Written by Emily James
Women’s Health Week is well underway in Australia, with face-to-face and online events running nationwide to empower women to focus on their health and well-being. Now in its tenth year, this initiative encourages women to make some extra time for their health and consider how they adapt their current lifestyle to better support their physical, emotional and social needs.
At Healthcare HQ, we want to encourage women to make their health a priority all year round, by talking about their health with their support systems and with a professional if needed to ensure they can see consistent, long-term growth. We’ll take you through some ways you can improve your health this week and in the long term:
- Assess your physical health
- Reflect on your mental health
- Attend a Women’s Health Week event
- Your next steps
Assess your physical health
In 2019, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that only 2 in 5 Australian women are sufficiently physically active, and more recent data from the organisation suggests that this largely hasn’t changed. Women are still reported to be less physically active than men (59% of women compared to 50% of men), and physical activity for both men and women generally decreases with age.
A range of factors can make it difficult for women to exercise: parenting responsibilities, a lack of time, money and motivation and gender stereotyping in exercise spaces. However, not exercising enough for an extended period of time can have serious consequences, as it increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Exercising regularly can also alleviate symptoms of anxiety, a condition 1 in 3 Australian women will experience in their lifetime.
Although adopting a more active lifestyle can seem daunting or unattainable, there are so many ways you can become more physically active without compromising on your other commitments or making enormous changes to your daily routine that simply won’t last. Here are just some simple ways you can become more physically active:
- Try home workouts: there are endless workouts available for free on YouTube and other online platforms that you can complete without any expensive equipment in the comfort of your own home.
- Walk when you need to make a short trip instead of taking the car
- Avoid using labour-saving machines where possible
- Find a fitness buddy that you can exercise with or who can keep you on track with your fitness goals
- Organise physical activities your whole family can participate in, such as a walk, a beach day or a bike ride
Here are some other ways you can improve your physical health:
- Join a women’s-only gym, club or studio
- Find a personal trainer who can create a program specific to your needs and motivate you to achieve your goals
Reflect on your mental health
Our mental health is equally as important as our physical health, however, the increased stigma surrounding mental health struggles and seeking support often results in many women suffering in silence. Unfortunately, women are twice as likely to experience depression as men, and around 16% of women experience depression within the first year of having a child. Women are also disproportionately affected by the stress of being a primary carer, relationship breakdowns and intimate partner violence. But whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by a specific situation in your life, have a diagnosed mental health condition or just don’t feel like your normal self, there is always someone you can turn to for support.
In many cases, we can manage our mental health independently with the right tools and information. Here are some ways you can self-manage your mental health:
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly
- Take up a hobby you enjoy that can distract you during challenging times
- Identify and develop gratitude for your strengths and the things you have
- Stay connected with your loved ones and develop new relationships that allow you to discuss your struggles without judgement and receive support
- Join a supportive group, such as a local club, online community or religious group
- Support others with small acts of kindness or by volunteering in your community
You can also click here to discover the many online resources that you can access to learn more about mental health, all in the one place.
If you’re finding it difficult to manage your mental health on your own, seeking professional help might work for you. Contacting your GP or researching online counselling is a great first step to finding professional help that works for you.
Attend a Women’s Health Week event
Women’s Health Week runs a variety of online and face-to-face events this week and throughout September. By visiting the events page on their website, you can find face-to-face events in your local area for the entire month. You can also attend online events if this is more convenient.
This initiative also encourages women to take steps to bettering their own health. You could book a health check or screening, set aside more time to relax or have a heart-to-heart with a friend about how you’re faring mentally. Whatever you decide to do, no matter how small or insignificant it feels, will go much further than you realise.
If you really feel like you don’t know where to start, there’s never been a better time to turn to the other women in your life and the women you admire. Could you adopt the healthy habits of someone you’ve seen on social media? Could you grab a coffee with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while? Could you suggest a girls’ night where you can all relax and set off some steam? By uplifting each other, we can support all women to take steps towards bettering their health.
Your next steps
Although visibility regarding women’s health is increasing, it can be tricky for women to make time for their physical and mental health. Take this week as an opportunity to pause and reflect on how you’re going and whether you need to make any changes to your current routine in order to meet your needs more effectively. Any steps you decide to take to improve your health are steps in the right direction, so remember to go at your own pace and focus on yourself as an individual.
We also challenge you to consider how you can maintain changes to your health in the long-term. Rather than simply adopting a healthier lifestyle for this week or this month, consider how you can make small yet consistent changes to
Disclaimer: The advice provided in this article is general in nature. For more information relating to your individual circumstances, please speak to your healthcare provider.
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