Why women need to make mental health a priorityAnna Chandy
Managing multiple roles and trying to be ‘perfect’ can take a toll on women; practising self-care can drastically improve mental and physical well being.
As women we juggle many roles - caregiver, homemaker, employee, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, friend, and multiple others. Each of them is governed by attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, and perspectives. Most of them are accompanied by a set of unrealistic expectations and demands, which turn into an enormous burden to bear and fulfil. In the process of managing all these roles and simultaneously trying to be “perfect” in them, we most often lose sight of our own individuality and needs. It is essential that we find time to practise self-care so that our health is a priority. Self-care can drastically improve our well being, both mental and physical.
Research indicates that women are twice as likely to develop common mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression, when compared to men. According to the World Health Organisation, (WHO), women are also more likely to experience trauma, often by way of sexual assault or abuse, and therefore tend to suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Research has also shown that 20 percent of Indian mothers are likely to be affected by postpartum depression.
Women suffering from mental illness usually do not come forward because they get blamed and shamed for not living up to societal expectations. As a society, the high expectations placed on women put us under immense pressure and are detrimental to our well being. This makes it all the more important to care for ourselves and stay healthy.
What you can do:
- Self-care is a lifestyle change that will help you manage symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Aside from meeting your most basic needs, self-care can be anything and everything. It can range from completing a few chores that have been pending, learning to say no, taking time to do activities you enjoy, giving yourself recognition for doing your best, permission to be you, and - above all -allowing yourself to make mistakes. It is also extremely important to recognise that self-care is not selfish. Unless a person takes care of their own needs, they will not have the psychological and physical energy to take care of another.
- Practicing gratitude is another way to improve your mental health. Gratitude is appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to you, and represents a general state of thankfulness and appreciation. By showing gratitude you embody a more positive attitude, which improves your personal, professional, and social life. You can express gratitude in two ways: internally, by acknowledging all the good in your life, or externally, by recognising the good in the world around you.
- Friendship has a large impact on our mental health because it makes us more resilient. Resilience is the ability to cope with stress and adversity. Research has also shown that friendship can have a much more significant and positive impact on life expectancy when compared to other relationships.
- Spending time in nature, journalling, aromatherapy, and yoga are activities that will help you feel relaxed. They all work in different ways. For example, journalling allows you to reflect and process your emotions. According to psychologist Robert Emmons, it can significantly improve your well being and life satisfaction. Aromatherapy, meanwhile, uses specific scents to alleviate poor emotional and psychological states and help you unwind.
- Physical activity and exercise are great ways to improve circulation and regulate breathing. They increases levels of oxygen, which will improve brain functioning, calm the nervous system, cleanse the lungs, and facilitate quality sleep.
Toxic environments either at work or home, multiple deadlines, and co-workers who are constantly complaining are sources of negativity and stress that deplete your energy. Working women should engage in activities that are relaxing; try journalling or spending time in nature.
As a new mother you have to recognise and accept that you are still learning and be forgiving towards yourself. While you are learning about the needs of your newborn, do not neglect your own. You will be better equipped to take care of your child by taking care of yourself. Find time to rest by setting a schedule that is compatible with your child’s, ensure that you are still eating nutritious food, and get some exercise. It is not always easy to make time for yourself but you and your child will be better off from doing so.
Woman at home
It is often assumed that women at home have it easy, but that’s not true. They have a lot of responsibility, care for everybody at home, and have to meet many expectations. It is very easy to lose your own identity while tending to the needs of so many others, and this can be extremely draining. It is essential that you make time to treat yourself and tend to some of your own needs. You could do this by doing something simple like establishing a night-time skin care routine, taking a class on something you are passionate about, or de-cluttering your home. You can also do things that you enjoy like reading or catching up with friends.
Never feel guilty when it comes to your mental health and self-care. You are an individual and your needs are justified. You are only making things harder for yourself in the long run if you constantly neglect your health and well being. You are a valued member of your family and society, and should treat yourself like one. Give yourself permission to enjoy and celebrate life while striving to stay healthy.
If you or anyone you know is overwhelmed or experiencing difficulty with a mental illness, I urge you to seek help by speaking to a mental health professional or calling a helpline.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)