Women’s Health Week: Nurture your friendships – improve your health.

by Laura Gale

Women are partners, daughters, sisters, friends, mothers and, frequently, caregivers. Women also often carry the invisible burden of the mental load of a household, which is no mean feat.

Whilst these are generalisations, the list of demands will ring true for many. It is essential to determine strategies to assist women in supporting and caring for those around them while ensuring they care for themselves.

As naturopaths, we commonly see females who do not have the time or inclination to get on top of their health concerns until they become impossible to ignore. For example, heavy and painful periods, irritable and anxious moods, ongoing aches and pains, and food intolerances that have led to restrictive diets.

One of the most incredible parts of being a woman are the friendships we form. Deep connections, shared experiences, honesty, and openness in our close relationships with others are critical to overall health. Studies show that females with strong social connections reduce their risk of numerous chronic health problems, including depression, high blood pressure, being overweight or obese. Further, meaningful relationships and a strong support network can lead to a longer and healthier life.

Science tells us that having meaningful relationships are valuable to overall health. In that case, it makes sense to maximise the benefits.

Choose a friend to keep you accountable for the ‘big ticket’ health items. Set reminders for breast checks on the same day each month and then check in on each other. Book your mammogram (or other yearly tests) at the same time as a friend’s, and then take each other out for lunch afterwards.

Instead of sitting and having a coffee, grab a takeaway and go for a walk. Being social and active simultaneously gets multiple runs on the board for the day. If you live too far apart, spend that time walking, talking on the phone catching up.

Find a local yoga or other fitness class somewhere in between where you both live and then attend together. Grab a meal or drink afterwards to continue your catch-up.

If you are at home with your kids, look for a network of others in a similar position.
Playgrounds are much more fun when you have another person to chat with.

Finally, nurture these relationships. Be available to your friends just as you would like them to be available to you. Practice vulnerability and listen and be attentive when your friends open up to you. Friendships can reduce stress, increase happiness, improve confidence and self-worth, and help steer us away from unhealthy lifestyle habits.

So what are you waiting for? What more evidence do you need to book a long-overdue catch-up with your best friend? Make it part of your naturopathic prescription.

This article is intended to be informational only and represents the opinion of the author. It is not intended to be used as medical advice and does not take the place of advice from a qualified health care practitioner in a clinical setting. Please check with your healthcare practitioner before embarking upon any of the treatments discussed.