Rosemary Alpert, contributing author
The month of May welcomes blossoming lilacs, budding apple trees and more sunshine. Along with the second Sunday of May, set aside in in recognition of the mothers, and women who have been like mothers, in our lives. The week that follows has been designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as, “National Women’s Health Week,” May 9-15, 2021. A time to acknowledge and celebrate the strength, resilience and health of women. Check in with ourselves and ask, “How are we doing?” especially these days.
One of my oldest friends, who will be turning 100 years old this coming October, has lived by this simple wisdom, she reminds me, “Put your oxygen mask on first, otherwise, you’re not going to able to care for anyone else.” How true are these words. As women, we often put ourselves last while taking care of others. Whether that be the care of children, elderly parents, community, even our pets. Sometimes we forget the importance of our personal care. In no way is selfcare being selfish; rather, it is self-preservation.
This past year, while enduring the pandemic, we have altered, adjusted and reinvented ways of engaging. At times, this has been exhaustingly stressful, wearing on us in various ways. Maybe we haven’t kept up with our routine healthcare checkups, or the isolation from family, friends and community has taken its toll on our mental health. We have all been affected in one way or another.
Let’s pause, acknowledge the challenges we have experienced, and reevaluate our present state of health. Are we finding a balance in our days? Are we getting outside and moving our bodies in the sunshine? Are we getting enough sleep? If we are feeling out of balance, it is never too late to regroup and start fresh. Selfcare is an ongoing daily practice.
During this week (and every week!), let’s make our health a priority. The Office on Women’s Health has listed a few important points and suggestions for our ongoing selfcare and preservation during this critical time in our lives.
Here are some important considerations for our wellbeing, taking care of our physical and mental health:
- Continue to protect yourself from COVID-19 by wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth, watching your distance, washing your hands often, and getting a COVID-19 vaccination when available.
- Schedule your COVID-19 vaccination or any vaccinations you or your family might have missed during the pandemic. If you have questions about vaccines, talk with your healthcare provider. Making sure to get information from reliable sources. In addition to Skagit County Public Health, you can find locations to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at: https://vaccinefinder.org/search.
- Keep up with your preventive care, PAP smears, mammograms, stress tests, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings.
- Stay active! Spend time outside, especially in the sunshine (don’t forget the sunblock!) and be active for 30 minutes a day. This is great for our well-being. Move your body, incorporating exercise that builds and strengthens your muscles. Find what works for you based on your abilities, age and stage of life. Explore and have fun.
- Eat well-balanced meals and snacks. Heart-healthy eating involves choosing certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables, while limiting others, such as saturated and trans fats and added sugars. It’s important to ensure you are getting enough vitamins in your diet, like vitamin D. Good dietary sources of vitamin D include fortified foods such as milk, yogurt, orange juice, and cereals; oily fish such as salmon, rainbow trout, canned tuna, and sardines; and eggs. Calcium is an important nutrient for your bone health across the lifespan.
- Practice good sleep habits to improve your mental and physical health and boost your immune system. Follow a routine for going to sleep, and be consistent going to bed and getting up, even on weekends. Try to get at least seven hours sleep.
- If you are experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, please reach out to a health professional, especially if this is getting in the way of your daily activities. Pay attention to your mood changes. If you or anyone you know is experiencing changes in thinking, mood, behavior, and/or having thoughts of self-harm, reach out for help: SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
- Monitor alcohol intake and avoid illicit drugs, including drugs that are not prescribed to you.
- Look out for your lungs: quit smoking or vaping. Smoking weakens your lungs and puts you at a much higher risk of having serious health complications, especially if you have COVID-19.
- Seek help if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is a 24/7 confidential service that supports victims and survivors of domestic violence. The hotline can be reached by phone at: 1-800-799-7233(SAFE), by text by texting LOVEIS to 22522, or via online chat at https://www.thehotline.org, select “Chat Now.” Highly trained, experienced advocates offer support, crisis intervention information, educational services and referral services in more than 200 languages. The website provides information about domestic violence, online instructional materials, safety planning, and local resources.
Now is the time to take care of ourselves, so we can be supportive and present for our families and friends, and so we can contribute to our community with healthy, loving kindness. Stepping outside to smell the lilacs, soak up the sunshine and celebrate each day for the gift it truly is.