women's mental health
Image Courtesy: magzter

Why do we talk about women’s mental health in particular? Is gender a criterion that determines the way human brains work? Sounds ridiculous, right? Yes, gender is a critical determinant of mental health and illness. Men and women react differently to specific situations as their brains are wired differently. The prevalence of depression is nearly twice as high in women as in men, a disparity that is partially attributed to hormonal fluctuations that affect mood. The fact that women are more prone to mental disorders may be influenced by biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors. Hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, and postpartum may result in acute depression and if not attended to, may result in irreparable damage to both the mother and the baby. Conditions such as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and Postpartum Depression (PPD) highlight the significant impact of hormonal changes on women’s mental health.

Statistically speaking, one in every 4 young women suffers from common mental disorders like depression or anxiety – this is three times more than the occurrence of illness in young men. One in 7 young women has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) compared to just 3.6% of men. The suicide tendency is much higher in women, especially in girls from nuclear families or those married early than in men. Two-thirds of married Indian women undergo domestic violence – most of these cases get discussed nowhere and the pain is internalized.

A large segment of modern Indian women – are they really modern? They succumb to stress and burnout due to the unique challenges they face playing the superwoman as expected by society. This, in turn, makes them feel that they are not good enough. Gender discrimination, physical, mental, and sexual abuse of women, and the stigma associated with these where the victims are treated as perpetrators of crime, add to this plight – leading to long-lasting ill effects on their mental health such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Though the chances of succumbing to physical and mental disorders are the same, mental disorders have a social stigma associated with them. Mental patients in the family are seen as a source of shame to the family. For the same reason, such issues are kept secret, especially in the case of women. This prevents them from revealing such disorders and seeking expert timely help.

As seen clearly, women’s mental health needs to be addressed considering all these factors, catering to their unique need for support. More awareness should be spread regarding women’s need for empowerment, to alter societal norms and expectations, and also regarding the open approach that needs to be developed towards mental health and mental illnesses. Empowering women to attain their mental well-being will empower society at large.

Now let’s look at a few tips to improve mental health, especially in women:

• Self-Care: Love yourself, embrace your uniqueness, and learn to make yourself a priority. Indulge in activities that strengthen you emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Learn new skills or pursue your hobbies to keep yourself engaged. 

• Affirmations and Gratitude Journaling: Write down your affirmations in the present tense, and read them aloud at least twice a day—upon waking up and before going to bed. Compliment yourself daily, reinforcing your worth. Also, make gratitude journaling a routine, thanking everything and everyone who makes you who you are.

• Seek Support: Connect with positive people. Open up and discuss your health with your friends and family. Find positive motivators to confide in.

• Learn to Say NO: It is completely alright to say NO to things you don’t have the time or energy to do. There is definitely nothing to be guilty of in prioritizing yourself. 

• Self-Time: Spend time with yourself to know yourself – your needs and wants, what your body and mind crave. Be your own best friend. Talk to yourself positively. 

• Sleep and Hydration: These are two things that normally get compromised in a woman’s life. Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day, and make sure to get around 7 to 8 hours of sound sleep. 

• Balanced Diet: Nourish yourself with a healthy balanced diet. Make sure to eat fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, and protein-rich food to be physically strong. 

• Meditation: Set aside time and a place to practice meditation and mindfulness daily. Notice your body, your breath, your mind. Be kind to your wandering mind. Focus on your breathing and the present moment.

 And, celebrate even the smallest achievement. Make your life a celebration. 

May this Women’s Day be the start of practicing these steps for those who have not been doing them regularly. Happy Women’s Day!

-Arya Gayathri is the manager at SBI, a passionate writer, national-level merit scholar, and Bharatanatyam dancer, weaving stories and rhythm into her journey.

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