Sometimes people feel “worse” when they allow themselves to be brought down by another person’s negativity. It can be too much weight to bear sometimes.

Self-esteem building. One of my clients told me this (he was wise well beyond his years): “Make sure you put a high price tag on yourself because, rest assured, society will not raise its value.” You are the one who has to think highly of yourself and know that you are worth it!

During the month of “Heart Awareness,” and every month for that matter, learn to work on the most important relationship you will ever have-it’s the one you have with yourself. Take care of your physical health and emotional health and the rest of your relationships will start improving as well!

Michelle Williams, LCSW, is the executive director of Family Services of Warren County. The organization is offering several new short-term groups such as stress management, women’s coping skills, and anger management. Call 723-1330 for more information.