5 Ways Women Can Be Their Best Advocates for Their Health and Wellness
In many families, women are the ones making healthcare decisions for spouses and kids. Even single women often have the added responsibility of making many of those decisions for aging parents.
Women are also notorious for putting their own health and wellness behind the needs of everyone else. There’s no time to get to the gym if your child needs a ride to gymnastics. And you can’t stay in bed with a brutal cold if your dad needs a ride to the doctor’s office.
The fact is, you can’t take care of everyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. So being your own best advocate for your health and wellness will benefit everyone. Here are five ways women can prioritize their health.
Make Health Tasks Easy With Technology
There are many things you have to do for your own health and wellness on a routine basis. It’s a lot to keep track of while you’re tracking everyone else’s health. The secret to getting them done is to use tech.
For example, take birth control. Let that fall by the wayside and, well, you know what may happen. A routine gynecological exam is important, but you certainly don’t need to be going to the pharmacist every month. Take the express lane by traveling the online birth control route.
Plus, these online providers can do much more than write your prescription. They can talk to you, text you, answer your questions, and have medication delivered to your doorstep. Do the same for other prescriptions you might need, including those for migraines, skin conditions, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Next tech step? Take advantage of notification features on your smartphone, laptop, or wearable device. Set reminders for your medical appointments. Take breaks from work to do some deep breathing. Let these devices prompt you to get more steps or head to that spin class.
Technology offers some phenomenal tools to efficiently take care of yourself. You may need to input some data up front, but tech will take it from there.
Listen to Your Body
No one knows your body like you do, so pay attention to it. If something’s off kilter, call your doctor.
Delayed diagnoses close the window on early intervention for many illnesses and diseases. That delay may cost you more time later when treatment puts you out of action longer.
Women who notice signs of breast cancer, for example, often put off seeking diagnostic confirmation or treatment. Reasons for delay include caring for dependents, work responsibilities, transportation barriers, and concerns about treatment cost. Put your health first, and seek medical attention promptly.
You should rely on your instincts when it comes to your own health. It’s the same instinct you use when you notice that your child is lethargic or your spouse’s face is flushed. Send yourself to a doctor, just as you would them.
You’ll be the first person to know that something might be wrong with your health. Take notice, take action, and trust that little voice inside your head.
Prepare for Medical Appointments
Alright, so you’ve finally taken the time to schedule a checkup with your doctor. This is your chance to discuss any changes you’ve noticed inside your body and out. Don’t rush into the exam room and don that paper gown without being fully prepared.
Keep a running list of health-related changes you notice about yourself. Note that pain in your shoulder, weight gain for no apparent reason, or a change in your monthly cycle. How about that mole you keep hitting with your razor, or that headache you get a few times a week? Don’t rely on your memory. Use the list and make sure to bring up everything on it.
Some people find sharing certain things with their doctors embarrassing. It isn’t easy to get personal with someone you don’t know well—even if they’re a professional. However, there are tactics to help if you get nervous around your doctor. Making that list is helpful, and so is taking the direct approach to sharing your health concerns.
Always ask questions and don’t be afraid to disagree with your doctor. They are neither all-knowing nor infallible, but they do owe you answers to the questions you ask. Never let doctors rush you or intimidate you with an air of superiority.
Be prepared and things will go much more smoothly. Remember that your doctor can’t fix things that you don’t tell them about.
Care for Your Mental Health
Raise your hand if you have ever thought you were truly losing your mind. It’s a common feeling. Given the sheer number of balls a woman is juggling at any one time, it’s no surprise. When you’re at your wit’s end, don’t ignore those feelings.
Although women and men experience many of the same mental health issues, their symptoms may be radically different. Women are also subject to disorders men don’t have to deal with. After all, they’ve got pesky hormonal changes that the male species does not. (Good thing too, since they probably couldn’t handle them.)
If you’re experiencing signs of serious mental disorders, seek help immediately. Signs could include drug or alcohol overuse, persistent feelings of despair, suicidal thoughts, and mood swings from manic to depressive.
If your symptoms are less severe, you’ll still want to address them. Take advantage of employer-provided mental health services, or talk to your primary care physician. Even eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and adding exercise into your routine can help ease mild anxiety and depression.
Delaying mental healthcare is no different than delaying care for physical illness and disease. The longer you wait, the more difficult your mental health may be to treat. Mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. They are matters to be dealt with frankly and urgently.
Build Your Own Support System
Women tend to be armies of one, ready to take on the world daily. Some days, you handle battles with ease. Other days, you need troops by your side.
Every woman should have at least one person—a parent, spouse, sibling, friend—to confide in. This is a person with whom you drop the brave façade. They know all your worries and fears.
Some medical appointments require someone to pick you up afterwards. Your support system should include someone who’s willing to drive you to and from appointments. You need someone in your life who can drop off chicken soup when you’re too weak to cook for yourself. You know, like you do for everyone else in your life.
Relationships are two-sided. Don’t overlook your family when you need support. They’re often the best ones to provide it, although you may need to coach them a bit. At the very least, you may need to actually ask for support to get it.
You’re probably familiar with the saying, “Physician, heal thyself.” The same holds true for women. While supporting everyone in your life, take the time to be your own best advocate, and prioritize your health.