May’s Theme: Health

"The doctor" (1919) Photo by James Wallace Pondelicek. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Now that I have my Mother’s Day remembrances in the mail, it is time to get back to regular business. (I won’t share with you my Mother’s Day solutions just yet as my mom reads my blog. Hi Mom!)

We are almost halfway through 2011! It is the start of a new month and a new monthly organizing theme topic. Last month, we tackled the sometimes stressful subject of money, specifically with regard to retirement planning. This month’s theme is similarly important and challenging . . . health.

Just as with last month’s topic, we are going to take an honest look at what it takes to maintain your health, identify the top priorities to improve our personal health, and techniques to keep all this information organized and accessible.

Unless you are feeling terrible, chances are most of the time you don’t pay a lot of attention to your health. If your body gets you through your busy day and all that you have to accomplish, most people consider that healthy enough. Sometimes people will hyperfocus on a particular aspect of health, such as diet or exercise, but rarely do any of us take the time to think about the whole picture and where our energies would be best spent.

Health is a very subjective topic and it means different things to different people. There are certain aspects of health that we control (like how much we exercise) mixed in with completely random occurrences, like accidents, disease and genetics, that can limit how healthy we can be.

To kick off the month, I thought it would be helpful to start with the baseline priorities for health and issue some Ruly Challenges.

Medical Visits

It has been my experience that the average man with no major medical issues needs to seek medical attention a minimum of 4 times per year and the average woman 5 times per year. In our family, we consider the following medical care to be the bare minimum necessary:

  • Annual physical with primary care physician
  • Cleaning appointments with dentist twice per year
  • Annual eye checkup with optometrist/ophthalmologist
  • For women: Annual gynecological appointment

While 4-5 medical appointments per year does not sound too bad, it gets a bit more complicated if you are also responsible for supervising medical care for children/family. Numerous studies show that, on average, women care far more about health than men and that married women tend to take on a huge responsibility for the health of their families. See, for example:

In my household, I oversee a minimum of 17 medical appointments annually for 4 people. The actual number of appointments is probably far higher since we always have at least one minor emergency or illness each year, accidents, or someone with a condition that requires numerous follow-up visits. It seems that I am going to a medical office on someone’s behalf at least every few weeks and when I am not doing that I am helping everyone schedule appointments, take their daily vitamins or refill prescriptions. It is a lot to be responsible for.

The medical profession does help us out in this regard with reminder phone calls, auto-refilling prescriptions and other conveniences but it still takes a good calendar and recordkeeping system to stay on top of all of it. We will talk about some organizing options in this area in future posts.

Ruly Challenge: If you are overdue for any of the above basic medical appointments, make an appointment today!

Personal Health

Having good health involves a whole lot more than going to the doctor regularly and taking prescribed medicines. There are actions we all need to take on a continuous basis, like:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Buckle your seat belt
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Floss
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a good diet including whole grains and large amounts of fruits and vegetables
  • Limit sugar consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Cope with stress effectively

Not an easy list to be sure! Accomplishing all of these things requires an incredible amount of organization. Most of us have to make our peace that we may never accomplish every single item on the list all the time and certain items on the list may be more important than others at various times in our lives. Habits and routines help tremendously here. If you can just remember to do something every single day, over time, you forget that there ever was a time when you did not do it.

In our family, the hardest challenges on the list are diet and exercise. We know we need to do better but particularly with regard to exercise it can be hard to fit it in. My husband and I have different challenges in this regard. For him, he is working or commuting so many hours during the work week, it is nearly impossible to carve out an hour for exercise. For me, the challenge is fitting in a workout while minding small children and accomplishing a mixed workload of household and business tasks.

Starting small can be a good help here. For the next month, I will aim to do at least 15 minutes of designated exercise daily (running after my children or cleaning will not count for this purpose). I will probably focus on stretching or strength exercises. I will chat with my husband to see if he can aim to do the same. 15 minutes is not going to satisfy either of our fitness goals but it might sow the seeds for better exercise habits in the future.

Ruly Challenge: Of the personal health criteria, identify 1 area that you would like to focus on this month and come up with a specific routine or habit to accomplish your goal. Identify the way that you will track your progress, such as writing down your accomplishments in a journal or log.

Please join me in the quest to improve health this month! Please share in the comments anything you would add to my list of guidelines for good health or your own resolutions for the month.