By Afshan Mizrahi.
Between balancing responsibilities and making summer plans, things can get a little chaotic this time of year. For me, National Women’s Health Week (May 8-14 this year) is great motivation to make sure I have my sh*t together despite the chaos. Luckily, there are a few things we can all do that are really important and not that time consuming (even for the average lazy person like myself). So you don’t have to add worrying about whether or not you’re living healthy to your list of duties.
1. Get an annual well-woman visit
That’s right, get on it! Did you know that well-woman visits are considered a preventive service in insurance world and the real world? That means they are covered under—you guessed it—the Affordable Care Act (ACA, a.k.a. ObamaCare). Be sure to check out Care Women Deserve for more information on preventative services covered by your insurance without a co-pay. Depending on what you and your provider decide is important, your well-woman exam can cover different screenings for alcohol misuse, blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs, a.k.a. STDs). Communication is key when it comes to these visits, so don’t spare the dirty details.
If you’re anything like me, you might find it hard to remember something that takes place only once a year. I’m super paranoid about missing my appointment, so I always use Bedsider’s appointment reminders.
2. Drink in moderation
I know that there’s always a reason to celebrate and get LIT, but keep it to a minimum. A little buzz can go a long way.
Pro-tip: Limiting yourself to one or two drinks when you’re partying lets you have fun without losing control or risking a hangover in the morning.
3. Choose the right birth control
Birth control can help with many things in addition to preventing pregnancy. For me, the pill helped with cramping during Aunt Flo’s visits and I didn’t experience any negative side effects. Every person’s body is different and each body’s reaction to a method can be different, so make sure you’re using a method that works well with your body and meets your needs.
Worried that a method might break the bank? Keep calm. Under the ACA, all FDA-approved methods including hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs, the implant, the shot, the pill, and many others should be covered.
Pro-tip: Psssst! If you want to be discreet about your health-related decisions while on your parents’ insurance, check this out.
4. Reduce your risk for STIs
We’ve all heard this one before: GET TESTED! Buuut, people may not always know when or where to get tested for STIs. Personally, I take the kill-two-birds-with-one-stone approach and ask my provider if I can also get tested during my annual well-woman visit. If you prefer your testing separately, or if you don’t have insurance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a tool to find out what locations offer free testing near you. The tool shows you what specific options different locations provide for getting tested for HIV and other STIs.
Remember, most birth control methods will keep you protected from pregnancy but not STIs. The good news is you can prevent STIs, including HIV, by using condoms. Experiment with textured, flavored, latex, or non-latex condoms until you find your favorite condom ever.
Pro-tip: If you’re sexually active, doubling up (using condoms with another method) is a great way to prevent pregnancy and STIs.
5. So fresh and so clean, clean
That feeling where you have to pee but you don’t have to pee? If you’ve experienced this, it could be a urinary tract infection, or UTI. That itch down south that you’re reluctant to scratch? It’s possible that’s caused by a yeast infection. The best way to steer clear of infections down there—both UTIs and yeast infections—is just not douching. Other common recommendations to stay healthy include peeing after sex, changing your underwear, and drinking real cranberry juice.
6. Breathe in, breathe out
Life is too short to spend your time stressed. I’m especially irritable when I have a lot of deadlines, so I wind down by reading books, taking baths, or singing my heart out to ‘90s throwbacks. Some people prefer to meditate, play an instrument, or work out. It’s essential to have an activity that keeps you relaxed. If your mental health is up to par, life is easier to handle and way more enjoyable.
7. A gift only you can give
You all saw this one coming… Love yourself! (And not the in the way that Justin Bieber wants you to.) There are lots of different ways to feel more comfortable in your own skin. Though it can be a process, it will bring confidence and motivation to your life however you approach it. If you’re finding yourself feeling down or dealing with an overwhelming issue, don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend or a professional.
And speaking of communication…
8. What a time to open up
Are you reading this and feeling overwhelmed and excited? Wondering, “When do I start? What do I do first? How can I add these beneficial factors into my lifestyle?” Take it easy, because you don’t have to go through it alone. Whenever I’m making major decisions, I get a little expressive and talk to my mom about how things are about to change for me—for the better! If you want a second opinion on what you should do regarding your health—or if you just want someone alongside to hold your hand through it all—this could be the time to break down the barrier with your mom or another a family member, or to get more intimate with your partner.
— Afshan Mizrahi works at Bedsider and enjoys anything that relates to people or music. She promotes sexual awareness and knowledge through social media. Her full name translates to: blooming flower of royalty lives in the ash tree grove of the east.