8 Ways to Take Better Care of Your Health
08 June 2020
In today's fast-paced world, most of us are too busy trying to handle our work duties, financial obligations, and personal responsibilities that we tend to ignore our own wellbeing. However, taking care of your physical and mental health will enable you to better keep up with your busy schedule and your stressful daily routine. To help you kickstart your self-care journey, here are 8 surefire ways to improve your health.
1- Exercise Regularly
Between strengthening your muscles, boosting your mood, alleviating your stress, reducing your risk for various diseases, and toning your body, few things are as good for your overall wellbeing as regular exercise. While it can be hard to find the time, it's important to fit in at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your day. You don't necessarily have to hit the gym or use special equipment; instead, you can go on a deep cleaning spree, take your dog for a walk, sign up for a dance class, take up yoga, etc.
2- Eat a Healthy Diet
The food we consume can either keep us healthy or contribute to obesity and various chronic diseases. To maintain a healthy diet , focus on fresh fruits, green vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains, and keep red meat to a minimum. Also, it's important to reduce your salt and sugar intake, cut back on saturated and trans fats and avoid processed and junk foods.
3- Drink Plenty of Water
Dehydration can affect our skin, energy levels, concentration, and mood— not to mention the adverse effects it can have on our bodily functions. The amount of water you need depends on various factors, including your weight and level of physical activity. As a general rule, though, you should drink a cup of water every 60-90 minutes, and load up on food with high water content, such as cucumbers, broccoli, and apples. Also, try to cut back on alcohol, soda, and other sugary drinks.
4- Manage the Pain Naturally
No one can lead a happy and healthy life when they're in constant pain. Traditional massage acts as a natural pain reliever that can reduce built-up muscle tension, ease cramps, relieve aching joints and ligaments, and promote overall relaxation. If you don't have the time to frequent a spa, consider investing in a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit. As demonstrated on this URL , by delivering small electrical impulses to the targeted areas, a TENS unit can intercept the pain signals transmitted from the nervous system to the brain. As a result, this can help alleviate chronic pains that are interfering with your quality of life.
5- Get Enough Sleep
The quality and quantity of sleep you get can have a huge effect on your physical and mental health. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep for at least 7-8 hours every night, start by adjusting your nightly routine. Try to avoid digital screens at least 2 hours before bedtime, and stay away from caffeine and sugar at night. You should also find a way to relax and clear your mind so you can fall asleep faster; perhaps you should consider listening to white noise or meditating before going to bed.
6- Find Healthy Ways to Destress
No matter how busy or hectic your life is, you need to employ healthy techniques to manage your stress, otherwise, both your mind and body will suffer. You can go on a fishing trip on the weekend, treat yourself to a candlelit bath, put your feet up and unwind with a glass of wine, or book a spa day. It doesn't matter what you do as long as you take some time for yourself to destress , clear your mind, and simply relax.
7- Get Regular Checkups
The average adult should visit their doctor once a year for an annual checkup. Depending on your gender, health condition, age, and family history, there are a couple of screening tests that you should do periodically to detect certain diseases early on, such as breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and prostate cancer. Ask your health care provider about which tests you should have and when.
8- Don't Ignore Your Oral Health
Ignoring your oral hygiene can lead to more than rotten teeth and bad breath; studies have linked poor dental health to heart disease and a lower life expectancy. Furthermore, if your gums are inflamed or infected, that infection can find its way to your bloodstream and reach other parts of your body, causing potentially serious consequences. So don't skimp on oral hygiene, and visit your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning.
Taking care of your physical and mental wellbeing is something that you should be doing on a daily basis, not just when you're sick or drained. Getting started with self-care can be challenging, but with the right mindset and enough determination, you'll be able to incorporate the above steps into your regular routine and lead a healthier, happier life.
What To Actually Expect When It Comes To Postpartum
When I had my oldest daughter Grace, I felt like I was as prepared as possible to become a mom. My husband and I had been happily married for five years, I had a ton of experience taking care of children, we were financially secure, and I was at the end of my training to become a pediatrician.
As I look back on this day, almost 15 years later, what really stands out is that I had no idea about what to expect it was going to be like to be postpartum.
It seemed like everything was much harder than it should be.
We had everything planned out and ready before I delivered, including her name, pediatrician, nursery, clothes, supplies (three baby showers were thrown on my behalf!), and breastfeeding equipment. I knew exactly how long I was going to take for maternity leave (ten weeks) and we had daycare for Grace lined up for when I returned to work as a pediatric resident.
My husband and I took a prenatal class at our local hospital. We must have learned a lot about what to expect during labor and delivery, but all I can remember learning is "T.A.C.O." This acronym was to help my husband remember how to report the circumstances around my water breaking to my obstetrician: T = time, A = amount, C = color, O= odor. Ironically, my water did break before I went into labor, but it was such a small trickle that I thought that I was just peeing myself every so often! I ended up having to be induced for "prolonged rupture of membranes," but my labor and delivery went very smoothly.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding did not go so smoothly. When we were discharged from the hospital two days after Grace's birth, I needed to use a nipple shield to help her to latch and had to pump after every feed. She required supplementary bottles of pumped milk after every nursing attempt due to jaundice.
The day after we got home (my third day postpartum) we had five visitors come to spend the day with us: my mom, my in-laws, my best friend, and her husband.
All That I Remember About Grace's Third Day Of Life Is The Following:
Hiding on a couch up in the loft of our condo, topless, and trying to get Grace to latch on to feed.
I'd get uterine cramps that felt almost as bad as labor pains every time my milk "let down."
Having to wear those huge postpartum maxi pads (I still don't know what they are actually called) and "granny" panties.
Feeling pressure from my guests to bring my newborn baby down so that they could meet her and pass her around.
Feeling like it was my job to entertain everyone who was downstairs (and that I was letting them down).
Feeling like it seemed like everything was much harder than it should be.
Grace and I both cried a lot — she was hungry; I was so tired and overwhelmed!
As I look back on this day, almost 15 years later, what really stands out is that I had no idea about what to expect it was going to be like to be postpartum. I had spent so much time during my pregnancy preparing for Grace's needs as a newborn that I had not prepared for my own needs as a mother. I spent time and energy doing things like memorizing what T.A.C.O. stood for, but did not think, or even know to expect, that I would have my own postpartum needs.
As I imagine myself sitting up in my loft and trying to feed my hungry newborn baby, I want to scream at everyone who was there to go home. I want to grab my husband and bring him up to the loft to be with me and support me. And I want to be able to give my 28-year-old self a huge hug and tell her that her feelings are valid, that it is super hard to have a newborn, and that it's totally okay to ask everyone to leave to be able to focus on breastfeeding. When I think back to this day, this quote by Maya Angelou often comes to mind:
"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
I share my story often as I now know that I am not the only woman who was unprepared for (and had unrealistic expectations for) the postpartum period. Since having Grace I have met countless other moms who had similar postpartum experiences. This was exemplified in Aeroflow Breastpumps' recent survey of almost 400 mothers about the " First 42 Days " of postpartum recovery.
Key Findings From Aeroflow's Survey Include The Following:
Almost half of respondents did not feel prepared for what to expect and how to care for their bodies in the first six postpartum weeks.
2/3 felt that the postpartum period was more difficult than they anticipated.
Common postpartum struggles included breastfeeding problems (66%), postpartum depression and/or anxiety (48%), lack of social support and isolation (39%), newborn care (28%), and complications and/or concerns with postpartum healing (24%).
9 out of 10 felt that our current system of educating mothers about what to expect during the postpartum period, along with available resources, needs to be improved!
Based on these survey results, it's clear that we still have a long way to go in terms of preparing pregnant women for their postpartum journeys. We need to increase awareness of the postpartum period as being a time of great physical, mental, and emotional transition for new moms and help mothers to prepare "postpartum plans" in addition to "birth plans."
Mainstays Of Preparing For Postpartum Recovery Include The Following:
Figure out who your "village" is going to be to help you after your baby arrives. This is usually some combination of family, parents, friends, and neighbors. Once you've identified your village's members, chat with them, and brainstorm how they will be able to help you. This can be with simple things, like coming over to help fold laundry, or more complicated endeavors, like arranging a "meal train" so that you will not have to worry about cooking for the first few weeks at home. Forming a village might be a little more complicated in the era of "social distancing," but your friends and loved ones can still do things like shop and drop off groceries, order takeout, and mow the lawn for you.
Taking care of yourself will help you to heal and recover and make you a better mom.
Learn about all of the changes your body will go through. Common physical postpartum symptoms include vaginal and rectal pain, bleeding, uterine cramps, and edema (swelling). Prepare ahead of time for the items that you will need for your own physical recovery, such as sitz baths and Peri-bottles. Frida Mom and MOMBOX sell ready-made kits for postpartum recovery and Aeroflow Breastpumps sells both postpartum recovery garments and breastfeeding/lactation supplies. Lastly, the book The Forgotten Trimester , by Megan Gray, MD, is an excellent guide to postpartum care.
Explore your postpartum resources ahead of time. UNC's 4th trimester project's New Mom Health website has a wealth of resources for new moms. Other helpful websites for new moms include Postpartum Support International and kellymom.com . There has been an increasing number of virtual support groups for new moms during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well. If you are planning on breastfeeding, it's a good idea to research local lactation consultants, and you may find ones who offer prenatal visits to help prepare for breastfeeding ahead of time.
Postpartum doulas can be a wonderful source of support as well. Many doula companies are offering virtual support during the pandemic and, depending on the area of the U.S. you live in, some are able to come into your home to help with both newborn care and household tasks.
We need to increase awareness of the postpartum period as being a time of great physical, mental, and emotional transition for new moms and help mothers to prepare "postpartum plans" in addition to "birth plans."
It's Important To Have Realistic Expectations For Both Yourself And Your Newborn Baby, Including The Following:
Neither of you are going to sleep through the night for a long time.
You are not going to "bounce back" to your pre-pregnancy weight anytime soon.
If you are breastfeeding, plan to be half-naked for several weeks as you and your baby learn to breastfeed.
You should not have to entertain family and friends when you have a new baby!
Lastly, remember to love and take care of yourself. Make time for small breaks doing things you love. This can be as simple as sitting outside in the sun, going for a walk, taking a bath, or getting a massage. Taking care of yourself will help you to heal and recover and make you a better mom.
Anyone who tells you that the postpartum period is easy is lying, has never had a baby, or had their baby(ies) so long ago that they've blocked this period of time out in their memories!