Teacher. Caregiver. Chef. The pandemic created distinct challenges and stressors for women as many are faced with fulfilling multiple roles while still meeting the expectations of their jobs and careers. The situation is particularly significant when you consider that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 20 percent of American women already were struggling with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety, according to the Office on Women’s Health.
Mental health poses unique challenges for women. Throughout her life, a woman’s body is constantly changing, putting pressure on her to adapt to new purposes and perceptions. Puberty, pregnancy and childbirth, menopause — they all force women to reckon with new bodies and new ways they fit into the world around them. Some of these physical changes can trigger mental conditions specific to women, including perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and perimenopause-related depression.
Ways to Boost Your Mental Health
Strategies to manage your mental health vary widely, and what works for one woman will not necessarily appeal to another. Focus on developing a unique strategy for yourself based on your interests, rather than pursuing an activity because it worked for a friend.
Here are five suggestions:
- Get at least 15 minutes of sunshine per day, which is shown to boost vitamin D and elevate your mood.
- Spend half an hour in nature whenever you can. Whether on a park trail, a riverway or the beach, nature boosts well-being.
- Take a short trip, exploring what’s in your local area. Experiencing a change of scenery can provide much-needed stimulation and reduce anxiety.
- Unplug from devices. Turning off and/or leaving behind your smartphone, tablet and laptop halts the constant flow and interruption of messages, and can bring relaxation and real-life reconnection.
- Practice forgiveness. Those who do forgive others — or even themselves — report better mental health and life satisfaction.
Be sure to reach out to friends and family members, stay connected, share laughs and create new memories — keeping physical distancing guidelines in mind. A 75-year-long research project, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, followed over 2,000 family members and revealed that strong relationships not only lead to longer lives, but more importantly, healthier and happier ones.
Additionally, the slowdown of 2020 is an optimal time to reflect on your values and your faith, a time to grow closer in each. Focusing on the positive — recognizing and expressing gratitude in your life — fosters a more optimistic mindset.
The Mind-Body Health Connection
Mental health and physical health are similar, but distinct. For example, we know that there is a connection between the mind and the gastrointestinal system, and many psychological conditions manifest as physical ailments. While physical health deals more with the longevity of one’s life, mental health is associated with both longevity and quality of a person’s life.
A healthy lifestyle will improve your mental outlook. This includes moderate drinking of alcohol, eating a nutritious diet and finding an exercise practice you enjoy. How you manage your life challenges has a direct effect on your daily life, as well as your relationships with others.
When to Seek Professional Help
Even with everyday battles, seeking out talk therapy with a trained professional is often a good idea. If you’re feeling detached from others, extremely negative about yourself or not physically caring for yourself, these are signals to seek professional help. If you’re struggling with hopelessness, suicidal thoughts or addiction to legal or illegal substances, a medical professional can guide you down the right path to wellness.
If you want to live a fulfilling life, be in the present with your friends and family, and make a positive contribution to society and upcoming generations, neuropsychological health has a tremendous value.
For more information, visit OrlandoHealth.com.