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Pamper Yourself for Better Health

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Can a bubble bath reduce your risk of heart disease? Could a manicure ease your asthma symptoms or a soothing massage prevent your next cold? Simple, stress-reducing activities could have a positive impact on your health.

Doctors have long known that stress plays a large role in the health and well being of all of us. Chronic stress, in particular, can have long-term effects on your health, contributing to everything from muscle aches and irritable bowel syndrome to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

“Women are particularly vulnerable to stress-related medical problems. We’re taught at an early age to be caregivers and nurturers, except we often forget to care for ourselves,” says Dianne Dunkelman, founder and president of Speaking of Women’s Health. Speaking of Women’s Health is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating women to make informed decisions about their health, well-being, and personal safety.

Wal-Mart, one of the organization’s national sponsors, has placed Speaking of Women's Health information centers in all Wal-Mart stores across the country. These information centers feature more than 20 free health and wellness brochures on topics such as nutrition, skin health, heart disease, osteoporosis, balancing career and family, colds and flu, and stress reduction.

“Everyone has some stress in their lives and some amount of stress is healthy,” says Dunkelman. “It gets us up and out the door in the morning. What we want to help eliminate is the kind of stress that eats away at you over time. It comes from taking care of the needs of everyone else in your life, but ignoring your own.”

The foundation for a less-stressful life has its roots in the basics of good health -- exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and get enough sleep at night. In addition, eliminate or reduce bad habits, such as smoking or overindulging in alcohol. Florence Henderson, national honorary chair of Speaking of Women’s Health and co-host of Lifetime’s “Speaking of Women’s Health” television show that airs on Lifetime TV every Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. EST & PST, advises women to face their stressors head on.

“If there are stressful factors in your life that you can change for the better, then do it,” says Henderson, star of stage, screen and television, and everyone’s favorite TV Mom. “It might mean making some tough decisions, but the reward is having more control over your emotions, your situation, and your life.” Henderson reminds us that many of us have things in our lives that we’d like to change, but for various reasons, we can’t. “This is where self-care comes in,” she says.

“You might not be able to change a difficult situation, but you can do some small things to take care of yourself. “We’re talking about finding ways to celebrate life’s simple pleasures on a regular basis -- every day if you can -- to help reduce your stress for better health.” Here are some easy, inexpensive ways that Henderson and Dunkelman recommend to pamper yourself:

• Treat yourself to some fresh flowers. Keep them on your desk at work or on your nightstand at home.

• Buy a new shade of lipstick.

• Light candles in your house. Don’t save them just for special occasions.

• Buy yourself one set of the most sumptuous bath towels you can find. There’s nothing more luxurious than using a rich, thick towel after your morning shower, especially if you’re getting ready for a busy work day.

• Schedule a “Me Day.” Plan a day where you do some of the things you may dream about doing during your morning commute to work. Browse in an antique shop. Take a nap in your backyard hammock. Catch an afternoon matinee.

• Go to a local department store and get a free makeover at the make-up counter.

• Treat yourself to a natural body or facial scrub. Combine it with a scented bubble bath.

• Take a walk.

• Get a massage and a pedicure. When your feet feel good, you feel good all over.

• Another stress relief is connecting with a friend – take a walk together, make an unscheduled phone call or send a letter or e-mail just to chat. You might consider helping a friend who is stressed by putting together a “pampering” gift basket.

“One of our goals is to educate women about the effects of stress on their lives and to get them to start thinking about ways they can make changes -- even small changes -- to lead happier, less-stressful lives,” says Dunkelman. “And I’m including myself in that category! “It’s like what the flight attendants say when they advise you to put on your emergency oxygen mask before helping others. You have to take care of yourself first, so you can be better prepared to care for your family and friends,” she adds.

Speaking of Women's Health is supported on a national level by corporations and foundations including Wal-Mart, P&G, Lifetime Television for Women, Guidant, American Greetings, Ensure, Women’s Rogaine, Nicotrol, Kellogg’s, Hanes Her Way, and Lean Cuisine. For more information about Speaking of Women’s Health or for details on a conference near you, visit www.speakingofwomenshealth.com.

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