It’s time to start taking care of you
The pandemic disproportionately impacted women’s health. Along with a decrease in women getting regular health screenings, there was an increase in women – especially mothers – putting their own physical health and mental well-being on the back burner.
“Women already had a lot on their plate and then all these other things happened, caused by the pandemic,” says Diana Contreras, MD, medical director of OB/GYN and Women’s Health, Atlantic Health System. She is dual board-certified in both gynecology oncology and obstetrics and gynecology. “Women had to leave some of their previous roles and take on different ones. The stress from that was tremendous.”
Get Back on Track
Dr. Contreras says there has been a drop-off in women getting routine screenings. “From mammograms to visiting the dentist, it’s time to start taking care of you,” she says. Take stock of which appointments and screenings you’ve missed. “If you need to get a mammogram or a colonoscopy, don’t schedule them the same week. It’s OK to spread them out,” says Dr. Contreras. “Make an inventory of your health; then start working on that list slowly. Small goals like beginning to walk for exercise can have a huge impact.”
Turn to Your GYN
Your gynecologist can discuss all of the issues that affect your overall health. For that reason, Dr. Contreras advises women to turn to their gynecologist for much more than routine Pap smears. “For a lot of women, the gynecologist is their primary care physician,” she says. “The conversation should go beyond sexual health and reproduction. We need to empower women to talk about osteoporosis, breast health, anxiety and depression. It should encompass the whole woman – her emotional and medical needs.”
Know the Facts
Getting vaccinated is one proactive thing women can do to take charge of their health, and Dr. Contreras says that many of the fears surrounding COVID-19 vaccines are unfounded. “I think it’s really important that women get science-based information. There’s no science behind the whole idea of infertility and the vaccine,” she says. “We do know that millions of women have been fully vaccinated in the U.S., and that it’s safe and effective.”
Do a Mental Health Check-In
When it comes to our mental health, Elana Monchar, MD, Department of Psychiatry, Atlantic Health System, says there are a few things we can all do to feel better. “Setting a routine and sticking to it – that’s really necessary in a world where we feel out of control,” she says. What you put in your body can affect your mental health, too. “Fuel your body with nutritious, well-balanced foods,” says Dr. Monchar, who is board-certified in psychiatry. She also suggests prioritizing sleep. “It’s hard to function at your optimum when you’re sleep-deprived.”
Find Healthy Ways to Manage Stress
Therapy can be the right choice for some women and has become even more accessible due to telehealth, says Dr. Monchar. Activities such as coloring, kickboxing, gardening or going out for a stroll can also help keep stress in check.
“It’s going to take time to get back to a lot of things we did pre-pandemic,” she says. “You don’t have to do everything today. Give yourself time. Women have gone through a lot.”