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Shy woman check her watch she is late

When flying in a plane, the flight attendant reminds passengers to put their own oxygen mask on before helping others. The same analogy is true for women’s health, celebrated nationally in the month of May. Many women prioritize their families, parents or jobs over their own emotional and physical well-being.

“It’s really easy to get spread thin and not make time to do something you enjoy,” says Dr. Katherine Eisenberg, a family physician at UR Medicine Primary Care North Ponds Family Medicine in Webster, New York. “Women say they feel guilty when they go to the gym. I tell them it’s an important priority to keep themselves healthy so they can keep doing whatever they need to do in their day.”

Health is more than fitness

Equally as important to women’s health are things like social connectedness, getting enough sleep or establishing healthy eating habits. Set attainable and reasonable goals such as cutting out soda, packing a lunch or avoiding snacks after 7 p.m.

“Sustainable changes over time can really add up to improving your nutrition, which can lead to more energy and improved health outcomes,” Eisenberg says.

It’s beneficial to take time to socialize. Isolation can lead to a higher risk of illness and infection and can even cause symptoms of anxiety and depression. Social media can add to a sense of disconnectedness. Texting and scrolling through status updates have replaced real life phone conversations and dinner plans, Eisenberg points out.

“It’s easy to feel like you’re interacting with people when you’re seeing their updates, but I think we need to remind ourselves that those types of interactions are not the same thing as actually sustaining a relationship and we need to make that effort,” she says.

Setting aside time to do something you really enjoy, whether that be a new interest or an old interest, is good for sustaining emotional health. Perhaps that means attending concerts, listening to music in the car, or scheduling time for a class or creative time with a friend.

Getting enough sleep is also important. While staying up later or getting up earlier might seem like a good way to squeeze more into your day, it might actually be more detrimental than helpful.

“You’re more focused and productive and you may enjoy the time you do have more if you get a refreshing night of rest,” Eisenberg says.

Making health a habit

Whether you’re working on getting more exercise or sleep, replacing bad habits with healthy ones or setting aside time for hobbies or a social life, it has to be a priority in life or it will easily fall to the wayside.

Why not combine social with fitness? Not only will it help the time go by faster, the buddy system makes it more likely you’ll both show up. Perhaps consider downloading an app to help track your calories or invest some money in one that allows you to practice yoga on-the-go.

If necessary, have a conversation with your family or employer to help them understand that you will be more productive if you make these things a priority.

“What I always tell my patients is that you have to find something that works in your life,” Eisenberg says. “Getting to know yourself, what’s important in your life, what’s practical in your life over the short-, medium- and long-term and how are you making sure your health and well-being is one of these priorities?”