national women's health week

Why You’re the Most Important Person This National Women’s Health Week

It may be subtle, but prioritizing health can lead to unexpected happiness.

National Women’s Health Week doesn’t get a lot of screen time. You might not even be aware that this week, in fact, is the special week—a time when “millions of women take steps to improve their health,” as per the the Women’s Health Week site. It may seem silly at first glance—shouldn’t we all be taking care of our health on a regular basis?—but it can be difficult to prioritize health.

When was the last time you had a nagging ache and didn’t get it checked out for a while? Maybe your digestion has been off, but you haven’t booked a visit with a specialist, or you’re getting frequent headaches, but you’re just self-medicating with ibuprofen. It happens to the best of us, but this week, if you do nothing else, make an appointment with a doctor if you have some ongoing issues.

I can only speak for myself: In my early twenties, I dealt with nagging period problems and hormonal issues, but it took me a while to find an OB/GYN I could trust and even longer to do the research myself and figure out that I might have PCOS. The doctor I went to see doubted that possibility because I didn’t present the usual symptoms. Spoiler alert: I have it.

National Women’s Health Week isn’t just about giving your physical health a closer look. Perhaps this is the week that you finally book an appointment to see a therapist to address chronic mental health issues. Or maybe this week you find a nutritionist to assist in making healthier choices, or a place to work out where you feel welcome and comfortable.

If massive gyms give you performance anxiety, maybe a small yoga or Pilates studio might do the trick. Or perhaps you’d do better on your own, taking long walks or jogs through your neighborhood. There are enough fitness-tracking apps on the market to help us all work out for many moons to come. And the buddy system is not to be underestimated.

This is also a good week to hit the reset button on certain behaviors. Maybe you’ve been thinking about putting down the cigarettes (or the Juul), or committing to never texting while driving. Maybe you’ve been aware that you need to practice safer sex. These are the types of things that National Women’s Health Week suggests we look into over the course of the next few days.

We’re human. No one is expected to do any of this perfectly. Shaming yourself into change has never been a workable tool, and it certainly won’t be this week. Another, even more important aspect of National Women’s Health Week is being kind to yourself: Health starts within, and if you’re beating yourself up about poor choices in the past (the past includes last week, yesterday, and this morning), you can’t very well make changes to your present.

In March people exchanged yellow mimosa blossoms in Italy for International Women’s Day. They celebrated the political, economic, and social achievements of women all over the world, taking a solid 24 hours to reflect on the power of the woman. This week we have a full week to do the same, only this time, instead of focusing on our accomplishments, we’re tilting the spotlight inward to give ourselves a little checkup and be sure we’re here for many more Women’s Health Weeks to come. We don’t have to move mountains—just a few tiny tweaks to our regularly scheduled activities might be just the ticket for a happier, healthier existence. 

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