This week marks National Women’s Health Week. This weeklong health observance led by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health kicked off on Sunday, with Mother’s Day celebrations, and will continue throughout the week to serve as a reminder to women around the nation to make their health a priority. When women think of health we often prioritize our physical health. We receive our annual reminders to make preventative health a priority and schedule our women wellness appointments with little hesitation. We try as best we can to limit alcohol intake, focus on good nutrition, get our dose of daily exercise and practice sound sleep habits. Physical health is important and well understood, but the health of the mind is just as important as the health of the body and sadly less prioritized and understood by so many.
Mental health is one of the most pressing issues nowadays, especially in the COVID-19 era. In fact, a recent study found that the effects of lockdown and coronavirus stressors are impacting women in more significant ways then men. Why? Women are juggling more today than ever before. Women are wearing so many different hats and shifting multiple roles throughout the day, practically minute by minute.
We are mothers, daughters, wives, employees, teachers, chefs, financial wizards and housekeepers. With schools closed for the rest of the academic year, women are taking on more childcare responsibilities and the role of teacher in homeschooling endeavors. We worry about the health and welfare of others and may be the caretakers of elderly loved ones. Working moms are being pulled in many different directions and sadly many feel that with not enough hours in the day that they are struggling to give all their responsibilities the attention and care that they need. Many women report that they feel like they are failing and have little or no time to come up for air. Women are known for putting others first, but when it comes to their own health they are less likely to prioritize themselves, their needs and ask for help and support along the way.
Gender Differences and Mental Health
There is no one size fits all approach to mental health care. With regard to mental health and mental health disorders, research shows that there are disparities between the genders with regard to risk factors, prevalence, presentation and treatment. To make care as effective as possible it is important to recognize and understand how gender differences impact risk factors for mental health issues and subsequent treatment.
- Women are 40% more likely than men to develop depression.
- 12% of women will experience signs of depression at some point in their lives.
- Women are 2x more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders than men.
- As many as 1 in 7 women suffer from post-partum depression.
- Women are more likely to be the main caretakers for children, sick and elderly loved ones. Caretaking impacts emotional and physical health and can impact financial stability and wellbeing.
- Women are more likely than men to live in poverty, and suffer from physical or sexual abuse.
- Women are more likely to seek treatment for mental health issues.
- 1 in 4 women will seek treatment for mental health issues throughout their lives, compared to 1 in 10 men.
Signs of Stress
It is normal to feel sad, lonely, anxious or depressed at times. We can’t expect to be happy and carefree all the time, especially when life gets challenging. It can sometimes be difficult however to recognize if you are stressed or perhaps it is something more. When stress becomes chronic it can lead to depression. Managing your stress is important as chronic stress and depression can lead to a variety of physical symptoms which can impact your overall health. Typical signs of chronic stress can include:
- Having little energy or constant feelings of exhaustion
- Trouble concentrating or focusing
- Constant worry or anxiety
- Losing interest in activities that once brought you joy
- Anger or becoming easily irritated or annoyed
- Feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
Getting the Right Support For You
Whatever your source of stress is it is important to recognize that you are not alone with your feelings and that there are always tools and resources available to help you through your trying times so that you can begin to live life fully once again. Stress is a part of everyday life, but you have more control over it than you think. Remember stressful experiences come in many different forms and as a result there are many different ways to find relief and support including self-care techniques, emotional support groups or face to face therapy. Your first step is to understand what stress looks like and feels like for you. Next identify what triggers it and try to find ways to minimize these triggers. Lastly, spend some time exploring the different options available to support you. By understanding how you react to stress and the options that best bring you relief, with a little time and self-exploration, you will be feeling like your old-self in no time.