Give Your Heart a Break


Introducing Guest Blogger: Shelly Starling

Shelly is a Fitness/Wellness intern at the Recreation and Fitness Center.  She is pursuing an Associates degree in Health and Fitness Science at Wake Technical Community College.  Her interest in mind/body connection led her to pursue her 200 hour yoga certification in 2017.  She enjoys teaching yoga, walks with her rescue doggie, and reading comic books.  

By Shelly Starling, Recreation and Fitness Center Intern

No one is immune to heartache, whether it comes in the form of heart disease or a broken heart. Our physical and emotional bodies are interconnected, one cannot work in its full capacity without help from the other. It is important to keep your physical health in check and get a heart health check from your doctor.  When did you last spend time on your emotional heart health? Here are my top 5 practices for heart health.


Give your heart a break

We’ve all heard of FOMO, right? The fear of missing out. But what about JOMO, the JOY of missing out? My office mate Rebecca showed me this article and I love it! It is so important to give yourself a break from the constant flow of information coming through your phone. Just having your phone nearby, even if it is face down and on silent, takes brain power away from whatever task you are working on. Taking a break from your phone may help reduce anxiety, keep you in the present moment, and make real connections with the people around you. Check out the article yourself for some more tips and information.

Stretch it out

We all hold tension in our bodies in different places. I crick in the neck or a tight back can put a rain cloud over your whole day. My colleague, Rebecca, notices that when she is emailing, she clenches her jaw.  Once she feels the death grip in her jaw, she pauses, closes her eyes, and takes 3-5 slow deep breaths.  This has really helped her relax and it softens the tone of her emails. Next time you start to feel tension creeping in, try this chair yoga sequence or a few stretches  at your desk.

Write it down

It can be easy to get caught up in all the stress and drama of every day and forget what we are grateful for. Studies have shown that writing in a gratitude journal daily can improve the health of your heart. Start small, every day write down 1 or 2 things that you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be in journal, it can be on a scrape piece of paper or a note in your phone. I started this year by writing down all the great things that happened in 2019 and all the things I am excited for in 2020. It was easier for me to start with the really big life events and slowly move to more simple everyday things that I am grateful for. Try to do it every day for two weeks and see if it makes you feel less stressed or overwhelmed.

Take a breath

Taking a few minutes to breath and calm the mind can help de-stress and unwind. When we take the time to sit still, close our eyes, and focus on our breath, we quite the sympathetic nervous system response (fight or flight) and let the parasympathetic (rest and digest) take over. With the parasympathetic in control, cortisol (stress hormone) levels drop and your body moves towards balanced rhythm. I first noticed the positive effects of breath work from my yoga practice. I always felt better after the beginning of class when we sat down and took a few moments to breath. Taking the practice of conscious breathing off the mat helps me to wind down and calm my mind when I’m feeling stressed. Check out these podcasts to help you get started.

Bath in the forest

In Japan they call it shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest bathing. And no, it doesn’t involve taking off your clothes or washing your hair in the woods. It means taking in the forest through your senses. It’s not exercise, it’s about simply being in nature and bridging the gap between yourself and the natural world. I used to get so frustrated taking my dog for a walk, she wants to stop and sniff and look at everything. She has no concern for how far we walk or how long it takes, while I’m constantly checking my Fitbit seeing what my heart rate is and how many miles per hour we are going. But now I’m starting to think maybe my dog knows something I don’t. Maybe she knows about shinrin-yoku.  Want to learn more? 

Show your support for National Heart Month by wearing RED to raise awareness of cardiovascular diseases.  Get active in the name of #hearthealth! SAS Employees in the Cary area have lots of opportunities at the RFC - Wear RED Breakfast Run, RED Step & Core, Yoga for Heart Health, and RED Resistance Functional Training and then grab a heart healthy lunch in the Cafes !

Read more about heart health on SAS Life:

Reduce your heart disease risk by deep breathing + 4 other stress relieving tips

5 Powerful Foods for Your Heart

Stress and Your Heart: What You Can Do

Bring On the Loving Kindness!

Dance Your HEART Out


About Author

Rebecca Allen

Recreation and Fitness Program Coordinator Wellness

Rebecca E. Allen is passionate about helping others develop and nurture practices of well-being.   She earned her BS in Sociology and MA in Exercise and Sport Science and holds fitness certifications from ACE, AFAA,, IFTA, and Tai Chi for Health Institute.  She is a Medical Exercise Specialist and is registered with Yoga Alliance as a 500 RYT. Rebecca enjoys long walks in the woods with her husband, Chip Davis.

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