Love Yourself First!

Dr Priti Swarup –

As women, how many times we say this statement “I just don’t have time!”? How many times it has happened that we ignore our physical as well as mental health on various grounds? From simple things such as applying a sunscreen before stepping out of the house, to not consulting a physician for small medical troubles until they become too big, we procrastinate and compromise on our health front, time and again in the name of duties. We cook for everyone, but often ignore our own diet. Sleeping late night and not taking a good nap when it is needed in the day is also ignored. Most of us do not follow a good skin-care regime of ‘cleansing-toning-moisturising’ before sleeping at night. We pay no attention to developing an enriching hobby or picking up an engaging book.
Maya Angelou said, “When women take care of their health, they become their best friend.” A woman is the backbone of her family because her family is dependent on her, for so many things. Be it taking care of children, managing work, managing studies, taking care of the old, household work, taking care of our better half, and so many demands and pressures from everyone. It doesn’t matter if she’s a working woman or a homemaker — a woman is a woman. Our experience of health and disease as women is different from men because of the unique biological, social and behavioural conditions. And since she’s the most important element of the house who binds everyone together, she really needs to prioritise taking care of her own health first.
“To be a good parent, you need to take care of yourself so that you can have the physical and emotional energy to take care of your family,” says Michelle Obama. We have to look after ourselves first, both physically and mentally. For this, we need to love ourselves for what we are. Our bodies are unique. Everyone is different and perfect in their own sense. We need to feel independent in our mind and body. Loving and caring for the family should not prevent anyone from loving oneself. Here’s what we can do:

Staying fit
Going to the gym is not to burn the belly fat, it is time for ourselves, away from everything. Any amount of exercise, be it a workout or walk, will help in producing that calcium that is required as we age. It is to stay fit, physically and mentally because this effort releases the happiness hormone that helps the body in flushing out the toxins and improves the oxygenation of organs, reduces the risk of heart disease. When you are happy, you naturally feel beautiful, youthful and energetic. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation), also known as ‘The Ultimate Asana’, has life-changing effects, strengthens the back as well as all muscles, brings down blood sugar levels, improves metabolism and blood circulation and also helps in maintaining regular menstrual cycles.

The most important meal of the day that is the breakfast is often ignored which is unhealthy as it leads to low energy for the rest of the day. Women too must adhere to a balanced diet with good protein, iron, carbohydrate and include fruits and salads. And drink lots of water throughout the day.
There is a need for excellent hygiene habits which is very crucial since our systems are unique. Women are particularly vulnerable and highly susceptible to a range of diseases. Dr Kalpana Prakash, renowned Dermatologist, emphasises that “Routine skin care and skin examination is very important, and it is advisable to consult a dermatologist for problems such as acne, allergies, skin cancers. One should refrain from using over-the-counter medications or get influenced by some products especially skin whitening agents which are available in the social media without the dermatologist approval.”

With age, we have issues like anemia, osteoporosis, and at times depression. “Consulting a physician for frequent check-ups, routine blood tests for calcium, thyroid, and bone density tests should not be ignored. Self-breast examination, mammogram and PAP smear are a must as we age as women are unfortunately prone to different cancers,” says Dr Poonam Saraf, Specialist, Al Nahdha Hospital.

Uninterrupted sleep of 7-8 hours in the night is vital for sound mind and body. Lack of sleep is detrimental for health and it leads to irritability and tiredness during the day. Sometimes it is okay to take a day off from everything and sleep the day!

Any recreation activity, taking a walk on the grass barefoot, spending some time alone with your partner, engaging in a creative hobby, adding colours to life through various arts, getting creative with DIY activities at home can be very stimulating. These can be a form of relaxation and let one connect with oneself too. Playing with children helps developing an emotional bonding for healthy relationships. Here, yoga and meditation play a vital role and help in tackling women issues right from puberty to menopause-like acne, PCOD/PCOS, infertility, fibroids, etc.
Swami Vivekananda, the Youth Icon, and a great social reformer from India, was a strong believer of women emancipation, empowerment and liberation. While he always emphasised upon the importance of women education, he said, “There’s no chance of the welfare of the world if the condition of its women is not improved. A bird cannot fly with one wing.” Juggling a family, a career, social lives, means all, however, it is imperative that we start taking utmost care of ourselves and make ourselves a priority for ourselves.
And as social justice activist L R Knost said, “Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, it means me too.”