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Jennifer Owens

Jennifer Owens is founder of Jennwork, a women's content agency. Previously, she launched Spring.St, the place for smart women, as editorial director of Working Mother Media, and as founding director of the Working Mother Research Institute, home to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies, among other initiatives.

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Let's Make Back to School a Back to Self (Care) Season for Women

Let's Make Back to School a Back to Self (Care) Season for Women

As you get your kids ready to go back to school, make a pledge to yourself to take care of your own health with good self care.

Self-Care & Mental Health

These days my to-do list is more packed than ever: hunting for new lunch boxes and notebooks, shopping for shoes and shirts, scheduling the kids' doctor visits, bracing myself for the avalanche of new-school-year forms to hit.

Yes, it's that time of year, full of excitement and stress as we rush to get ready for the new school year. And no, there's never enough time to get everything done. Even so, this year I want to encourage us all (myself included) to take a moment for ourselves and our wellness.

Check out our Top 10 Tips to Get Organized for Back to School.

At HealthyWomen, we are dedicated to helping women care for their families and themselves. However, our recent HealthiHer survey, conducted in partnership with GCI Health and Redbook magazine, finds that 45 percent of women between the ages of 30 and 60 do not make time to focus on their own health.

Honestly, I am not surprised. As the longtime editor of Working Mother magazine, I heard the same story every day. Since time began, women have served as chief wellness officer for their families. We put everyone ahead of ourselves even as we handle all of the behind-the-scenes scheduling, negotiating and problem-solving work that goes into running the business of our families.

Is it any wonder, then, that our survey found that nearly 90 percent of women describe their stress levels as "moderate to high," while almost 40 percent say they have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression?

As women, ours is a mental load that can be overwhelming during even the best of times. But during back-to-school, with the clock ticking on the limited hours you have to get your kids dressed, prepped and checked for the first day of school, it can be exhausting just thinking about it, let alone getting it done.

All of which leads to us not taking care of ourselves like we know we should. We end up eating poorly, avoiding exercise, ignoring checkups. But let's get real: If we don't take care of ourselves, we won't be able take care of our families as well as we want.

So here's what I propose: Let's make Back to School season a Back to Self season as well. Let's all aim to schedule at least one checkup for ourselves, even if it's on the calendar for three months from now. Set a date for your mammogram, reacquaint yourself with your primary care physician, steel yourself for a pap smear. Whatever it is, let's promise to make a least one checkup happen.

And if you can't find a time that works for you? Then it may be time to find a new health care professional. (Our survey reports that 77 percent of women who do not get regular screenings and checkups place the blame their job schedules.) Consider choosing a health care professional who offers same-day visits, hours that work for you and the ability to make appointments and access your records online. I find that latter particularly helpful in organizing my own working family.

Self care is not selfish. By taking care of ourselves, we can offer even more support to our partners and families. You wouldn't miss your child's annual checkup, so don't miss yours. Together we can bring good health to our whole families, including ourselves.

Join me on our HealthiHer Facebook page and let us know that you've made this small commitment to yourself (and your family). We'll share our stories there too.

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