Our health has always been important, but with possibly limited access to health care for women, minorities and, well, anyone but the upper crust, it's becoming more and more apparent how vital taking care of ourselves truly is.
Preventative care is no longer that thing we can get around to "someday."
With insurances prices, premiums, deductibles, medicinal costs and political bullshit all at an all-time high, the time for taking care of ourselves is NOW.
If you have health insurance, do two things right now: practice gratitude for said health insurance and make an appointment to do ALL of the preventative health options covered by your insurance.
Ladies, this means scheduling that annual you may or may not be getting on an annual basis.
Make sure to take in a list of all your health questions to get answered.
Hey, it's being proactive with your health, getting what you paid for and using something to distract yourself from the unexplainably, freakishly cold speculum.
Here's what else you can do today to be your best and healthiest self now and later in life:
1. De-stress immediately.
Every time you log on to social media, check a text or read a news story these days, there's another reason to be angry, upset and shocked.
That's on top of student loan bills, sky high rent prices and jack-all for job options.
You're working a main gig plus a side gig or two to make ends meet, while your parents are wondering when you're going to grow up, get married and have kids.
Basically, you're running on cortisol, the ring leader of all the stress hormones.
Cortisol thrashes your skin, makes you forgetful, decreases your cognitive ability, interrupts your sleep and causes all sorts of digestive issues.
What's more, it messes with your blood glucose regulation, your metabolism, your blood pressure, your immune system and even impairs wound healing, aka zits and ingrown that just won't go away.
That translates to looking, thinking and feeling awful.
Not to stress you out, but prolonged exposure to stress and cortisol will result in a one-way ticket to adrenal fatigue.
What can you do? Well for starters, take a breather.
Walking away from whatever is stressing you out or choosing to make the best of a traffic jam to take a five-minute breather can completely change your world.
Deep breathing has been shown to decrease stress, relax muscles, level out blood pressure and reduce both anxiety and depression. There are even techniques that can boost energy.
When you're done taking a breather, download some stress-reduction apps to keep you on the road to health.
Download apps specifically for stress relief, as well as meditation, positive thinking, healthy habit forming and focus.
Remain calm, there's a free app for all of those categories, and if you're feeling fancy, you can upgrade to the paid versions for half the price of a no-frill latte.
When you find or make a minute, start making a list of everything that stresses you out.
Take that list and split it into two columns: what you can control and what you can't control.
In the can control list, see what you can immediately change and what will take some long-term work.
On the list of things you can't control, start working on your perspective in relation to those items. If they're going to be part of your life for a long while, you may as well make the most of them.
2. Unplug and recharge.
In this day and age, many are addicted to smart phones and social media.
Use some of the apps above and a bit of willpower to break this toxic cycle.
Yes, we all need to stay woke and vigilant right now, but not at the risk of having a stroke well before 2020.
Schedule in no phone times, as well as a no social media day a week. If you work Monday through Friday, try taking Monday off from social media, as this tends to be the hardest day of the week for many people.
If you're the reigning champion of Mondays, try taking Wednesdays off to evenly break your week up.
Whatever day you choose, stick to it. Deleting the apps off your phone that day or having an accountability friend can also help.
The best no phone time is an hour leading up to your bedtime.
The blue light from smartphones interrupts circadian rhythms and completely jacks up sleep quality.
Plus, reading an upsetting news story right before you're supposed to knock out for the night can keep you up for hours.
The news story will be there the next day when you're well-rested.
3. Get some sleep already.
Burning the candle at both ends is a requisite at some point in all of our lives, but it's not a way of life.
There is a drastic difference between doing it occasionally in life to get a major project done that lands you a promotion, big client or dream job, and continually destroying your health with chronic sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation makes you feel and look like crap.
Furthermore, when you're sleep-deprived, your hormones get thrown out of whack, especially hormones that affect your weight and cravings.
When you're tired, your body does everything it can to get some quick energy, which translates to you pounding down large amounts of refined carbs.
Go to sleep.
Sleep is a learned habit like anything else. It takes time, and like everything in life, there's an app for that.
If you have an iPhone, there's a built-in sleep feature that acts like a loving, nagging mother.
You decide how many hours of sleep you want and what time you want to wake up.
The app figures out what time you would have to go to bed to make all that happen – as if you don't already know that – and will remind you 30 minutes before bedtime.
Then, come morning, it gently wakes you up, instead of a blaring alarm noise that startles you.
4. Eat better.
A healthy diet can do wonders for your life, and that's something we all know. The mystery is, what exactly is a healthy diet?
That's the bagillion dollar question selling millions of diet books and billions in dietary supplements.
The key is to keep it simple. Eat your fruits and vegetables. Eat the real ones, not products with added fruits and vegetables.
Make them accessible by washing and chopping them when you get home from the grocery store and putting them in containers at eye level in the fridge instead of the drawers down below.
Too often, produce in the crisper drawers becomes rotten good intentions and wasted money.
Stay away from processed foods as much as possible, and when you do purchase processed foods, make sure there are as very few ingredients.
Steer clear of food products containing rotten food additives like high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate (MSG), carrageenan, partially hydrogenated oils (trans-fats) and artificial flavors and colors.
Women as a whole tend not to get enough of the minerals we need to support both our short-term and long-term health: calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.
For the most part, we know calcium is readily found in dairy products, but if you're sensitive to dairy or choose not eat it, there are over 50 other sources of calcium to choose from such as dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish and several spices.
If none of those sound appealing to you, a supplement is going to become a must. Look for plant-based calcium supplements that are easier to digest and don't wreak havoc on your body.
Iron deficiency is not a way of life unless you suffer from one of the very few and very rare disorders that cause lifelong issues with iron absorption and utilization.
For the majority, whether you eat meat or not, you can have healthy iron levels.
Lentils, beans, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and several spices like cinnamon, cumin and paprika are loaded with iron.
The key is to eat them every day, several times a day.
If your levels are major low, your health care provider is going to put you on an iron supplement, which can upset your stomach. The key is to make eating iron rich foods a habit.
When it comes to magnesium and potassium, you never want to supplement with them unless you are directed so by a health care professional.
They're both vital electrolytes, and supplementation can cause a host of problems ranging from horrible diarrhea to heart issues. Yikes!
You can get both from delicious food. Magnesium is readily found in seeds, nuts and beans, which is handy because those are all great sources of iron and potassium.
Hell, they're all great sources of protein, fiber and zinc as well.
As for potassium, it's found in fruits and vegetables, which takes us back to the very basic eating well rule: Eat your fruits and vegetables.
5. Take your supplements.
Most people say they don't like popping pills or taking supplements, but the fact that Americans spend billions on supplements says otherwise.
We all seem to have a treasure trove of supplements hanging out around the house. Check the expiration dates and your intentions.
If you have a bevy of diet supplements lying around, pitch them or take them up on that money back guarantee. There is no such thing as a get skinny quick pill.
A healthy weight comes from eating well, exercising and getting great sleep. Fact.
If you know you're supposed to be taking a supplement for certain hard-to-get nutrients or nutrients you have an increased need for (like omega-3s, Vitamin D, calcium, B-vitamin complex or probiotics), purchase a quality supplement and store it per the directions.
Use a handy app or IRL reminder to make sure that you take them. Supplements only work if you take them.
6. Move it, lady.
Sitting is the new smoking.
Prolong periods of sitting destroy your health. It causes all sorts of bone, muscle and joint problems.
The biggest one you'll notice is weight gain in your abdominal region. That pain in your neck and stiffness in your joints that makes you feel like your twice your age are due to sitting too long.
Being active boosts your brain power, helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight, keeps you regular and improves your mood.
Humans were designed to move. The more we move, the better we feel inside and out.
Set a reminder in your phone, computer or whatever to get up and walk around once an hour.
Not only can a five-minute walk around the office every hour boost your metabolism a bit, but it can also decrease your stress and prevent many of the awful health issues related to sitting for hours.
To have the greatest meeting of all time, take it on the go. Everyone hates meetings, but a "walk-and-talk" seems completely different.
It's also a great way to stand out to your boss, boost your creativity and, again, avoid the pitfalls of being sedentary.
Find a physical activity that makes you happy. There are countless ways to move your body at every price range.
If you have a floor and an internet connection, there are free YouTube yoga, pilates and cardio videos galore.
You could start today and never run out of free fitness videos in your life time at the rate of doing one to two a day.
Now is the time to invest in your health, and as the adages go, it's your greatest wealth.
When you feel well, you can get more out of your day and do more for others. There has never been a better time for that.