Health Features

Wonder Woman

From taking care of the family and maintaining successful careers to being an attentive romantic partner and keeping an active social life, women today are expected to do it all. And so many amazing women do! Yet taking care of everyone and everything means that often, their own needs fall to the wayside. Skipping out on the gym or missing lunch may not seem like big things, but they can add up and take a toll on a woman’s mental and physical well-being. Luckily, there are easy ways to fight stress and focus on you!

mindfulness
Taking time to reflect in real time can have big benefits. Mindfulness is the process of focusing on the present and avoiding rumination and worry. Dr. Diane Sanford, a specialist in mindfulness and women’s health and the author of Stress Less, Live Better: 5 Simple Steps to Ease Anxiety, Worry and Self-Criticism, notes that research shows mindfulness-based interventions can decrease mental health conditions like stress, anxiety and depression. “I’m teaching women how to stay in the present moment instead of worrying about the future or regretting the past,” she says.

Sanford’s program prioritizes practical incorporation that is doable for moms and busy women. “It’s a way to adjust how you approach what you’re already doing and pay attention to the present moment with self-compassion,” she explains. “This is the best skillset I have found for dealing with stress and other clinical conditions.”

Simply breathe. Focusing on your breathing helps you live your experiences as they happen. By paying attention to your breath, you can tune into what your body does naturally.

>>Soothe your body. Pay attention to your body and physical sensations. Sanford notes this can be especially useful because physical changes like a racing heart, palpitations or a pit in the stomach can preemptively warn you that something is wrong.

>>Savor the moment. Find time to be aware of all five of your senses. It can be anything from taking a minute to reflect in the shower, playing with your children, petting a dog or cat, or even washing the dishes. “Research suggests that savoring the moment decreases anxiety and stress and improves positive mood,” Sanford says.

>>Settle your thoughts. “This is what we all have trouble with,” Sanford notes. “We get stressed, think about a situation and get more stressed. It’s an endless cycle that moms are particularly prone to.” She suggests remembering your thoughts aren’t facts, so be aware as they come and go. Changing your way of thinking can change how you experience life.

>>Self-compassion always. We often prioritize others’ needs over our own or are more understanding of their shortcomings. Be sure to treat yourself with the care and affection you do your loved ones. “Love yourself for who you are now, not who you were or are going to be,” Sanford says.

eat right
Getting the kids ready, running errands and working long hours can lead to skipped lunches or quick bites that offer little nutritional benefit. “As women, especially moms, we tend to focus on making sure everyone else is taken care of before ourselves,” says Ashlee Rust, assistant fitness manager at The J. “We operate within the chaos of our daily lives, but taking care of ourselves takes a backseat.”

>>Get prep-y. Doing the prep work for your lunches during the week can save you time and ensure you don’t skip a meal or end up eating junk. “This way, when you’re rushing around to get everyone up and ready in the morning, you’re already set for the day,” Rust says.

>>Shop smart. Planning good meals starts with your shopping list. Make sure you’re filling up your cart with a variety of fruits, vegetables and meats.

>>Choose wisely. While there is no single diet that is the perfect fit for all women, Rust suggests avoiding processed and refined foods, limiting your sugar intake and drinking lots of water. Sanford suggests making sure that 75 percent of your food choices are healthy. “You may not lose weight, but you’ll help your body stay strong and fit,” she says.

>>Keep it simple. Introducing healthy meals into your family’s diet doesn’t have to be time consuming or take great culinary skill. “Tossing chicken breasts, broccoli, and tomatoes on a baking sheet with olive oil and seasoning is a fast, simple way to prepare a healthy meal without adding a ton of stress to your evening,” Rust notes.

>>Keep the kiddos in mind. Maintaining healthy eating habits can be beneficial to the whole family, so make healthy dinners that appeal to everyone. To get kids excited about healthier meals, Rust suggests adding a variety of colors and shapes. “They will be visually appealing, and you can make up fun games to play,” Rust says. “It’s also a great idea to involve kids in meal preparation. Have them clean veggies or use cookie cutters to cut out shapes in various food items. They’ll be excited to be part of the process.”

exercise
Exercise can be one of the first casualties of a busy routine. Finding time to work out can feel impossible or exhausting. But Dr. Juliana Verticchio of Consultants in Women’s Healthcare notes that physical activity is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle with medical benefits like a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, increased bone health and improved mood. “Exercise is an important element in all facets of a woman’s life,” she says.

>>Take your breath away. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity a week, which Verticchio defines as activity that causes you to be breathless but still able to continue a conversation. This could include walking, hitting the elliptical or even taking a Zumba class. Verticchio recommends doing 10-minute sessions throughout the day if longer sessions don’t fit into your schedule.

>>Muscle mass. Two days of muscle-strengthening activities a week is also recommended for adults by the CDC. This includes push-ups, resistance exercise, weight training and yoga. Verticchio notes that these types of exercise improve your metabolism, have great benefits for bone health and can prevent falls by increasing your stability.

>>No equipment, no problem. Rust says you can get an incredible workout at home by doing simple exercises like body-weight squats, push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks. If you want to use equipment, start with a kettlebell. “There are tons of exercises you can do with kettlebells that add resistance, and it takes up very little space,” she notes.

>>Buddy system. A workout partner will make you accountable and help you stay on track.

>>Work with your schedule. You may not be able to exercise daily at the gym for hours, so find ways to incorporate it into your routine. Rust suggests 10- to 15-minute body-weight workouts in the morning before the exhaustion of the day takes hold. Not a morning person? Verticchio advises taking an evening walk or going to the park with the kids. “It doesn’t have to be traditionally organized, and you don’t have to go to the gym if it’s not complementary to your lifestyle,” she adds.

>>There’s an app for that. Let technology help you maintain your fitness routine. Verticchio suggests using MyFitnessPal to track your exercise and caloric intake. Other apps can provide you with personalized and innovative workouts, and YouTube also has exercise videos.

exercise
Exercise can be one of the first casualties of a busy routine. Finding time to work out can feel impossible or exhausting. But Dr. Juliana Verticchio of Consultants in Women’s Healthcare notes that physical activity is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle with medical benefits like a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, increased bone health and improved mood. “Exercise is an important element in all facets of a woman’s life,” she says.

>>Take your breath away. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity a week, which Verticchio defines as activity that causes you to be breathless but still able to continue a conversation. This could include walking, hitting the elliptical or even taking a Zumba class. Verticchio recommends doing 10-minute sessions throughout the day if longer sessions don’t fit into your schedule.

>>Muscle mass. Two days of muscle-strengthening activities a week is also recommended for adults by the CDC. This includes push-ups, resistance exercise, weight training and yoga. Verticchio notes that these types of exercise improve your metabolism, have great benefits for bone health and can prevent falls by increasing your stability.

>>No equipment, no problem. Rust says you can get an incredible workout at home by doing simple exercises like body-weight squats, push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks. If you want to use equipment, start with a kettlebell. “There are tons of exercises you can do with kettlebells that add resistance, and it takes up very little space,” she notes.

>>Buddy system. A workout partner will make you accountable and help you stay on track.

>>Work with your schedule. You may not be able to exercise daily at the gym for hours, so find ways to incorporate it into your routine. Rust suggests 10- to 15-minute body-weight workouts in the morning before the exhaustion of the day takes hold. Not a morning person? Verticchio advises taking an evening walk or going to the park with the kids. “It doesn’t have to be traditionally organized, and you don’t have to go to the gym if it’s not complementary to your lifestyle,” she adds.

>>There’s an app for that. Let technology help you maintain your fitness routine. Verticchio suggests using MyFitnessPal to track your exercise and caloric intake. Other apps can provide you with personalized and innovative workouts, and YouTube also has exercise videos.


take some time for yourself

Meditation: Practiced for thousands of years, meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance, benefiting your emotional well-being and overall health. Considered a form of mind-body complementary medicine, the process can clear away the stressors that build up in daily life.

Massage: Benefits include reduced stress, pain and muscle tension. Some studies have shown that it also can be helpful for anxiety, headaches and insomnia. Reiki: This Japanese technique for stress relief is based on the idea that a universal, unseen ‘life force energy’ flows through us. By using hands-on healing, reiki practitioners transfer this energy to the patient to encourage emotional or physical healing.

Acupuncture: While traditional Chinese medicine most often uses acupuncture for pain relief, it also can be used to reduce stress. Studies from institutions like the University of York and Georgetown University support this. Additional sources: mayoclinic.org, reiki.org, psychologytoday.com, huffingtonpost.com.

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