Over the course of the pandemic, normal life has been disrupted (and that’s putting it mildly). I don’t have all the answers to the question about what our new normal will be, but in honor of National Women’s Health Week (NWHW), observed May 8-12, 2022, I can share what I’ve been doing to preserve my sanity, how I make my health a priority, and ways I’ve been taking care of myself. We’ve witnessed the continued surge in violence and hate crimes against Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities,1and news like this can create stress, trauma, and grief. During these extremely trying times, taking care of ourselves is paramount.
The following is a list of ways I choose to maintain a healthy and holistic lifestyle. Please remember that these action items might manifest differently for everyone. Here’s how it looks in my life:
- Getting fresh air. After a long Zoom meeting, my neck is stiff, eyes are tired, and even though I may feel too mentally drained to summon the energy required to go outside for a walk, I know I won’t regret it if I do it. On days when motivation is low and I’d rather spend my break taking a quick nap, I’ll call a friend on FaceTime and put my sneakers on while on the call. It’s not because they need to know all the minutia details about my life, but it’s one of the ways I hold myself accountable. Now that I’ve told someone I’m going for a walk, I can’t flake out. I get my shoes on! Walk out the door, and listen to one of my favorite songs, The Champion, and feel the encouragement (and irresistible beat!):
The C is for the courage I possess through the trauma;
H is for the hurt, but it's all for the honor;
A is for my attitude working through the patience;
Money comes and goes, so the M is for motivation;
Gotta stay consistent, the P is for persevere;
The I is for integrity, innovative career;
The O is optimistic, open and never shut;
And the N is necessary 'cause I'm never givin' up;
See, they ask me how I did it, I just did it from the heart;
Crushin' the competition, been doing it from the start;
They say that every champion is all about his principles...2
- Practice self-care. It looks different for everyone. For some, it’s getting a massage, visiting a spa, watching Netflix, or it may be what I’ve been writing about in this piece. When 2022 kicked off, I discovered LEGO and the rest is, welll... history. My kids received a few LEGO sets for the holidays, and I found out that I really enjoy building something from nothing. It’s also become a family pastime to work on LEGO together, and after we finish building, we spend a lot of time in imaginative play together, creating stories and made-up scenarios with our creations.
- Take care of your health. In the mornings, I make sure to take turmeric, which is a plant that is often used as a spice and has a long history of medicinal use. Use of turmeric dates all the way back 4,000 years to the Vedic culture in India.3 It’s a yellow spice that not only is a beautiful golden yellow, but the major active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.4 My only caution is that it does stain easily, so try not to get it on your clothes!
- Support your local community. I find it very restorative to my mind and soul to step outside of myself, my problems, and my own issues by looking at what is going on in my community. The founder and executive director of Kits to Heart, Sonia, is a true inspiration to me. Sonia is a three-time cancer survivor and established Kits to Heart during the pandemic in May 2020. She curated and gave away free cancer care kits all over the Baltimore/Washington Metro Area community to those affected by cancer. I got to know Sonia and how she uses her experience as an Asian American woman and cancer survivor to remember that when kindness is paid forward, its impact is immeasurable.
- Learn, learn, and learn. Sometimes, it’s refreshing to just listen and absorb knowledge on topics that have always interested us, but it’s often hard to make time for that. For me, that means learning more about women’s health issues. This year, the Office on Research for Women’s Health at NIH is hosting the 6th Annual Vivian W. Pinn Symposium which will take place on May 12, 2022. The event features a keynote address from Dr. Reshma Jagsi, Deputy Chair of Radiation Oncology and Director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan, who will lead a conversation titled, The Impact of COVID-19 on the Careers of Women. This panel also includes Dr. Marie Bernard, NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity, Dr. Mike Lauer, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, and Dr. Sonia Flores, Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
In closing, here’s another way I choose to live a healthy and balanced life: repeating my mantra, “YOU GOT THIS.” This is not just an affirmation, it’s a spoiler alert.
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