Self care is more than a hashtag. Women’s bodies have unique health needs. Certain habits can improve and maintain health and well-being.
May S. Thomassee, MD, gynecologist and minimally invasive gynecologic surgeon with Lourdes Physician Group, shares her wellness advice for women. “In today’s world, women need to not only survive but to thrive,” she says.
Maintaining regular check-ups and establishing a trusting relationship with a primary care provider is a must for women to remain as healthy and well as possible.
OB-GYNs specialize in the female reproductive system. Some women in good health may choose an OB-GYN as their primary care provider. However, an OB-GYN is not likely to treat illnesses or conditions unrelated to women’s health, such as a sinus infection or digestive problems. Establishing care with both is recommended.
Certain screenings are recommended for women over time. A primary care provider can help navigate that schedule. It’s also a good idea for women to regularly discuss their reproductive goals with their OB-GYN.
When something beyond preventive care comes up in an exam, be sure to follow up with a separate visit. “A preventive exam is the window into finding the things that require directed follow-ups beyond your once-a-year visit,” Dr. Thomassee says.
Prioritize Mental and Emotional Health
Trust and honesty are keys to successful patient-provider relationships. An important way for women to take care of themselves is by being open with their providers about their mental health status.
Dr. Thomassee recommends women place a special emphasis on maintaining not just their physical health but also their emotional, spiritual and mental well-being, which can mean different things to different people.
“My patients often put their own healthcare on the backburner, taking care of children, parents or partners before themselves,” Dr. Thomassee says.
“Give yourself space to acknowledge when you have pain or sadness, anxiety or guilt,” Dr. Thomassee says. “Give yourself the respect to tell someone about it so they can help you address it rather than thinking it’s not important.”
Listen to What Your Body Needs—Movement AND Rest
Regular exercise has so many benefits to all-around health and wellness. “Some of it is feeling good or looking good, but it’s also about internal well-being,” Dr. Thomassee says. “It’s important to start [exercising regularly] as soon as you can.”
Listen to your heart. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. The best prevention is regular exercise earlier in life, helping to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease later. But it’s never too late to start adding more physical movement into your routine.
Eat well, nourishing your body with good, whole foods, when possible, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Make hydration a priority. Get enough sleep and rest. Slow down when your body indicates you need a break.