Health is important. Everywhere we look, we’re assailed by billboards and online ads telling us that we should be taking better care of ourselves. Trying to sell us healthy foods and supplements, reminding us to check in with our doctor, encouraging us to join one gym or another, reminding us to be vigilant and careful. And while this is certainly sensible (especially in the current circumstances) it’s left us with a slightly skewed idea of what constitutes good health. 

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A healthy diet is absolutely integral to good health. Absolutely nobody’s denying that. If you don’t eat well, you’re only ever building on a good foundation. And by eating well, we’re not just talking about getting lots of protein (the nation’s apparent obsession). We’re talking about eating lots of fresh veggies, fruits, legumes and wholegrains. We’re talking about a balanced diet and a colorful plate. We’re talking about getting lots of immune boosting phytonutrients, plenty fiber the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need. One thing’s for sure, even if you have an extremely active lifestyle, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

Nonetheless, while we all seem to have no problems talking about our diets and our exercise regimens, there are other aspects of our health that we seem much more loath to discuss. Why don’t we talk about these other equally important aspects of our health and wellbeing…

Our sexual health

Sex is an extremely important part of our health. Repressing our sexual urges, not being open and honest about them or simply trying to ignore them can be extremely damaging for our health and our psyche. Whether you’re single or with a partner, being open and honest about sexual health is a crucial part of self care. For starters, we need to dispel the myth that you can’t have a sex life if you’re single. Your sexual relationship with yourself is potentially the most important you will ever have. Masturbation isn’t “dirty”, it’s as much a part of your health regimen as going for a jog in the morning. Moreover, if you have a partner, paying attention to yourself isn’t cheating on them. It’s simply getting better acquainted with yourself and gaining a better understanding of what your body wants and needs.  

Likewise, as much as we should all practice safe sex (even if you’re in a monogamous relationship), it’s also important to know how to deal Sexually Transmitted Infections. It’s only when we try and sweep them under the rug that they can do serious damage to our bodies. Chlamydia, for instance, can be seriously damaging if left untreated and can even make women infertile. Likewise, there are some STIs that remain in the body indefinitely. Herpes simplex for instance, is the same virus as the cold sore virus and like a cold sore, it can keep coming back, which is why it’s so important to get treatment for herpes before it creates problems with your sex life. Again, part being in good sexual health means discussing these things with your significant other.  

Our mental and emotional health

It’s astonishing that any of us who are extremely diligent when it comes to what we put into our bodies and how many calories we burn every day can be so guilty of neglecting our mental and emotional health. 

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Many of us are loath to talk about these aspects of our health at work, and even when we’re amongst friends. We may feel as though we’d be burdening our friends or bringing them down with us if we’re open and honest about our mental health. Likewise, when we’re at work we may worry that talking frankly about our mental health could alter the way in which our colleagues see us or even put us at risk of losing our jobs and our careers. But nothing could be further from the truth in  either case.

Your employer has a duty of care to you, and part of their responsibility is to create a safe working environment that’s conducive to your health and wellbeing. And that’s as true for your mental health as it is for your physical health. If you feel that issues with stress, anxiety, depression or other common mental health problems are affecting your ability to do your job, you have a right to bring it up with them without fear of reprisals. They may be able to provide access to counselling services and other coping mechanisms that may make your life easier. 

Of course, you deserve a support network outside of work, too. Your GP will be able to refer you to a mental health practitioner if issues with mental health are getting in the way of your ability to live and enjoy your life. Even if you don’t feel that you’re ready to talk to a professional about your mental health issues, you shouldn’t feel ashamed or reticent to talk to your friends about it. Being open, honest and upfront puts them in a much better position to be able to help. After all, if matters were reversed, you’d want them to tell you, right?

Our sleep

We really need to stop looking at sleep as the preserve of the lazy and indulgent. When did we start thinking that we can scrape by on 4 hours’ sleep a night and shrug “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” while trying to juggle the responsibilities of work, career and home? 

Sleep is not a luxury. It’s an absolute necessity. And just like our diet, if we’re not getting enough sleep, we’re always building on an unstable foundation. If you’re the kind of person who practically lives at the gym, you absolutely need to be getting at least 7-8 hours’ sleep every night. While we’re asleep, our bodies carry out all kinds of maintenance and routine repairs, Including repairing the muscles and other tissues that are damaged in exercise to that they grow back stronger and leaner, boosting your metabolism and carving out the body of your dreams. 

In short, there’s no way you can be all that you want to be if you’re not getting enough sleep.

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