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Maintaining Maximum Wellness

Column by Dr. Rebecca Ryder, FACOG - Tidewater Women, April 2009

I frequently talk with women who are trying to feel the best they possible can. I find they tend to focus on the one thing they think is holding them back the most, whether it be physical, mental or spiritual.

The focused approach is a great solution to many things, but not when it comes to wellness. Wellness is a whole-person concept that includes the health of your mind, body, and spirit. Wellness does not mean having no symptoms, but rather feeling and functioning optimally. On a scale of 1 to 10, you can feel good at 5. But wouldn't you rather be living in the 8 - 10 range, i.e., living optimally?

Following are some important ways women can maintain maximum wellness of mind, body, and spirit.

Dr. Rebecca Ryder

A HEALTHY BODY
This list could go on and on, but I will focus on a few basic tips, many of which our mothers told us!

• Get your rest. Sleeping 8-9 hours per day helps the body recover from stress, increases immunity, and helps with weight management. Cut back on watching TV or getting that “to do list” done (that will never really have zero items on it, will it?). Make sleep a priority instead of something you do when you’re too tired to do anything else. Realize that by getting your proper sleep you are doing something good for the health of your mind, body, and spirit.

• Exercise daily. You knew I was going to say it, didn’t you? Just a few of the proven benefits of exercise include the prevention of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, memory loss, and falls and fractures. Exercise decreases the effects of stress on the body and provides mental health benefits as well.

As little as 30 minutes total each day generates positive health benefits. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park furthest away in the parking lot, walk the dog, play outside with the kids, garden, or ride a bike for a quick errand nearby instead of taking the car.

It may be easier to incorporate three 10-minute bouts of exercise than to do a 30-minute or more trip to the gym. As long at it's 30-minutes total per day, you're fine. Doing exercise videos at home and is increasing in popularity and may be more economical from a time and money standpoint.

• Eat right and strive for 5. Another one you knew I was going to say. Eating right is a big topic, so I recommend starting with one simple change: aim for five servings of fruits and/or vegetables a day. For most women, this will increase your intake of fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants -- all critically important for good health. Make health a priority and spend a little more money on organic and/or locally grown, sustainably raised products. This will decrease your chemical exposure as well as the amount of fossil fuels it takes to get the products to us.

A HEALTHY MIND
Mental health affects all aspects of our lives, including physical illness and relationships. Medical studies have consistently confirmed that mental exercise decreases the risk of memory problems and diminished mental functioning.

Exercising your mind is important, just like exercising your body. You can do this in a variety of ways: reading, journaling, learning to play an instrument, taking art or photography classes, doing crossword or Sudoku puzzles, or learning a new language. Any of these daily activities will keep your mind healthy.

Maintaining a positive mental outlook - being optimistic rather than pessimistic - also leads to better mental health and relationships.

A HEALTHY SPIRIT
A healthy spirit decreases the tolls of stress on our mental and physical health.

There are many routes to a healthy spirit, such as, attending weekly religious services, communing with nature, meditating, or reading for spiritual health.

Some people find spiritual practices in community with other people to be most helpful, while others may prefer more solitary pursuits.

Instead of pouring 100 percent of your efforts into the one thing you feel is affecting your health and lifestyle, try putting 33 percent into activities that have an integrative body-mind-spirit approach to your goal.

Dr. Rebecca Ryder, FACOG, is the co-founder of Synergy in Chesapeake, an integrative medicine center for women. She is a board certified gynecologist and an expert in bioidentical hormone replacement and medical acupuncture. She can be reached at (757) 410-5462 or www.synergymedicalcenter.com.

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