This past Sunday, Mother’s Day, kicked off National Women’s Health Week. Led by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, this is a wonderful and empowering opportunity to encourage women to take steps to improve their overall health. I love this idea because, let’s face it, taking care of children, parents and others often takes priority over ourselves. I think we all need a gentle reminder that to effectively take care of others, we must take care of ourselves first. Here are some basic steps we can all take to make sure we are prioritizing ourselves.
Schedule those well-care appointments: As we finished my youngest son’s semi annual dentist appointment yesterday, I tried, unsuccessfully, to recall my own last dentist visit. So maybe you, too, missed a few important appointments? National checkup day was Monday, May 11th, in which we are all encouraged to make those well-women checkups. To me that meant getting back on the calendar with the dermatologist and the dentist.
Get moving: The weather is gorgeous! Ask someone to go for a walk! Try a class you’ve never tried before. The benefits of moving are innumerable including lowering the risk of heart disease, the number one cause of death among women. So try adding a day of strength or resistance training, like Pilates or yoga, to your weekly schedule and get yourself moving!
Eat (and drink) healthy: Rome wasn’t built in a day so don’t feel overwhelmed when trying to change your eating and drinking habits. One small change can make a huge difference. Try eliminating processed foods from one of your meals today. Or try making sure you eat 4 different vegetables today. Or take a minute to really enjoy that first glass of wine while you’re cooking dinner for your kids (I know how easy it is to pour another!) and maybe you can avoid pouring the second. Start small and you’ll be amazed at how much better you can feel!
Get rest and sleep: I wrote extensively about the benefits of sleep in an earlier article but it bears repeating; sleep deficiencies are at the root of many serious health problems and newsworthy tragedies such as the Challenger crash and the Chernobyl disaster. So go to bed a little earlier each night and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Maybe you can avoid your own nuclear meltdown!
Take care of your mental health: Data shows that physical health and mental health are inextricably linked. So all things listed above will provide mental health benefits as well. Additionally, I find I’m happiest when I surround myself with positive people and when I’m doing something for someone else. My children, however, don’t count, because as we know, children often have a funny way of expressing – or not expressing - their appreciation of our efforts. So try doing one thing a week for someone outside of your family. Write a “Just thinking of you note”, send an unexpected picture or gift to an elderly relative, or buy the stranger in line behind you her morning latte. You’ll make someone else happy and may be surprised how happy you’ll make yourself as well!
I hope to see you on the road to better women’s health!
~ Stacy Geant Hughes, Certified Pilates Instructor, Certified Pink Ribbon Program specializing in post breast cancer surgery rehabilitation, Owner of Core Value Pilates, LLC in Ridgewood, NJ