I love Women’s Health Week . Just love it. It sounds rather silly, perhaps – but rather than this being a “holiday” that pressures our loved ones into showing their appreciation for us, it’s a time for us to pay attention to the ways we do (or don’t!) take care of ourselves and our wellness. After all, as Mao Zedong said, “Women hold up half the sky.” We can’t carry the weight of the heavens (and our families, and careers, and…..) if we’re spiritually exhausted, emotionally depleted, or physically ill!
So this is a good time to ask: what does it mean to you to be a well woman, and how do you tend to your wellness?
The Women’s Health.Gov web page on National Women’s Health Week makes the following five suggestions:
- Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.
- Get active.
- Eat healthy.
- Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
- Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, texting while driving, and not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet.
While I agree 100% with these suggestions, I’d like to add a few thoughts on three of them, and share one or two of my own….
Get Active –
“Get active” – that is so much better than saying “Exercise!” Where “exercise” brings to mind “no pain no gain” routines like cross-training, Zumba, or Pilates, “activity” could refer to free-flowing, fun practices like gardening, walking or bicycling, bellydancing, Tai Chi, yoga…the list is endless. If you’re looking for a super-efficient form of activity to fit into a busy schedule, many nutritional and physical fitness experts are recommending “burst” training (Extremely short duration high intensity interval training), which helps your body adapt to stress, burn fat, regulate blood sugar and boost production of Human Growth Hormone.
And there are added, hidden benefits. Doing your physical activity barefoot on the Earth (“Earthing”) helps to activate the root chakra and sacral chakras, release pent-up emotions and keep you grounded and centered (among many other benefits!). Outdoor activity also gives you a good dose of Vitamin D, as well as the mental and spiritual benefits of being in nature.
And all of this is essential to keeping your bones strong, your joints supple, and your heart healthy.
Eat Healthy –
Women’s Health.Gov is singing my song here! I could talk for hours (and often do) about the importance of healthy eating in maintaining wellness. Here are just a few of the key points to remember:
- Hydrate – drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water
- Tip your diet toward a better pH balance, and reduce inflammation and disease, with more alkaline foods such as lemons, limes, all greens, cruciferous vegetables
- Try fermented foods such a kimchi and sauerkraut – they naturally produce more of the “good” probiotic bacteria in your gut, which aids in digestion and helps decrease sugar cravings
- Reduce your consumption of sugar, caffeine, processed foods and breads/pasta
- Eat high water content fruits and vegetables – they’re a great source of antioxidants, and keep your skin supple and you your juices flowing
- Boost your magnesium (thus boosting dopamine production in your brain and helping your body to process estrogen) by adding Swiss chard, spinach, nettle, pumpkin seeds, cashews and almonds to your diet.
- Boost your calcium while you avoid the side effects of dairy: indulge in green goddess foods such as tahini , spinach and nettle.
Did you know that Women’s Health Week comes in the middle of Mental Health Month? It’s a wonderful twofer, reminding us to support not only our physical health, but also the balance of our body/mind/spirit. It’s important to take positive steps toward mental self-care, starting with practices like these:
- Connecting with supportive, loving people
- Taking time to play
- Taking part in activities you enjoy
- Practicing gratitude
- Connecting with your higher power
Most important – if life is seeming bleak, or you are having difficulty functioning, see a therapist or other mental health care professional! Whether you choose cognitive therapy, medication, or a naturopathic path to relieve your struggle, you do not need to suffer alone. Get help.
Bottom line? Be proactive with self care activities!
As women, we often wind up tending to everyone around us while we neglect ourselves. Women’s Health Week is an important week-long reminder, but we need to bring the lesson home all year long: to make the time to nurture our own wellness with self nourishing activities.
So – start building your self-care habits now! Why not try doing just one of these activities each day…and plan to enjoy them for a lifetime…
- Turn your plate into an artist’s palette with colorful fresh, local fruits and vegetables
- Check in with your intuition before agreeing to something
Treat yourself to a massage, pedicure or manicure
- End a tough day with a soothing salt bath, scented with essential oils
- Read a challenging or inspirational book
- Lastly, remember to breathe.
To your self-care!