Time is our most valuable resource, yet how many of us secure our calendars in the same way we secure our homes? You wouldn't leave home without locking the door, but we often leave the house without knowing exactly what we're doing that day and when. This lack of intention with our time can lead to disorganization and even more stress, once you realize how much time is wasted. I know many professional women who only use their calendars to stay on top of work-related events, such as meetings or coffee with a client, but fail to see that scheduling life outside of work would do wonders, too.
Keeping a strong personal calendar will not only keep you on task, but will also make sure you prioritize time with friends and family, too. Scheduling date nights or drinks with friends in your calendar may seem a little Type-A. However, think about the intention behind it: you are devoting your time to that person, with the promise of no distractions. That's why when friends ask me to grab lunch, I say "Absolutely!" and ask them to send me a calendar invite.
A calendar invite makes both parties both acknowledge the commitment, serves as a reminder on the day-of, and allows you to transition into a new headspace once you get the calendar reminder on your phone that lunch is starting in ten minutes. For me, it also means I can focus fully on my friend to maximize our hour or so together, because I know there's nothing else I'm "supposed" to be doing. Incredible intimate relationships aren't built in a day, but consistently over time, so make a habit of being present together with the ones you love on at least a weekly basis. Make it a recurring calendar invite to help you keep the habit, or find a weekly planner you love and write it down. Put your phones away during this time and just be.
I started practicing this habit in 2017 after realizing I wasn't focusing on my relationships enough. Even when I was physically with the people I love, I was distracted. There's a term from Nir Eyals' book Indistractable that really impacted me: "residual benefactors." It's something you don't want your friends or family to become. Basically, it refers to a person that gets the leftovers of something once all of the other priorities have been taken care of - AKA, what friends and family become when they only get what's left of you after a long day, week or month.
When we're not intentional with our time and energy, we accidentally make the people we care most about residual benefactors. We overbook ourselves with work and don't book times in our calendar for our relationships which means the people we are working so hard for, get the leftover crumbs from our lives. Scheduling your time intentionally ensures that people you love get the best of you.
Don't feel guilty about scheduling your relationships, either. It's not a bad thing to literally "pencil in" date night or put a sticky note in your planner to "call mom." Just remind yourself that friendships and relationships don't end in a day; relationships are starved to death through lack of time, energy and focus. They cannot thrive and the connection gets lost. You are doing yourself a favor by being a little Type-A, and putting time with someone special in your calendar doesn't symbolize that they aren't important enough to remember otherwise - rather, it demonstrates just how valuable they are to you.
For example, before I became a scheduling-aficionado, I recall a time when I went back to my hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland to visit my mother. I had a few professional acquaintances who wanted to meet for lunches and dinners, and I gladly accepted their calendar invitations. At the end of my visit, my mother pointed out that I didn't have lunch with her but once. I hadn't even realized it, but I was penciling people in because all I saw was open space in my calendar. Without purposefully scheduling time with her, she became a residual benefactor. This was the opposite of what I wanted as she is the most important person to me.
I think many women can relate to this struggle. Between work, making dinner, events, the kid's activities, emails, errands and walking the dog, our time gets eaten up with day-to-day tasks. Often, we might go through a whole day without distraction-less, intentional time with the people we love. Our calendar is a reflection of our values and priorities. Create a habit around intentionality in your relationships, and make yours the best reflection of you.
With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.
For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.
Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."
There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."
“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare.,"
Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.
How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.
So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shares with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."
To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."
These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.
A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.
To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."
How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.
Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."