Women’s Health Week 2020

Women’s Health Week is being celebrated during 7 – 11 September 2020. This nation-wide campaign focuses on improving women’s health and encouraging all women to make healthier choices each and every day. With COVID-19 at the forefront of everyone’s minds, this year’s theme encourages women to take the time to check-in on their health and make positive changes that will last a lifetime.

Women often put the needs of others before themselves, particularly the needs of their families. This means that the important health checks that women should engage in on a regular basis are put to the side. Adding in the impacts of COVID-19, makes this year’s Women’s Health Week a timely reminder for taking time out to check in on our health.  

What are some ways you can take time out for your wellbeing?

The word “self-care” is thrown around a lot in the media these days. But don’t be fooled thinking that it simply means having bath with a glass of wine and face mask on. Self-care is deliberately partaking in an activity which benefits one’s physical, mental and emotional health. For some, putting on a face mask and jumping in the bath may be the perfect activity. Whereas for others, booking in for a wellbeing check-in session with their healthcare professional may be their definition of self-care. Here are some ways that you can check-in on your health:

  • Booking in with your GP to discuss what preventative health checks you are due for
  • Booking in for a regular fitness class (virtually or face to face)
  • Checking in on your mental health and arranging a session with a professional
  • Arranging a virtual catch-up with friends or a walking group

What are some of the important health checks women should be having?

Having regular appointments with your GP is important for everyone. There are however, some health checks that women should take particular note in booking in. These checks may only need to be done every 2-5 years, but it is recommended to keep a note of these in a calendar and to book them in early.

  • Breast cancer awareness (self-assessment and mammograms for women over 50)
  • Bowel cancer (for women over 50)
  • Cervical cancer (for women over 25)
  • Blood pressure & cholesterol
  • Dental health
  • Osteoporosis (postmenopausal)
  • Skin cancer

It is recommended to ask your GP about which checks you should prioritise and book in for, depending on your medical history and circumstances.

Checking in on your mental health during COVID-19

Checking in on your mental and emotional health is not something that needs checking every 2 years. Rather, it is important to monitor your mental health and wellbeing regularly, whether that be on a daily or weekly basis. It is normal and healthy to experience periods of stress and anxiety. However, these emotions start to become unhealthy when they are chronic, excessive or start to interfere with your daily life.

During COVID-19, many have been operating out of a chronic fight-or-flight stress response. This has not only created prolonged feelings of anxiety, irritability, fear and stress, but also feelings of lethargy, hopelessness and fatigue. Being able to recognise when your mental health is suffering and you are not travelling well, is important for seeking support early and engaging in strategies and activities to boost your wellbeing.

Here are some strategies to keep your wellbeing supported during periods of chronic stress, such as COVID-19.

  1. Take time out for you. Going back to the concept of ‘self-care’, taking even just 15 minutes out of your day to yourself can reset and calm your mind. Choose an activity which makes you feel rejuvenated and let your family know that you need this time to yourself, without any interruptions. This may be sitting with a cup of tea, going for a walk, listening to a podcast, reading a book, practicing mindfulness meditation or even just doing a skincare routine.
  2. Eat well. Our minds work at their best when our bodies are fuelled with nutritious and healthy foods. When we are stressed or time-poor, we often reach for nutrient-lacking foods high in sugar or stodgy carbs. Eat to support your body with lots of fresh wholefoods, protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and lots of water. It is completely ok to treat yourself, just be mindful of how much you consume.
  3. Stay connected. The support we get from our social circles, friends and family are so important for our mental health. When we share our ups and downs in life, we share both the wins and the burdens that we may be experiencing.
  4. Keep active. When we exercise, it is not only good for our physical bodies, but for our mental health too. Exercise releases neurotransmitters and endorphins which boost our mood and are powerful in reducing stress.
  5. Seek professional support. If you are feeling as though your negative emotions or stress is becoming chronic and interfering with your daily life, seek professional support to help you get your mental health back on track. This may be your GP or even EAP.

So this Women’s Health Week, we encourage you to check-in on your health and work at making positive changes that will last a lifetime. If you are struggling with your physical or mental health right now, book in with your GP to discuss what you can do to get your health (both mind and body) back on track.