So many of my patients are the primary caregivers in their families, a role that often involves coordinating the health care needs of partners, kids and even parents. This is a time-consuming role that requires women to put their own needs after everyone else’s. As a result, regular check-ups and health maintenance are often overlooked. But one of the things I remind my patients often: In order to keep caring for those you love, you absolutely have to put your physical, mental, and emotional health first.
Life can get hectic. Prioritizing your health will allow you to keep doing the things you enjoy and caring for those you love. And fortunately, taking better care of yourself doesn’t have to be complicated.
Here are a few things to focus on in order to optimize your wellness and put your health first:
Making Time for Mindfulness
Your mental health affects your physical and emotional health as well. Allowing yourself the time to wind down, relax, or properly manage your stress – especially in difficult or hectic times – can do wonders for your overall wellness. Setting aside a few minutes each day to assess and maintain your mental health with mindfulness practices like meditation, reflection, or self-affirmations is a great place to start.
Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet is no less important for you than it is for your loved ones. Nutrition affects every other aspect of our health, from physical to mental. First and foremost, it’s important to make sure you aren’t skipping meals, or swapping substantial meals out for low-calorie and non-nutritive substitutes. It is equally important to keep your diet well-balanced by incorporating health foods with a variety of essential vitamins and minerals into your meals.
In addition to putting your overall wellbeing at risk, poor nutrition can also contribute to several conditions that commonly affect women. Not only does nutrition play a role in a woman’s personal risk for fibroids, it can also increase her risks for cancer and other serious illnesses.
Getting Enough Sleep
Deep, uninterrupted sleep is vital for maintaining your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in every 3 American adults is sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation is a contributing risk factor for weight gain, depression, and hypertension. The frequency and regularity of hormonal changes in our bodies may mean that women experience issues with sleep more often. This makes it that much more important for women to strive for no less than seven hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Women’s sleep cycles are subject to change during different phases of their lives, like during menopause or pregnancy. You may notice your sleep quality is impacted during your menstrual cycle, too, when issues like bloating, cramps and body temperature make it difficult to sleep soundly. No matter what stage of life you’re in, talk to your doctor about your options if you are experiencing issues with sleep.
Exercise does wonders for our physical, mental, and emotional health. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, like walking, per week. Regular exercise can be a valuable tool for stress management, improving fitness levels, and maintaining a healthy weight. Moderate exercise also decreases a woman’s risk of conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Attending Your Well-Woman Visits
Of course, attending annual physicals and scheduling regular well-woman visits are great ways for women to start making their personal health a priority. These visits present women with an opportunity to monitor their wellness and to talk to their physician one-on-one about any health concerns. It is also important to keep up with your regular health check-ins and preventive screenings, especially if you haven’t made it in to the doctor’s office in a while. Our physicians, nurses, and women’s health specialists at Main Line Health offer patients innovative and individualized preventative care as well as additional physical and psychological health care resources.