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What does “self-care” make you think of? Is it massages, bubble baths, and a day at the spa? While those can be part of a self-care routine, there’s so much more to it. Self-care is the act of making your own health and well-being a priority and according to the American Heart Associationdoctors say it’s something everyone should be doing, but it often falls to the bottom of the priority list.

The American Heart Association reports that Dr. Laxmi Mehta, director of preventive cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, says, “Many times, people feel self-care is selfish and you’re indulging yourself.” But she points out that making time for self-care doesn’t make you selfish, it means “you’re staying healthy so you can do all the things you want to do in your life.” Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a psychiatry professor at UCLA agrees, adding, “It’s not a luxury, it’s a must.”

September is Self-Care Awareness Month and doctors share tips for using self-care to take care of your overall well-being:

Pay attention to your body – This includes listening to your body’s needs, getting regular health and wellness exams and not pushing yourself when your body needs to rest.

Move more – Dr. Mehta says exercise is key for helping both physical and mental well-being. And when you sit for eight to 10 hours a day, get up and take regular breaks to walk around.

Eat a healthy diet – The American Heart Association recommends a Mediterranean-style eating pattern, which includes lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, with small amounts of eggs, dairy products, fish and poultry.

Breathe – Taking the time to focus on breathing lowers stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure, according to Dr. Lavretsky. She says even one minute of breathing gets you out of “stress overdrive” so you can make better decisions.

Avoid harmful substances and excess anything – These docs say the number one thing is to avoid smoking, as well as excesses like eating too much, drinking too much, and even working too much.

Get enough sleep – Mehta explains, “Sleep is critical to being in your best physical and mental health.”

Source: American Heart Association

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