Many women spend so much of their time chasing after others that their own health gets neglected. Did you know 1 in 2 women will die of cardiovascular disease? That’s about 5,000 Irish women every year – making it the number-one killer of women in Ireland and the world. Understandably, with work, family, fitness, cooking, cleaning, education, fashion, socialising etc., many women feel there’s simply no time to look after themselves.
But there are a few ways you can slow the pace and take time to care for your heart – you and your loved ones will be grateful in the long run.
- Forget about the ‘24 hour day’ structure. Yes, there are only 24 hours in a day… but there are 168 hours in a week. The average Irish working week is 40 hours, so you could get eight hours of sleep a night and still have 72 hours –three full days – left over. Examine how you need to use your hours and see if you can make more of your time.
- You might be able to adjust your work schedule – 9 to 5 doesn’t suit everyone. You could try working ‘split shifts’, where you do the same number of hours divided between morning and evening, leaving you time in the middle of the day for your health, family and other priorities. Or you could work late on some days then leave earlier on the other days of the week, perhaps even taking one day off.
- Cook healthy meals in large batches – you could even dedicate one day a week to ‘meal prep’. You can freeze the leftovers for another day. They can also be used as healthy lunches for you and your family, which can save you money and help you to avoid temptations. Check out our top tips on Meal planning here.
- Have everything ready to go and think ahead. Put a set of exercise gear in the car so you always have it handy, and keep another set washed and ready to go at home. Try to keep your keys, bag, shoes and phone in the same place so you don’t waste time hunting for them in the morning (though we know this can be hard if you have untidy people or tiny kleptomaniacs in your household!). Plan your outfits for the week instead of trying on everything in your wardrobe in frustration every morning. Keep bills and other important documents in organised boxes or folders so they are easy to find.
- Quit smoking. Busy women can be driven to cigarettes to relieve stress, but even ‘social smoking’ greatly increases your risk of heart disease and many other problems. The World Health Organisation says that you can add 10 years to your life expectancy if you stop smoking at age 30, 9 years at age 40 and 6 years at age 50. Your risk of coronary heart disease is halved just one year after quitting, and if you have children, it lessens the complications related to second-hand smoke, like asthma and ear infections.
- Try to avoid stress eating. Don’t keep junk food in your desk drawer, especially if you have a tendency to binge without thinking while your mind is on other things. Go for healthy snacks like bananas, small portions of nuts or dried fruit (without added sugar) when you need an energy boost. Check our top tips on being treat aware here.
- Ask for help and learn to say ‘no’! Stress is a massive contributor to heart disease. If you feel too much is expected out of you, let someone know, whether that’s your boss, neighbour, parents, partner or children. Delegate some of your regular chores, like picking up dirty clothes, cooking or doing the shopping, to others in the house – they might not even realise how much you do without them noticing and appreciate your workload more. Ask friends or family to look after children every now and again to give you a breather. Finally, don’t take on tasks just to be polite if they will significantly impact your day.
- Put a time limit on everything you do. Dedicate 10-15 minute blocks of time to different tasks, whether that’s grocery shopping, packing the dishwasher or checking emails. Not everything has to be done perfectly – if you feel something needs more of your attention, just schedule more time for it. Don’t be afraid to politely shut down meandering phone calls or meetings that are running over time. And remember to schedule in down time, too.