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Celebrating Strength & Resilience: A Focus on Women’s Mental Health

Just like we should properly care for our bodies, caring for our minds is essential, too. Being in a good mental state makes us better equipped to solve problems, bounce back from challenging situations, and improves our overall mood and outlook. And neglecting our mental well-being can have an effect on our physical health. 

Women with poor mental health are more likely to develop other health conditions. People with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Your addiction risk goes up, too. 35.5% of adults in the United States with mental illnesses also experienced a substance disorder in 2021. 

Caring for our minds isn’t just about being happy or feeling good emotionally. It’s a crucial aspect of overall health that impacts our bodies, too. 

Understanding Women’s Mental Health

1 in 5 women has a mental health condition like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or an eating disorder. Anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed mental health condition overall, although depression is the most common mental health condition experienced by women.

To make sense of such a big topic, let’s dive into the challenges women face today. We can’t cover everything, but some key areas are worth mentioning.

Stress and pressure

Many women manage multiple roles and responsibilities in their lives. Juggling work, family, and personal life stuff without prioritizing your well-being can lead to burnout, heightened stress, and even worse, physical illness.

Research shows that women tend to encounter stress symptoms more frequently than men. The exact cause remains unknown, but experts suggest a possible connection to how women’s bodies process stress hormones. 

Even though we might intellectually understand that true perfection is an impossible standard, many women still hold themselves to it. This involves holding unrealistic expectations of how our lives “should” be rather than embracing the reality of the lives we’re actually living.  

Similarly, the tendency to prioritize others over ourselves is a significant and challenging cycle many women fall into. People-pleasing can lead us to neglect our mental and physical well-being and lose sight of our needs. 

The mental load

In many relationships, there can be an uneven distribution of the mental load. Those unseen responsibilities that come with managing various aspects of life can take an enormous toll on the person taking them on. 

Think of the mental load as an invisible to-do list that never ends. It may include planning family activities and the household or organizing daily tasks. Because of each home’s unique circumstances and family dynamics, balancing roles and responsibilities with your partner may be easier said than done. It requires acknowledgment from both people that the mental load exists, open communication, and shared responsibility. 

Body image and physical health

Throughout history, women have faced unrealistic beauty expectations that dictate a specific appearance for society’s approval, especially when seen as attractive to potential partners. 

This pressure to conform has been pervasive. However, it’s crucial to consider the importance of being comfortable with ourselves, embracing our unique bodies, and challenging the idea that beauty is one-size-fits-all.

Our appearance is a significant aspect of our identities. The desire to conform to unrealistic beauty standards can lead to disordered eating and other mental health issues.

Although being “fit” and “healthy” can be traced back to ancient Greece and the origins of the Olympics, fitness trends over the decades have played a crucial role in shaping societal ideas of what an “ideal” women’s body looks like.

The pressure to conform to these ideals can lead women to adopt extreme dieting habits, rigorous exercise routines, and other harmful behaviors in the pursuit of the perceived “perfect body.”

Pop culture, the fitness and wellness industries, and the media all contribute to women’s physical and appearance ideals. From movies and TV shows to influencers and magazine covers, women experience a constant reminder of what society deems as beautiful.

The Societal Impact and Stigma

People have strong opinions about how women should look and act, significantly affecting them. On top of that, stigma adds to the judgment of women, making it even more challenging. 

Luckily, the stigma around mental health is getting better. As a group, we’re talking openly about our challenges and what helps us feel heard and supported.

And don’t forget about social media’s impact—especially Instagram. People often show this perfect version of themselves, but it’s not always real. Sadly, these ideals are everywhere we turn. However, standing up for ourselves and seeking support from others can be a great way to regain control.

We Can Reclaim Our Power

The path of women’s mental health is a process, not an outcome. Our resilience shows in how we react, and it’s important to understand we can’t control what others do or say. We only have power over our own actions and responses. Acknowledging this fact empowers us and lets us take charge.

Instead of waiting for someone to save us, we can turn our focus inward and embrace our strength as women. 

For people who do not identify as women, it’s critical to acknowledge and embrace that women are a vulnerable population in the mental health landscape. 

Celebrate all bodies

Promoting an inclusive and accepting view of beauty that recognizes and celebrates women’s diverse shapes and sizes is essential. Accepting ourselves and others who look like us and those who don’t can help break the harmful cycle of unrealistic societal standards.

Instead of conforming to the ideals set by others, let’s take a holistic approach to health. A healthy body encompasses physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Embrace all body shapes and sizes and encourage people to pursue health in a way that feels right for them.

Additionally, seeking help and support is beneficial. Whether reaching out to friends and family or seeking professional help, it’s OK not to be OK. 

BIPOC Women and Mental Health

Women of color have distinct mental health experiences shaped by a combination of cultural, social, and systematic factors that all contribute to the unique challenges BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) face. 

BIPOC women often have to navigate multiple layers of identity, including race, gender, and ethnicity or nationality. Intersections intensify discrimination’s impact, leading to unique mental health circumstances for women of color. 

Limited access to resources

The barriers that women of color face when it comes to accessing mental healthcare and resources can hinder them from timely and appropriate levels of support. 

Other challenges women of color face are cultural stigma, systemic inequities, and underrepresentation of BIPOC individuals in mental health conversations.  

By acknowledging the unique barriers to appropriate mental healthcare BIPOC women face, we can move towards a more supportive space for all women. 

Practical Tips for Mental Well-being

Incorporate daily self-care practices into your routine, but it doesn’t need to be anything fancy or expensive. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes out of your day to take some deep breaths. Your mind and body will thank you. 

Prioritize your health by stretching or walking on your lunch break. If the idea of exercise seems foreign to you, that’s OK! You don’t have to join a gym or spend thousands of dollars on exercise equipment. Ask a friend or coworker to join you. Having an accountability partner can be great to keep you motivated and moving regularly. 

Build a supportive community

Human connection is crucial to our overall well-being, whether you feel like a people-loving extrovert or an extreme introvert. Connecting with others can completely change our mood and mindset, even when we don’t think we need it.

However, a bigger community is not necessarily better. Ensure you are building healthy relationships with people who genuinely want to see you succeed. And cultivate a small group of people you can always depend on. 

Whether or not you love working to better yourself, it can feel like there is always something to work on. But the cool thing is that we get to shape how our self-work looks. 

For some, that means meeting with a therapist monthly; for others, getting in nature is their form of therapy. Music has proven therapeutic properties and can benefit people with conditions like depression, anxiety, and chronic pain, among others.

Self-work

Try doing some mindset shifts when you’re feeling down. We don’t mean you have to be a toxic positivity Polly, but with a little work and intention, how you think can impact your overall well-being. 

Don’t forget to celebrate your success. Did you get outside during your usually too-busy workday to feel the sunshine on your skin? Did you find time to read your favorite book before going to sleep? Did talking with an old friend brighten your day? Great! These are all simple ways to boost your mental health and maintain a healthy lifestyle—celebrate doing them! 

A little self-help never hurt anybody, right? Just don’t overdo it. Take care of yourself, however that looks. And don’t forget to celebrate Women’s Mental Health Week each year in May.  

 

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