Right off the helm of Mother’s Day, today’s the start of National Women’s Health Week, and as part of that, today is National Women’s Check Up Day.
I like awareness weeks like these, when the government seemingly arbitrarily assigns meaning to certain days, because they serve as a sort of kick in the ass when you need it. I haven’t always taken care of myself as I needed to. A few years ago, due to plain-old fear and lack of health insurance, I waited months and months for a super important check-up on my eye. Putting it off ended up costing me more and more money and, of course, more pain. It turned out I had Uveitis, which was flaring up as a result of an arthritis-related auto-immune disorder that had gone undiscovered. I was 25. Suffice to say, your health becomes more fragile with every year that passes, so it’s key, ladies, you take care of yourself.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health suggests a few measures that you can take to ensure looking and feeling your best. They seem obvious, but it’s never a bad time for a reminder.
Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings. Just do it. Pick up the phone and make an appointment. Don’t forget the GYNO, now! Between work, play and just needing some mental time off, it’s SO easy to say, “I’ll call next week,” over and over again. If you had something gnarly growing on your face or your lady parts or your left arm, you’d get your ass to a doctor, right? Well, you can’t see your insides, so check-ups are kind of necessary.
Get active. Workout! Dance! Walk! Run! Exclamation points may make what sounds awful sound fun, and I am the first to recognize that, but you’ve got to figure out a way to burn calories, keep your bones moving and stay healthy. If you already are working out, let National Women’s Heath Week be a reminder to kickstart your routine, add realistic challenges to your workout goal or sign up for that pole dancing class you’ve been meaning to join. Do it; your body will thank you.
Eat healthy. Eating healthy, for me, is like a Jedi move. Whenever I choose salad over a burger and fries I truly believe that there is some magic energy inside me that I’m tapping into. In reality, healthy food doesn’t have to equal gross. You should find food that enables you to be active and feel good about your body. Use this week to add those foods to your diet. Change your breakfast routine from Count Chocula (does anyone still eat that?) to fruit and grains, or make a goal to add more veggies to your lunch and dinner. It’s insane how much eating healthy has positively impacted my health, my energy levels and the look of my body. I feel stronger and more in charge of what my body does and how it changes through aging.
Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress. Ugh. This is obviously difficult. But how important is it to check-in on your mental health? That means talking to someone if you’ve gone through a breakup and you can’t sleep. Or, that might mean using next weekend to get the hell out of the city for a mental break. Whatever it means for you, do it. According to the American Psychological Association, more women than men report physical and emotional symptoms of stress. I swear by this. Whenever I let stress go unchecked, my period goes haywire or I get acne or random joint pain. No good.
Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet, and texting while driving. Those are pretty legit examples of what not to do. Choosing to just wear the damned seatbelt can be easier than quitting smoking, but both can be done. My confession: I periodically smoke social cigarettes. I don’t buy packs. I never carry a lighter. I don’t smoke unless I’m drinking, and the truth is, it’s not that often. So why the hell would I do that knowing the health risks? For National Women’s Health Week, I’m going to try to and make this the start of a new no-cigarette-smoking-for-any-reason leaf. What about you?