Women's Health Month | New Orleans women share the best health advice they ever received
Take a proactive role in managing your mental health and wellness – this is the best health advice I ever received. It’s taken me some time to truly make it a priority, however.
Find a neutral advocate to help you strategize
My journey began about 17 years ago with my first trip to a therapist. After a little more than three years of marriage, the relationship wasn’t working as I had hoped. My best friend encouraged taking this proactive step, and I did find it helpful to speak with someone who was not invested in the outcome of my life as friends and family would be to develop strategies for how to cope with challenges.
Since that time, I’ve returned to therapy twice to work through life challenges. Seven years later, when I ultimately ended that marriage via divorce, this focus on my mental health allowed me to determine what life would look like as a single person again after a decade of marriage. I found the experience so helpful I continued seeing my therapist to talk through job changes, relationships, and other life adventures for more than five years.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
I returned to therapy at the beginning of this year after experiencing a stressful 2020. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I was laid off from my job, decided to start a business as a result, dealt with an aging dog with her own health challenges, and also worked through some shifting relationships. On top of all this, spending much of the year at home led to isolation and loneliness. It was time to gain perspective and strategies.
In the months since resuming therapy, I’ve been able to recognize I’m making progress and doing the best I can. We are all managing huge challenges right now. Our lives aren’t what they were before the pandemic, and as anxious as we all are to get back to “normal” … our lives are changed forever. What do we want to prioritize, and what do we want to grow beyond?
View your support system as a superpower
For many of us who pride ourselves on being independent problem solvers, it can be difficult to step back and ask for help. But instead of viewing this as a sign of deficiency, what if we viewed it as a helpful tool, adding to our superpowers? Managing our mental wellness is at least as important, if not at times more important, as managing our physical health. I would encourage anyone if you are able to access therapy to give it a try.
And if you don’t click with your provider, keep trying until you find one who meets your needs. I personally plan to continue my journey for the foreseeable future as I continue to chart my new life path.
Lisa Chmiola has worked for nearly two decades in philanthropy, and currently serves as a fundraising consultant to nonprofits. Her interest in health and wellness reaches back to her days on the high school dance team, which she’s been able to live out again as a member of a New Orleans dance troupe. She and her Miniature Schnauzer, Ava, recently moved to Mid-City after spending their first nearly four years as New Orleanians living Uptown.