If you’ve ever put your own needs on the back burner because you have so many other demands on your time — job, partner, kids, parents or even the dog! — you’re not alone. Women juggle a lot and often place themselves at the bottom of the to-do list.
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But to get the most out of life (and to help others), you have to care for yourself, too. Ob/Gyn Edward Chien, MD, MBA, shares six health and wellness tenets to follow for big personal payoffs, now and in the future.
1. Exercise regularly
Staying in shape is not just about a healthy weight. Exercising improves your health, helps you sleep better and boosts your mood.
“It also makes everyday activities easier, from lifting a toddler to tying your shoes to running down an airport terminal to catch a flight,” Dr. Chien says.
You don’t have to toss huge tires or run a marathon (unless that’s what you love to do!) to be fit. Aim for exercising 150 minutes a week (think: 30 minutes a day for five days). Do a mix of heart-thumping cardio and muscle-building moves.
2. Create healthy eating habits
Trendy diets come and go, some healthier than others. But what makes the most sense is to pick a healthy eating pattern that you can stick to long-term.
3. Get good sleep
You may never be a morning person, but a good night’s sleep can help you feel more chipper and think clearly. It’s also essential for good health. A solid sleep lowers your risk of getting sick or developing serious illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. But many factors can get in the way of falling or staying asleep, like late-night worrying or even staring at a screen (hello, phone scrolling) right before bedtime. Create a sleep routine to help you get back on track.
4. Manage stress
“Stress is a normal part of life, so figuring out how to manage it is crucial for releasing tension that builds up throughout the day,” Dr. Chien says. Learn how to combat burnout and frustrations in a way that works for you.
Often called self-care, stress relief comes in various forms, from meditation or yoga to beauty rituals, playing sports or spending time on a hobby. Think about what helps you relax and how you can prioritize that, even if only for a few minutes a day.
5. See your Ob/Gyn
Protecting your sexual health is important at every stage of life. You may need help figuring out what birth control method is right for you or troubleshooting a low sex drive. You may wonder if your period is normal or what to do to help you conceive. And there are so many questions around menopause, like how it affects your mood, weight, hair and skin.
Your friends may have some good tips, but the most trusted source of information is your Ob/Gyn. Be sure to voice your concerns and ask questions at your checkup. “Don’t feel embarrassed, no matter the topic — doctors have heard it all,” Dr. Chien promises.
You won’t need a Pap test (a screening for cervical cancer) every year, but your visit may include pelvic and breast exams.
6. Schedule checkups
Getting a regular checkup is essential for staying healthy. It gives you a chance to ask questions. And it gives your doctor the opportunity to spot problems early when they’re easier to treat. Some women get a physical exam every year, while others wait a few years — ask your doctor how often you should go.
Your primary care doctor will recommend health screenings based on your age and family history, too. These tests can discover early-stage diseases like breast cancer, osteoporosis and colorectal cancer. Don’t skip them — a health screening could save your life!
“Making your well-being a priority isn’t selfish, it’s smart,” Dr. Chien says. Staying on top of your health is essential to living the life you want — whatever that looks like for you.