October is well-known in America as Breast Cancer Awareness month, but it is also Women’s Health Month. Breast cancer is one of many health issues that can plague women, and it is important for all women to be proactive with getting their annual wellness checkups and necessary screenings. But there is much more to our health than merely visiting the doctor. Sometimes we can complete our checklist of appointments and blood work, but something still seems off. We don’t feel well and we can’t explain why.
Women’s Health: More than just Doctor Visits…
During each of my husband’s three deployments, I experienced some physical issues that made the days extra difficult. The most notable of these was sleeplessness, along with generalized anxiety and lower back pain. I felt like I was visiting the doctor all the time for some perceived condition. I had an EKG and chest x-rays because of chest pain. I was referred to physical therapy because of the extent of my back pain. I tried several different sleeping pills to help me get more sleep, none of which helped very much. With two very small children to care for, quality exercise went by the wayside and I had little time just for myself. I was surviving alright, but I definitely didn’t feel like I was thriving.
Shortly after the third deployment, I started a blog geared towards inspiring military wives to find their strengths and stay positive. This helped me regain some positivity in my own mind and lessened my anxiety. Soon I began sleeping better, and having more energy during the day. One day I decided I was finally going get back in shape and regain the muscle I had lost during pregnancy. I started slow, but the stronger I got, the better my back felt and the more motivated I was to keep going.
That was three years ago, and now I feel better and stronger than I ever have.
The military lifestyle can take a tremendous toll on a person’s well-being. Service members and spouses alike are at risk for much more than just physical ailments; mental status plays a huge role in our overall wellness. And if anything is troubling us mentally, our bodies will let us know.
In honor of Women’s Health Month, take some time to help yourself feel your best. Go beyond the yearly check-up and incorporate some everyday practices that will give you the strength and determination you need for thriving in military life.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Take time for yourself. If possible, find some quiet time away from the kids and any distractions. Do something you love to do; shopping, reading a good book, coffee with a good friend, or simply watching a Hallmark movie (my favorite!).
- Surround yourself with positivity. I discovered over the years that it’s extremely easy to become negative in military life. Find some positive quotes that speak to you and read them often. It’s amazing how a happy perspective can change your mood.
- Exercise. Sometimes it’s the last thing we want to do, but exercise truly has medicinal properties! Getting more exercise doesn’t have to be a hard-core sweat session. A brisk 20-30 minute walk a day is enough to improve cardiovascular health, mood, and sleep. Strengthening muscles is also important and can help with aches and pains or joint issues. If you haven’t exercised in a long time or have health issues, make sure to consult a doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.
- Eat well. Particularly during deployments when it’s easy to just have a bowl of cereal for dinner, make sure you’re getting ample fruits, vegetables and whole grains while trying to limit processed food. Our bodies function so much better (and we feel better) when we feed it clean, healthy food!
- Practice mindfulness. There are plenty of free apps that offer guided meditation, inspirational quotes, soothing sounds, or breathing exercises. Find a few that work for you and use them! My recent favorite is the 7 Second Meditation app, which allows me to set a daily reminder to take a deep breath and focus on something positive.
Military life comes with plenty of challenges that can drag us down and leave us mentally drained, which can in-turn manifest as physical ailments and make us think something is wrong. Sometimes a little TLC for the soul is all it takes to reset your mind and start feeling better. These practices are not meant to take the place of necessary doctor appointments, but in conjunction with routine physician care, hopefully you’ll find yourself feeling great and visiting the doctor much less often!