So many women endanger their health and well-being because of what Arlie Russell Hochschild has termed “the second shift” i.e. working a full-time job, and coming home to put in another shift of housework and childrearing. Little time is left for self-care – exercise, sleep, hobbies, and relationships. This leaves women with those pounds that just won’t budge, increased menopausal symptoms, and an overall feeling of discontent. But what can we do? “There is absolutely no time for exercise, and if there is, I’d rather sleep”, “if I don’t clean up, no one else will”, “we need the money, I have to work”. And these are all true. But something’s gotta give somewhere.

Implementing any change in one’s lifestyle can be scary or difficult, or seem physically and temporally impossible. But there are always ways. A simple first step is to ask your body, “what do I need right now?” Close your eyes, take a breath, and ask. You might hear, water! Or sleep. You might hear, I need a beer. Or a cigarette, or a bag of chips. If you have set an intention to lose that weight, or quit smoking, then these are just poor coping mechanisms that you have grown accustomed to, but know are not serving you. When one of these cravings comes, I encourage you to be observant of what’s happening when you don’t give in – do you feel antsy, annoyed, panicked? Does it feel tight in your chest? Watch your thoughts and bodily sensations, and keep breathing. You will see it passes. Try and substitute a crisp apple instead of the chips, or mineral water with a splash of pomegranate juice instead of the beer. And if you choose to have that beer, then at least you have made a conscious decision. Awareness is the first step to change.

By asking your body, “what do I need right now” you are validating yourself and your needs. You are listening to yourself, which may be a change from listening to your boss, co-workers, kids, in-laws, all day, and your body will respond with gratitude, by doing its’ job that much better for having its needs met.