A Latina Mom's Health Survival Guide-MainPhoto

A Latina Mom's Health Survival Guide-MainPhoto
Coffee in bed is, for most of us, a decadent luxury that we may experience on vacation or every once in a blue moon. But for 40-year old public relations professional Soldanela Rivera it is a morning ritual akin to brushing her teeth—and one that she’s been indulging in for more than 20 years. Rivera gets up at dawn and in the stillness of daylight, she treats herself to something many, if not most of us—take for granted—herself.

During this “holy moment” Rivera gets to turn within and set the tone for the day.

Spiritual life coach and author of the forthcoming self-help book, You Are More Than Good Enough, Gloria Rodriguez calls moments like these being and it’s in this state where she says the heart of self-care and self-love resides. Unfortunately she says for most women, particularly Latinas and other women of color, self-care and self-love are foreign concepts.

Self-love is the awareness to place yourself and your needs first on the agenda—the idea that you are a priority, according to Rodriguez. You know, that you are your main business and that you matter. It involves making sure that your wants, dreams and health—physical, spiritual and emotional (all of you!)—tops your things to do. It starts with the commitment to essentially do “you” before you do anyone or anything else.

Do a Self-Diagnosis
Examine what is working for you and what isn’t.

  • Do you always run out of time to take care of your needs because you’re doing for others?
  • Do you find yourself forgoing your dreams because it might offend people you love?
  • Do you have any parts of you that are broken, forgotten, languishing in a corner, waiting for you to take notice, waiting for you to have them repaired?
  • Are you taking your outstanding self/career/potential/health for granted?

“Taking care of others is something we know well how to do,” says the founder of the woman’s group De Almas, “But taking care of ourselves is where Latinas are failing miserably.

The traditional model for Latinas has involved la mujer sacrificada, where to be a good daughter, mother, wife, sister you serve others at the expense of your needs, and dreams,” she explains.

And that is not an antiquated idea, it’s very much a modern cultural legacy.

Rodriguez says that many young Latina students in her Psychology of Women’s class at Bronx Community College share with her that while their parents exhort them to get an education, their primary responsibility is to the home and the family and not themselves.

The result of doing for others before you is causing havoc on the collective Latina health. Latinas are battling diseases that experts say, for the most part, are lifestyle related and preventable. Consider the stats:

  • 41% of Latinas report to being in fair or poor health compared with 23% of white women;
  • One third of Latinas have high cholesterol, one in five, diabetes;
  • Nearly one-half of Latinas who are 45 years or older have hypertension.
  • Latinas and African American women account for 78% of HIV cases; and
  • Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among Latinas, and experts say it’s due, in large part, to late detection.

We simply do not go to the doctor for preventive care, and too many of us let colds turn to pneumonia before we stop and take ourselves to get checked. Small lifestyle changes can make a dramatic difference. A recent study found that doing 15 minutes of exercise a day could expand your life by three years.

Change is Possible, with Small Steps
Have a daily holy moment. 
For some it’s coffee in bed, others meditation in the morning, still others it’s Zumba class. Start small, 15 minutes a day in the morning and in the evening. Spoil yourself rotten

Why not? Introduce a daily ritual that involves doing something just for you, that totally makes you happy. Hint: it does not (necessarily) involve shopping for shoes, ladies. Nothing material, find an experience!

Self-love is having an awareness that you matter, that you are worthy of lavishing attention and praise, that you take time not to indulge in self-love but to practice it. It also involves tuning out what Rodriguez calls the self-hater, the constant judging that takes place in our heads.

“It does require for each of us to examine what is not working in our lives and having the courage to make small changes,” she says. “If we don’t treat ourselves with kindness, and love and as a priority, we are in bad shape.”

So while coffee in bed may sound like a silly extravagance and makes you think, who has time for that?—it’s a small step that signals to your inner sacrificada that you matter enough to spoil yourself first thing in the morning.