The 20th National Women’s Health Week has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean the focus on your mental and physical health should end as well. Women face a lot of pressure and stress in today’s culture. We have responsibilities at home, at work, and in the community and sometimes it feels like we are spending so much time caring for everyone else, that it can be hard to find time to focus on our own health and needs. Here are seven great ways to nurture your body and mental health that can have a huge impact on your life.
Visit Your Healthcare Providers
If you are a parent, you know how important well-child checkups are to keep your child safe and healthy. However, the importance doesn’t end once a child grows up. In fact, visiting your healthcare providers regularly is an important way to stay healthy as an adult as well. Most women should see their primary care doctor, eye doctor, and OB-GYN annually and their dentist twice a year.
At these appointments, you can receive your screenings for life-threatening conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, depression, diabetes, eye disease, or high blood pressure. You can also receive preventative care, such as vaccines. At these visits, you and your healthcare provider can discuss new or worsening symptoms, addressing issues before they become major problems.
Prioritize a Healthy Diet
Some days, if feels like we barely have time to sit down and scarf down a meal before we have to run to the next appointment, practice, or errand. However, what we put into our bodies gives us energy and can boost our health or harm it. Eating a healthy diet is a key step in keeping your body healthy and strong. Recent research has also found that diets high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can also boost your mental health as well!
If your days are so busy that you find yourself driving through the fast food drive-through, try using the weekends (or any free day!) to stuff your freezer. Have a cooking day with your children or friends and make a week’s worth of healthy meals that you can pull out of the freezer and heat up.
Keeping a stash of healthy snacks on hand can ensure you nourish your body throughout the day as well. It’s easier to resist grabbing a bag of chips from the vending machine if your purse, desk, or fridge is full of fresh cut fruit or veggies, bags of nuts or seeds, or some yogurt and homemade granola.
Make Being Active Fun
Nobody wants to prioritize exercise if it feels like a chore. The good news is that moving your body can (and should!) be fun! You don’t need to spend an hour on a treadmill staring at the wall to benefit. Head outside and hike through the woods or in a park, grab your favorite four-legged friend and walk around the neighborhood, garden, swim, bike, or even kick a ball around with your kids.
Joining a physical class can be a fun way to make friends and nourish your body and mind. If there is a sport or activity you’ve always wanted to try, give it a shot! Have you always admired martial artists that can break boards or slice through bamboo with a sword? Does doing tai chi by a lake sound like the perfect way to relax? Does pole dancing, belly dancing, or even ballroom dancing sound like fun? Go ahead and treat yourself to a fun new hobby. There are even places that allow you to tap into your childhood dreams and take ballet or gymnastics as an adult!
Kick a Bad Habit
Sometimes the best thing we can do for our physical and mental health is to commit to stopping a bad habit. Smoking, showing signs of excessive drinking, or texting while driving are certainly things that are risky to your mental and physical health. However, there are also less obvious bad habits that can have a significant impact on your health, such as spending too much time online, sitting too much, drinking a soft drink every day, or going to bed without flossing.
Whatever bad habit you choose to break, making the committment is an investment in your health. If you need help breaking a serious bad habit, please don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or call a mental health or substance abuse rehab specialist.
If you are like most women, you likely live life with an undertone of stress and being overwhelmed. Our fast-paced on-the-go culture seems to value being busy and achieving one thing after another. Sometimes, some of the pressure we feel comes from ourself and our desire to be everything to everyone. However, all of that stress and pressure can be harmful to our bodies and our mental health.
One of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health is to make daily relaxation a priority. Practicing mindfulness, whether through deep breathing, tai chi, yoga, individual or guided meditation, or simply just taking a few minutes each day to journal or practice gratitude can go a long way to grounding us and relieving stress.
Sleep is Essential!
Most of us are probably not getting nearly enough sleep. It can be hard to fit everything we need to do into the 24 hours we have each day so sleep is usually the first thing we sacrifice. However, our bodies need good sleep to regenerate and heal. Some women find that setting a bedtime for themselves, and sticking with it, is a great way to prioritize sleep.
If you find that winding down each night is difficult, create a relaxing bedtime routine. A warm bath, diffusing some lavender oil, and drinking a warm cup of decaf coffee or chamomile tea can help your body wind down. Also remember to put the screens away at least an hour before bed to help your brain shift towards sleep.
Explore and Release Those Emotions
Finally, many women are really good at hiding their emotions and keeping anxiety, stress, sadness, fear, or anger inside. This practice can actually be harmful to your mental health. Burying emotions can cause them to build up, much like a pressure cooker. For some, buried trauma or difficult emotions can even lead them to turn to using drugs or alcohol as a way to cope. Others might release their feelings by inadvertantly taking it out on someone else.
Releasing emotions is healthy and normal. There are many safe ways to do this, including journaling. If you are the creative type, drawing, painting, or writing music or poetry can be a great release. Some people might feel more comfortable talking through their feelings with a therapist, or even a best friend.
Focusing on women’s health doesn’t need to be limited to just one week out of the year. Each new day is a great opportunity to do something to improve your physical and mental health. Remember that even with all that you have to do each day, you and your health are worth prioritizing!