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Women's Mental Health: Managing Stress to Maintain Strength
Submittted by the USPS Employee Assistance Program
Focusing on mental health should be a priority for everyone; it’s especially important for women. One in eight women will experience depression and one in five women will face some sort of mental health issue in their lifetime, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.
Not only can mental disorders affect women and men differently, but there also are certain types of disorders unique to women. For example, some women may experience symptoms of mental health challenges at times of hormone change. Having a baby is a hormone-changing event. For some women, it can trigger post-natal depression (after the baby’s birth) and/or antenatal depression (during pregnancy).
Menopause is another time in a woman’s life when their hormones are impacted. And while every woman’s experience of menopause is different, some find they have changes to their mental health, such as mood swings, anxiety and feeling low.
In addition to mental health struggles related to biological factors, women also experience social stressors such as financial, occupational, health and relationship concerns. They find themselves in additional roles and situations that may contribute to increased mental health challenges.
Women often have caretaking roles. Whether caring for children, elderly parents or other relatives, women’s roles often include family obligations on top of everyday challenges. This may lead to feeling overwhelmed due to time constraints and unmet obligations. It also can lead to a sense of failure or an inability to meet expectations of themselves and others.
Women often spend more time caring for others than they do themselves, which poses physical and mental health risks. Depression, anxiety, heart problems, headaches/migraines, obesity and stomach issues all are linked to excessive or chronic stress.
Women also suffer from body image distortions, which may lead to depression and anxiety. Society too often depicts an unrealistic or unhealthy image of women. It is important for men and women to be aware of how they talk about and represent women. They may unknowingly be passing along harmful messages to their daughters, granddaughters, nieces and other females.
Complimenting girls and young women on their accomplishments, talents and personal values rather than looks or weight is important. When one knows better, one does better. It is important to be mindful of how communication may be impacting someone’s thoughts, beliefs and agenda.
For younger women, along with concerns regarding body image, there are societal pressures to have a career and a family. This pressure often plays a role in mental health concerns. Women asking younger women when they are going to start a family or why they don’t want children are great examples of how they subtly put pressure on young women. This communication can exacerbate mental health concerns.
Women often are expected to do it all: work, maintain a household, raise children and take care of family members. Falling short in any of these areas may make women feel as if they are failing. If they already struggle with anxiety or depression, this easily can lead to them feeling overwhelmed.
Learning how to manage stress and encouraging others to use stress-management techniques can lead to improved responses to stressful situations and build resilience. These are key to promoting a healthy balance. It is important to take a personal inventory now and again to see what is going well and where there can be improvements.
The following tips provide a good place to start stress reduction:
Take care of your physical health
Take care of yourself emotionally
Take care of yourself socially
Take care of yourself spiritually
It is important for women to reflect on the sources of stress in their lives. They may need to scale back obligations or ask for help. Women often are hesitant to reach out to their support system when they need a hand, but it can help reduce stress.
In addition to seeking support, looking at things through a different lens can go a long way in providing relief and changing perspective. Altering a point of view can lead to solutions that could not be seen before. Accepting change as a challenge and an opportunity rather than a threat is one way to become more resilient. Women should ask themselves these important questions:
Not only is it important to ask these questions and practice these skills, but it’s critical to pass these skills on to daughters, nieces, granddaughters and other women in our lives.
Mental health stigma still exists. Teaching the next generation of women and men that talking openly about mental health and practicing good self-care are huge steps in the right direction to improve and promote everyone’s mental health.
If you find yourself struggling with changes in your life, new stressors, challenges or added obligations and are having troubling finding a healthy balance, your EAP is here to help. Contact us today at 800-327-4968 (800-EAP-4YOU), TTY: 877-492-7341 or online at EAP4YOU.com.