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Doc Gurley: 5 Things To Do For Your Health This Month - October

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1) Check - The first week of October is Fire Prevention Week. Now is a great time to run through a short list of crucial prevention tasks. First, make sure you have a fire evacuation plan for your residence. Do you need a rope-ladder for second-floor bedrooms? Second, do you have an active smoke detector in all bedrooms and the hallways (make sure the batteries work too!)? Third, do you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen? You can buy one at almost every hardware/home improvement store. If you own one already, this month is a great time to make sure it’s still charged/active. Does your teen know where your fire extinguisher stays (and how to use it)? It’s awfully tempting when you’ve charged through the door and thrown your backpack on the floor to call a friend and fry up something FAST to fill that gnawing pit of hunger. Unfortunately, that’s also a great way to laugh so hard you drop the dishcloth and (whoomp) get a kitchen-fire going (not that we’ve ever done anything like that…ahem).

2) Be Aware - This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! October is a great month to get your boobies flattened (or not - consider an MRI if you can!). Are you reluctant to suffer in silence alone? How about taking a gaggle of girlfriends all on the same day, then treat yourselves to a celebratory coffee afterwards? Maybe you don’t personally sport a pair of breasts - keep in mind, however, that breast cancer can be a man’s disease too (rare, but unfortunately true). Any lumps, no matter what your gender of birth, need to be evaluated. If you’re in a low risk group, consider encouraging the women you love to step up to the cold mammogram plate and let her swing this month - we all need to do our part to knock breast cancer out of the park.

3) Plan - We’re heading into the fabulous (or dreaded, depending on your perspective) holiday season. Halloween is seen by many as the kick-off for a season of excess that often ends with a New Year’s emotional (or literal) hangover. Now is a great time to do what is called, in behavior-change-lingo, “pre-contemplation.” What does that mean? Now is a great time to muse, to feel around inside yourself and pay attention to how you’re feeling about your life. Are there changes brewing? Are you getting sick of something that you know you need to deal with? These are the subterranean rumblings from our better selves, letting us know that we’re gearing up, deep inside, for a seismic shift. Take a moment this month to pay attention to yourself - to step outside your life, in a matter of speaking - and think about what you’d like to feel in January. Pre-plan. Imagine your life as you’d like it to be. What would that take? Take the time to seriously consider it - those efforts will pay off big-time, later.

4) Hack Avoidance - it’s flu (shot) season! Yes, the flu kills. Thousands of people each year, in fact. And no, contrary to common rumor, the shot doesn’t make you sick. The guidelines for who should get a flu shot have been broadened until almost everyone can qualify. And this year looks to be a bumper shot crop, with no shortages or delays. Think about taking one for the team - herd immunity (and personal protection) are wonderful things.

5) Create - Looking for a way to improve your outlook? Feeling run down? Wanting a way to give the old noggin a bit of a work-out? All those tasks can be combined in one wonderful October day: October 15 is, amazingly enough, both National Grouch Day AND National Poetry Day. Take five minutes and write a poem. Do it from the perspective of a grouch who’s forced to admit that life, actually, may not suck. Have fun with it - go wild and take another perspective (an epic poem recounting the Defeat of Grouch by a roving Band of Gigglers?). Share your efforts in our comments section! Every month should have one day of silliness, and this is October’s. Well, and then, of course, there’s Halloween! Make that two days…

Doc Gurley's motto when it comes to her health writing is: Just A Spoonful of Humor Helps The...well, even without Julie Andrews breaking into song, you get the idea. Doc Gurley's health writing has appeared in Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chronicle Sunday magazine, with letters in the Washington Post and UK's Daily Telegraph. Her research has appeared in academic publications including the New England Journal of Medicine. She is also the author a humorous book of serious healthcare advice, Dodging Death, forthcoming from Penguin/Avery books.

Visit Dr. Jan Gurley on her website:

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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