Settlement Guide

Women's Health Week: How to include self-care in your daily routine

Taking care of oneself paves the way for better holistic well-being down the track. Source: Getty Images/d3sign

Taking care of one's physical and mental health paves the way for better holistic well-being down the track. But it's not always easy to do so, especially for women juggling career and household responsibilities. But here's how you can include self-care in your routine.

Logan-based mother of three, Fatimah Haase, was not in a happy place working full-time and struggling to manage her young family.

“I was very overweight. I felt really tired, and I felt like every day was a chore,” she says.


Key points

  • A study has found that most cases of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and cancer could be prevented by better self-care
  • Women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds face additional barriers in practising self-care
  • According to the federal Department of Health, women are 1.6 times more likely to have coexisting mental and physical illnesses than men.

Desperate to turn things around, she joined an intensive week-long personal development program and realised that she first needed to take care of her own well-being.  

I am giving so much of myself to everybody around me except for myself and I felt that I needed to raise my standards.

Seeking help

According to the federal Department of Health, women are 1.6 times more likely to have coexisting mental and physical illnesses in Australia. 

Dr Lee Mey Wong, a GP with Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, likens self-care to putting an oxygen mask on yourself before helping others.

woman slapshing water on her face
Research shows that women in Australia are 1.6 times more likely to have coexisting mental and physical illensses than men.
Getty Images/Flashpop

If not taken care of, she says the unseen mental health burden that women carry can manifest itself into physical ailments. 

“If you don't sleep well, maybe there is anxiety or depression, which in some communities is actually not recognised. So, sleeping well, eating well, having a really good routine - have exercise scheduled into your routine,” she says.

A recent Victoria University study found that up to 80 per cent of heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes and over a third of cancers could be prevented by better self-care – by regular exercise, healthy eating and quitting alcohol and smoking. 

Beyond Blue’s lead clinical advisor, Dr Grant Blashki, says if you are experiencing stress, insomnia, low mood or increased conflicts with your partner, you should see your GP.

The GP is like the gateway to Australia’s mental health system. They can do a mental health plan to give you access to specialist mental health providers. 

Rewarding yourself

Marcela, a mother of two from Brisbane, suffered from post-natal depression after the birth of her first child. It was not until she started actively practising self-care that she regained her zest for life. She recommends self-care and limiting the number of chores when feeling overwhelmed.

“If you do five chores, then you have to do five things to look after yourself: like you do your own manicure.”

She goes for regular pedicures, manicures, massages and walks. She also listens to guided meditation after a busy day.

Sometimes, simply taking fifteen minutes to drink a cuppa also makes a world of difference.

“Drink it with no hurry and look outside to the trees or be in the garden.”

Green smoothie
Getty Images/Oscar Wong

Additional barriers for CALD women

However, Dr Wong says additional barriers prevent some women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds from practising effective self-care and accessing available services. 

"They may not have a lot of health literacy to know that Australia has very, very good women’s health screening programs such as pap smear programs or breast screen programs. And unfortunately, these women often would have a lot of barriers stopping them from coming forward to approach a GP.”

Maria Hach, a senior policy advisor at the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health, says self-care can different things to different people, depending on their situation. For some, it may come down to staying safe in an abusive household.

She says self-care for them could be taking active steps to identify what makes them feel safe and healthy and not waiting to seek support until they feel really at risk.

Fatimah Haase with her three sons and husband
Fatimah Haase says she can now give her 100 per cent to whatever she does.
Fatiman Haase

Ms Hach says self-care is intimately connected to community care and that stronger individuals ultimately form better communities.

"We have to be kind to ourselves, really treating ourselves like we would treat a really dear friend. Taking small steps to stay connected and doing things that we enjoy, walks with somebody else, meeting for a meal in a park, talking to someone who we trust," she says.

Two years on, Fatimah Haase has been able to transform herself. 

She can now give her 100 per cent as the best version of herself – regularly hitting the gym, praying five times, and learning something new for half an hour each day. That’s on top of home-schooling her three sons during COVID-19 lockdowns and working as a relationship coach.

Prioritise your self-care at the annual Women’s Health Week from September 6th to 10th. For tips, go to www.womenshealthweek.com.au.

For emotional support, call Beyond Blue’s free 24-hour helpline on 1300 22 46 36.

To access a free translator for any service, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50 and ask for your designated service provider.

Call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 if you are suffering from domestic or sexual abuse.   

If your life is in immediate danger, call 000 immediately.

 

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