It is a well-known fact that our physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand and affect each other. As a result, focusing on just one aspect of our life doesn’t ensure our overall well-being. Our mental health affects many aspects of our life such as relationships, social functioning and performance at the workplace, which is why it is important to pay attention to it.
While mental health concerns affect both men and women, there is a difference in the mental illnesses that both experience. Studies show that women have a higher likelihood of getting diagnosed with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. Further, women’s symptoms and treatment for the same mental health issue can be different from men’s.
Factors that affect women’s mental health
There are a sum of factors that cause women to have an increased vulnerability to mental health issues. These include biological and sociological factors, as well as their daily life experiences.
Hormonal fluctuations during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause lead to changes in mood and physical functioning. For instance, pregnancy can trigger postnatal depression in some women. Over a prolonged period of time, these hormonal changes in combination with other physical changes, may turn into stressful events thereby causing anxiety and mood swings. Poor physical health and physical illnesses further cause a disruption in regular functioning and can lead to low mood and stress.
Gender differences and stereotypes are ingrained in societies and we often find a number of unrealistic expectations about how women should look and function. There is a common assumption that women must possess qualities of being empathetic and nurturing and those who do not demonstrate these end up becoming outliers. The stress arising out of these expectations and the constant pressure to meet them can lead to mental health concerns such as chronic stress, depression, self-esteem issues, low confidence, eating disorders and anxiety. In addition, poor mental health is also connected to domestic violence and abuse.
Experiences of daily life
It is often found that women are required to prove that they have the ability to multitask and accomplish all their duties. At the workplace, women often have to deal with inequality in pay, are less likely to be promoted and more likely to have to prove that they can keep up with the demands of the workplace. While times are changing, gender bias at the workplace is still a common phenomenon.
How women can take care of their mental health
Women’s mental health concerns often get overlooked, and women may internalise their stress and worry rather than express them due to the absence of a perceived supportive environment. Having a sense of control over your mental health can help you cope with stress and be more productive.
It is crucial to take steps to seek help for mental health, yet many women may find it hard to do so due to poor accessibility and social restrictions. However in recent years, the rise of mental health apps has made care much more accessible.
Here are some ways in which women can improve their mental health in their daily lives.
1. Seek help
A number of online platforms provide access to mental health professionals and tools which can help women take the first step towards managing their mental health concerns. A mental health app such as Wysa can help you build awareness and skills to cope with emotions and stressors, and deal with problems on your own.
2. Take out some time for self-care
Daily stressors and schedules can cause a disbalance in one’s life. It is important to dedicate some time to focus on your mental health and physical health, even if it is just for 15 minutes a day. Self-care activities can include spending time in nature, reading a book, doing yoga or even taking a short nap.
3. Get regular sleep
Women are more likely than to have sleep issues such as insomnia. Since sleep plays a significant role in our day-to-day functioning and overall health, maintaining a regular sleep schedule can help improve your overall mood and energy levels. You can do this by incorporating physical activity during the day, managing your worries, avoiding long naps, creating a calm bedtime environment and sleeping and waking at the same time everyday.
While it is necessary to address larger societal issues such as perceptions of women’s body image and the gender roles that women are expected to follow, it is also important to put in efforts to work on our mental health at an individual level. Additionally, family, friends and the workplace can play a crucial role in providing support to women through stressful periods. Hence, it is important not just for women to take care of their mental health, but also for people around them to encourage them to do so and seek professional help if needed.