Whether you need to prioritize routine health care, get back to some healthy habits, or maybe add a few new goals to keep you motivated, there are things you can – and should – do right now to protect your health. Think of September as your "Back to Health" month. The following ideas should get you started:
Review your screenings and immunizations. Are you due for a colonoscopy? Have you had your yearly mammogram? How long has it been since you've had a general check-up? Better health starts with proactive and preventative steps, so if you're lagging behind on some of your recommended screenings or just an annual check-up with your primary care physician, now is the time to get those scheduled. Talk to your doctor to make sure you are up to date on your vaccines, including COVID boosters. And don’t forget to make plans to get your flu shot today.
Take stock of any symptoms. It's easy to dismiss minor issues and symptoms – especially when we're busy and feeling fine. But keeping track of even tiny changes and concerns is critical in managing your health. Make a list of anything you've noticed – from a few unexpected lost pounds or a change in appetite to any new aches and pains. Make an appointment to get concerning symptoms checked out immediately and keep a running list of other issues to discuss with your health care provider at your next appointment.
Focus on your mental health. Stress and anxiety are so much a part of our lives now that we often overlook the toll they may be taking on our health. Grinding your teeth, being irritable, avoiding activities. and not being able to relax and unwind are just a few signs that you need to pay attention to your mental health. If you've been feeling down or depressed for more than a few weeks, or if you find that the pressure in your daily life is getting harder to deal with, it's time to talk to someone. Talk to your doctor or consider online therapy. It’s convenient and effective.
Evaluate your social media habits. Mindlessly scrolling through Instagram can be cathartic and entertaining, but also depressing and demoralizing. It's sometimes tough to remember that most people aren't showing their real lives on social media – just what they want you to see. Plus, it's easy to get lost in social media, and before you know it an hour or two has passed. Just as parents need to set social media limits for their kids, adults need to set limits for themselves. Set an alarm for 15 minutes, and then vow to shut down your scrolling and read a book, go for a walk, or get to bed on time. It's a positive step for both your mental and physical health!
Monitor and measure your movement. If a regular exercise routine has fallen by the wayside (or perhaps never gotten underway), it's time to start tracking your activities. Remember that when it comes to movement, the effects are cumulative. Wear a tracking device to help you monitor your activity level – and remind you to get up and move a little more. Whether you're aiming for 10,000 steps or 30 minutes of moderate activity (with a slightly elevated heart rate) each day, measuring and recording your efforts is a great way to keep you motivated.
Be honest with yourself. Has your weekly glass of wine turned into a nightly ritual? Have those occasional sweet treats become a way to cope with daily stress? Are you eating more fast food these days? Are you relying on coffee to keep your energy up? Pay attention to what you are putting in your body – and why you are doing it. If your eating habits are a result of stress, prioritize your mental health. If it's an issue of time, see the article below for some ideas.
Prioritize sleep. We've said it before, and we'll continue to say it: getting enough good quality sleep is absolutely critical for long-term health and wellness. Take a look at your sleep habits and see where you can make improvements. From minimizing screen time at night and reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption to increasing physical activity during the day, remind yourself of the steps you need to take to ensure you get 7-9 hours of restful sleep every night.
This article first appeared in the September 2023 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.