In the U.S., women are responsible for making nearly 80% of healthcare decisions for their families. And yet, even while they are caring for others, some women may struggle to prioritize their own health.

March is a month to celebrate and empower women. It’s Women’s History Month, and March 8 is International Women’s Day, which is a global holiday that celebrates women and their social, economic, cultural and political achievements. Underlying — and enabling — those accomplishments is one basic building block: health. To help women reach their full potential, health must be a priority.     

After all, certain diseases and conditions continue to disproportionately impact women, potentially robbing them of the time, energy and resources they need to live their most fulfilling lives. According to the National Institutes of Health, some of those conditions include chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, depression, dementia and osteoporosis. Further, specific conditions that impact only people born with a uterus, such as endometriosis, are understudied and have historically lacked reliable means for diagnosis and treatment, says the NIH.

While efforts are being made to improve gender health equity, it’s still imperative that women empower themselves to be their own best health advocate and support other women in doing the same. Here are some steps that women can take this month to celebrate and activate themselves around their health.

  1. Make an appointment for an annual health exam. At your annual physical, your primary care provider can assess your health and address any changes or challenges. At the appointment, you can stay on top of preventive health services, such as vaccines, and discuss what screenings you might need. You can also talk to your doctor about any questions and concerns you might have about how you’ve been feeling.
  2. Learn your family health history. Did your mother have breast cancer? Did your grandfather have diabetes? Does a sibling have a heart condition? These are all important questions to ask in order to learn about any elevated risks you might have on account of genetics. If you have access to family members who can fill you in on conditions that have impacted your parents, grandparents and siblings, schedule a time to talk. Then, share that information with your doctor so that they can help you make timely decisions about screenings and take preventive actions. Learn more about the importance of family health history from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. Take care of your mental health. Women in the U.S. are twice as likely as men to have endured anxiety and depression in the past year. They’re also at a greater risk of mood disorders and anxiety disorders. Make a commitment to take good care of your mental health. If you’re struggling, or feeling unlike yourself, talk to your doctor about it. Reach out to your support network and share your concerns. If you need help, speak up.
  4. Make time for yourself. Demands can build, schedules can get hectic. But if you don’t take care of yourself, you might have a hard time continually delivering for other people. Make time during the day to do the things that make you you, whether that’s going for a walk or run, doing yoga, spending time with friends, making art or any other meaningful activity that grounds you, makes you laugh or gives you energy.
  5. Tell another woman “thank you.” It can feel as good to give gratitude as it does to receive it. Think about the women who have been powerful forces in your life. Take the time to let them know how much they mean to you by sending a thank you note, an email or even a quick text message.
  6. Set a goal just for you. Is there something that you’ve been wanting to accomplish? Maybe it’s learning something new, or saving money for something important, or pushing your limits to achieve something challenging. This month, verbalize that goal (even if it’s just to yourself) and create a map to get there. Whether it takes weeks, months or years, the journey can be its own reward.
  7. Take a deep breath. It sounds like such a small thing. But try it and see how you feel. When you set aside just a few minutes for deep breathing, you can clear your head, relax, reset and feel recharged with minimal effort.
  8. Take a hiatus from your screens. All day, every day, information comes at us. News, texts, calls, emails, direct messages, social media posts. Add that to real life demands, and it’s easy to see why so many people feel burned out and stressed. Take some intentional breaks from your devices. Start small, by leaving your phone out of reach for a few hours.
  9. Help someone out. This can be a planned activity (like volunteering at a non-profit) or a random act of kindness (like purchasing a meal or a cup of coffee for a stranger). Odds are, you’ll make another person’s day in the process, and you’ll feel better, yourself, because of it.
  10. Rest. Most of us know the importance of healthy foods and exercise when it comes to feeling our best. But too often, we overlook another important activity: sleep. According to the CDC, one-third of adults report that they get less than the recommended amount of sleep for their age (here’s a sleep guide by age). Not getting enough sleep can negatively impact your mental and physical health, and being tired can increase your risk for accidents at work and on the road. Do yourself a favor and make sleep a top priority in your routine. Encourage your family members to do the same.

Taking care of yourself shouldn’t feel like a radical act. And yet, for many, it might. This month, put your health at the top of the list. Schedule appointments to address any mental and physical health concerns you might have, and to get up to date on your screenings and vaccinations. Make choices daily that will serve your health well. And be a good role model to other friends and family members, who may be watching and learning about the importance of standing up for your own health.