Celebrate American Heart Month with Healthy Habits

By Laura Coti Garrett, Guest Blogger

The words you long to hear, but rarely claim: time for self-care.


Laura Coti Garrett with Eileen Stevenson, survivor ambassador (left) and Tricia Paolucci, Go Red For Women Director (right)

Women’s heart health is our February focus. It’s what Go Red for Women is all about. Women tend to take care of others before themselves. Quick to put children, spouses, colleagues, bosses, neighbors, friends and aging parents first, the list is long and, often, they’re not on it.

While it’s wonderful to be a nurturer, you don’t want to lose yourself in those selfless acts of caring. It’s potentially bad for your heart (not to mention your soul). Any airline passenger knows this. When the oxygen mask drops down, fill your own lungs before passing the mask on to your child. The message is clear: You can’t care for others if you aren’t at full strength.

Step One: Begin with intentional breathing. Every hour, take a “me” break to breathe. You can do this at home, in the office, anywhere at all. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat this five times at the top of each hour. It’s a guaranteed reset that will give you better focus on your priorities in the hour ahead.

When you take this mindful breather you put yourself on a path to being more present, less frazzled and depleted. It’s about becoming more aware of changing your lifestyle and reducing stress. If you take care of yourself first, you will be able to take care of others, in a better way.

Which brings us to Step Two, the kitchen, where (you know what I am going to say) preparation is key. Being more relaxed does involve pre-planning. I am reminding you of the sheer joy that comes from shopping on the weekend and cooking ahead. Let’s agree to a couple of meals a week, debuted on Mondays and Wednesdays, with leftovers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This month, we’ll stock up on cabinet-ready, heart-healthy red foods, like cans of crushed tomatoes (rich in lycopene, the base of homemade pasta sauce) and jars of salsa (baked over pork chops, a relatively lean meat). These are quick and delicious key ingredients to healthy and stress-free dinners.

Step Three: Give yourself a break. What we think people want from us and what they actually need can be two separate things. There is often a huge gap between your good intentions and external expectations. Continue to check in with yourself about this. You’ll find it manifests in many ways.

As an example, I was having a dinner party for 20 people and I planned to make dinner rolls from scratch. Given the myriad menu items and preparations for the party, I didn’t get to the dinner rolls.

No guest demanded, “Hey Laura, where are those homemade rolls?” They had no idea rolls from scratch were on my mental menu.

So, cut yourself some slack. Pat yourself on the back. Remember to be your own best friend.

By all means, spread love, just be sure to begin with you.

And don’t forget to join me at the American Heart Association Northern New Jersey Go Red For Women Luncheon on Thursday, February 23.  I’ll be sharing more healthy-living tips and recipes during this day of celebration and inspiration for women’s heart health.


Laura Coti Garrett is a Registered Dietitian and Chairwoman for the 2017 Northern NJ Go Red For Women Luncheon. This post is part of a monthly series featuring Laura’s healthy eating tips.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *