For many women who work hard to balance the needs of family, friends, and work, achieving a feeling of overall wellbeing can be difficult. Attaining wellbeing can feel unattainable at times, something put on the back burner of our busy lives. There are steps you can take every day to improve your wellbeing in a variety of ways. We have provided the top 10 of these steps below. If you struggle to find balance in your own life, speaking with a licensed therapist can help; be sure to check out our list of the best online therapy sites if you are considering working with a counselor in a virtual setting.
1. Cultivate a healthy relationship with food
Food is often a big part of our lives. It fuels us, it comforts us, and it can even be a sign of love when food is prepared for the important people in our lives. When prioritizing your overall wellbeing, it’s important to be mindful of food choices and the reasons behind those choices. Paying attention--to what you eat, when you eat it, and why you eat it--can be a great starting point in improving your diet. We all know we should cut sugar and seek out more protein and veggies. Making it happen on a regular basis can be overwhelming. Having patience with yourself and accepting imperfection can help you make modest but meaningful changes. While you may never permanently cut out junk food, having a healthy approach to food can allow you to focus on positive choices and practice moderation for those not-so-great choices.
2. Make exercise a priority
Exercise is one of the key components of a healthy life, but it can be the first part of our routine to slip when things get hectic or stressful. Finding time to exercise will provide meaningful benefits to your body, self-esteem, and overall mental health. Regular activity can help lower your risk for a host of issues like heart disease, stroke, and cancer. If you’re considering adding exercise to your weekly plans, remember that variety is key. Though we tend to focus on “cardio” exercises like running, resistance training—like weightlifting—is extremely important, especially as we age. Working correctly with weights tones your muscles and brings benefits like increased fat loss, better mental focus, cardiovascular protection, and stronger bones. Having stronger muscles make functional tasks in the rest of your life easier and more fun, which can only help boost your wellbeing.
3. Quit smoking
Smoking is the major cause of lung cancer, and lung cancer is one of the most common and deadly cancers among women. Smoking is also linked to many other health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. When you quit smoking, you increase life expectancy, improve your health, protect your family from secondhand smoke, gain energy, improve your sense of taste and smell, and improve the look of your skin and teeth. You will also save money that can be put towards more fulfilling wellbeing boosters! If you’re having trouble quitting on your own, see your doctor for help, and check out the resources provided by the American Lung Association to help support your smoking cessation journey.
4. Limit alcohol use
It seems that alcohol is everywhere in our society, and it can be an easy substance to find when we want to unwind or “be social”. It’s important to know that women who drink can vastly improve their wellbeing by finding healthier ways to relax and socialize. Certain negative health risks associated with drinking—like liver disease, cognitive decline, and heart problems--are higher for women than for men at similar levels of consumption. Cutting alcohol provides many health benefits, like better sleep, weight loss, and improved skin tone. If you haven’t tried it lately, cutting out or reducing alcohol intake is worth the effort. If you get in the habit of avoiding booze, you may find yourself with more time, energy, and money to pursue other ways of improving your wellbeing. For more information on the effects on alcohol on your health, check out this fact sheet from the CDC.
5. Follow a Healthy Sleep Routine
Being well rested helps you function well at work and at home, enjoy your day, and feel your best. Sleep is also integral in regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and stress hormones. Getting a good night’s rest can reduce pain by allowing your body to repair damage from inflammation that builds during waking hours. If you’re having difficulty getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night, try incorporating healthy sleep hygiene habits—like following a schedule, avoiding digital screens in bed, cutting caffeine use, and finding healthy ways to unwind at night. If you still can’t manage to get the rest you need, consult your doctor for other solutions.
6. Keep your relationships healthy
Having positive relationships with family and friends is an integral part of overall wellbeing. In the rush of everyday life, try not to let your friendships suffer. Spending time with your friends is good for both of you: having strong friendships boosts mental health and leads to long-term health benefits like improved cognitive function later in life. Women often take on so much in taking care of others that our own needs can fall by the wayside. Take time to examine if you are taking on too much by always saying “yes.” If you think you may be ignoring your own needs to please others, check out our list of ways to stop being a people pleaser. If you struggle in your primary relationship, consider an online couples therapy like ReGain. They provide a safe space to work through relationship issues in a virtual setting. If you are in a relationship that is verbally or physically abusive, seek help immediately.
7. Get a handle on stress and unplug as needed
Stress has a negative effect on so many areas of our wellbeing, contributing to depression and other mental health problems, heart disease, and infertility. While we can never escape stress, it’s important to develop healthy tools to handle it and preserve our wellbeing. Don’t overlook time to yourself as you plan your busy life: decompressing through quality time alone can work wonders for your physical and mental health. While it’s easy to turn to social media or other digital options to escape stress, screen time can in fact add to overall stress. Going offline--or limiting your time on screens--can be an incredible boost to wellbeing. If you’d like to cut down on screen time, start by taking an honest assessment of how much time you spend on your devices. Then you can work to take small steps, like setting a timer for yourself or not bringing your phone to bed with you. You may find you have more time for the important tasks in your life, and less stress as a result.
8. Give back to your community
It can be tricky to fit in volunteering to an already busy life, but the benefits of giving are huge. Helping others on a regular basis can give you a new perspective on your life and your community. A small investment in time--like a monthly shift at a food pantry, donating blood, or helping out a neighbor--can boost your self-esteem, reduce isolation, cut down on stress, and encourage new friendships.
9. Don’t neglect your mental health
Mental health is a key piece of overall wellbeing. The US Dept of Health and Human Services found that one in five US women experienced a mental health condition like depression or anxiety in the past year. Taking steps to reduce stress and balancing social time and solitude, along with healthy eating and exercise, can help keep your mental health on the right path. Many women can also benefit from working with a licensed therapist, either online or in-person. BetterHelp is a great resource if you are considering starting online therapy. This service can connect you to one of their more than 25,000 licensed professional counselors to find one that fits your needs.
10. Keep up with preventive medical care
Regular doctors’ visits can easily fall by the wayside as our lives get busier and busier. But keeping up with recommended preventive visits can be the best way to stay healthy and catch problems early. Breast and skin cancer are the most common forms of cancer in American women, and can be caught early through regular mammograms, breast exams, and skin checks. In addition to taking blood pressure readings, blood tests, and depression screenings, your doctor should also recommend the appropriate schedule for pap tests, colonoscopies, vaccinations, and other preventive measures according to your age and medical history.
It can be tricky to maintain a sense of wellbeing while juggling work, family, and social obligations. There are many steps that we can take today that will have a lasting positive effect on our overall wellbeing. Many of them involve taking stock of current habits and taking small but meaningful strides towards healthier options.