A Woman’s Guide to Mental Health
When we think of “health,” what typically springs to mind are the physical health attributes that your healthcare professional might discuss with you. That includes things like aches and pains, disease, and more.
But unless you actively seek out professional help for mental health, it’s rarely a topic that gets discussed, and this is a shame – because everyone needs to be proactive when it comes to improving their emotions and developing a better outlook on life.
When your state of mind is in a good place, it not only means you have good emotional health, but it can improve your physical health, too. When you feel good mentally, it impacts your outlook on how you see yourself, others and things that impact your life – such as your relationships, career and your overall happiness.
Your mental health encompasses the way that you think, your emotions and your actions (or reactions). It’s what allows you to be able to handle your life – both the good and the bad.
There are a lot of issues that can affect a woman’s mental health. These issues include hormones – both a lack of and an abundance of – the environment in which you were brought up (or the one in which you now live), the way that your brain is wired, your family genetics, major life events, physical health and the world around you.
Stress can also play a part in affecting a woman’s mental health. Some of the more common stress triggers that can affect women are pregnancy, the loss of a loved one, relationship changes such as a separation or a divorce, being faced with a job layoff or being fired, entering into retirement or finding out you have a serious health problem.
Experiencing any of the above mentioned issues can affect your mental health – as can everyday stress triggers, like traffic. You might go through periods of depression, irritability, moodiness, or anxiety.
Nutrition and Exercise Alone Aren’t Enough
Women who take care of their bodies and try to eat right often feel better and are able to handle more – especially when it comes to dealing with stress. It’s a scientific fact that there is a link between nutrition, exercise and mental health.
It’s called the food and mood link. Nutritional deficiencies can not only affect how you get through your day physically, but it affects how you think about what goes on during your day to day actions.
When you eat right, your body has the vitamins and minerals that it needs to work properly. When you don’t eat right, this can contribute to making you feel tired, irritable and moody.
Eating right can boost your moods and so can exercise. When you exercise, you raise your endorphin level so that you feel better. This helps you keep a more positive perspective when dealing with whatever you have going on in your life.
But eating right and exercising isn’t enough to make sure that you have a healthy state of mind. For that, you need to make sure that you have a good strategy in place for handling whatever comes your way.
Having a good mindset means that you have an attitude already preset for how you’re going to deal with things. It means you’ll be able to recognize when your emotions are heightened, and handle the issues with a calm and cool approach.
There are certain foods and herbs that can elevate your ability to stress less and find more peace, and you should definitely embrace the natural approach to mental well being. But let’s also go over some additional efforts you can take to get a grip on life’s unruly moments.
Sleep Affects a Woman’s Mental Health
Sleep needs to be a priority in a woman’s life. Not getting enough sleep or not sleeping well does more than just affect you physically. Yes, you’ll feel tired and your cognitive skills might not be at the same level they are when you do get enough sleep.
But more than that, your mental health is affected when you don’t sleep well. There are a lot of things that can affect your sleep. Stress can be a cause of not getting the rest that your body needs.
When you feel stressed, it can be hard to shut your mind off. Hormonal issues – such as going through menopause – can disrupt your slumber. Being overloaded with too much to do can keep you awake at night trying to remember if you’ve forgotten to take care of something.
When you don’t get the sleep that you need, it affects your mental health by making your more irritable, moodier, anxious and even depressed. On top of that, not getting the sleep that you need can affect your reasoning skills.
It can make a situation seem worse than it is or it can make you miss warning signs that something isn’t right. You can experience forgetfulness, anger issues, and lower self-esteem because you don’t feel well.
Not getting enough sleep can even build a desire to withdraw from your social circles. But there are strategies that you can use to help make sure you get the sleep that you need to improve your mental health.
If you’re bothered by stress and it’s keeping you from sleep, write it down in a journal that you keep on your nightstand. Often, when you put something on paper, this causes a release effect. It lets the brain know that you’re still going to deal with whatever is going on, but you’re not going to handle it at the moment.
This can often work to cause the brain to relax. If there’s something physical going on that’s keeping you awake, deal with the symptoms. There are many techniques you can employ such as yoga, meditation, or natural supplements to help you alleviate physical symptoms caused by stress.
You can make sure that you go to bed at a regularly scheduled time. This helps you tune your body into a cycle of sleep and waking. If you can’t sleep, don’t stress yourself out about it.
The more you stress yourself about not sleeping, the less likely that you’ll be able to sleep. Do things like taking a warm bath before bed and making sure that you don’t attempt to sleep if you feel too alert.
Make sure you have a healthy bedtime regimen that induces sleep. Aside from a warm bath, that might include a light snack before bed, reading and turning off all electronic gadgets, and meditating.
Your room should be conducive for optimal sleep. You spend a lot of your life in bed sleeping, so invest in a comfortable mattress, sheets and blankets. Keep the room temperature at a cool level of 68 degrees.
If you have a lot of outside noise that prevents you from sleeping, then invest in a white noise machine – or even use something as simple as a box fan to drown out the noise and allow you to fall (and stay) asleep.
Tossing and turning only leads to frustration, not sleep. So don’t attempt to sleep if you’re not sleepy. There are things that can interfere with a woman’s sleep, but if those issues aren’t life threatening, then they’re not worth letting it affect your sleep – and in turn, your mental health.
Relationship Issues Can Keep You in Emotional Turmoil
Relationships are the emotional building blocks of those who are single as well as those who aren’t. All of the relationships that you have in your life affect your mental health.
Some of these relationships have a positive effect on your mental health while others, not so much. One of the biggest struggles for a woman’s mental health is in the area of relationship woes.
Relationship woes can stem from relationships with a spouse, a life partner, a child, parents, extended family and colleagues. Having problems in relationships can lead to issues that can make a woman feel a range of emotions – from anxiety to depression and even the large swings from happiness to sadness.
There are common reasons that relationship problems surface with a significant other. These reasons are finances, work, intimacy, household chores, arguing about the children, in-laws, lack of communication, expectations, and previous emotional wounds.
Disagreeing or having heated arguments about these issues can affect your relationship with a spouse or partner, which then heightens the stress and emotions.
No two people are going to ever be completely in sync with their beliefs and opinions because of being raised in different environments and sometimes even in different cultures.
When you experience relationship woes with a spouse or partner, not communicating that frustration, resentment, anger or anxiety you feel will only lead to making you feel worse.
The best strategy for dealing with any issues that affect you mentally with a partner or spouse is to have a time where you can sit down and calmly discuss the issues.
If there seems to be no give in sight, you can schedule an appointment with a counselor. If it’s a deal breaker issue, such as abuse or infidelity – then the best course of action is to get out of the situation before the emotional turmoil begins manifesting itself as physical health problems.
Every relationship has its ups and downs. You don’t want to allow yourself to react in a way that makes any disagreement or problem worse. When you have a healthy mental mindset with your relationships, you already know how you’re going to react ahead of time.
For example, when there are arguments about the finances, the root cause of that argument is rarely ever truly about money. It’s usually about not feeling secure financially in the relationship or feeling left out of a decision involving money.
By knowing ahead of time what you feel about the finances and how you can respond, you’ll be able to cope better. Come into the conversation with a solution, not just accusations.
Any kind of relationship issue can make you feel resentful, fearful, irritated, angry and more. One way of coping and helping you improve your mental health when dealing with these issues is to find out what’s at the root of the problem.
When you deal with the problem rather than the manifestation of the problem, you can find relief from the emotional upheaval. You can’t prevent problems in relationships because it’s part of life.
But, to prevent problems in a relationship from affecting you, have a strategy in place before issues arise. By improving the issues in a relationship that make you feel upset, you can reap positive change and emotions.
Don’t try to discuss things in the heat of a disagreement or when you’re feeling hurt. By the same token, make sure that you don’t deal with relationship problems when you’re tired, hungry or sick.
That can always make a problem seem worse than it actually is. Sometimes, you might not be the one who’s dealing with anything. It might be a problem that your friend, partner or child is experiencing.
Because you love that person, you can encounter something called secondhand stress. When you have this, it means that you’re feeling the emotions that the other person is going through.
Any situation in a relationship can affect your mood based on what you focus on. If you focus on the negative, you’ll feel more negative. If you focus on the positive, you’ll feel more positive.
Have the mindset that while you might not be able to fix relationship woes, you can determine how you respond to the problem and how it affects you. That’s the only control you have – your reaction – because you can’t control other people.
Physical Health Impacts Your Mental Health
When you have good mental health, it means that you’ve learned there are ways that you can cope with whatever life throws at you. Women who understand this have learned that life is not always going to be a smooth ride and there will be times when things are just harder than they normally would be.
People who feel better physically tend to feel better mentally and emotionally and there’s a balance. But it can be easy for this balance to get thrown out of whack.
When you don’t feel at your best physically, you can start to feel anxious, moody, depressed, jittery, and stressed. This can lead to affecting your self-confidence, your self-esteem and even your life goals.
Then when your physical health affects your mental health and you start having to deal with those emotions, that in turn makes you feel worse physically. So it becomes this never ending cycle of not well physically and not well mentally.
There is a scientific connection between how you feel physically and how you feel mentally. It’s called the mind and body connection. When your body isn’t 100% at its best, you might develop a sense of anxiety from feeling that something is just off.
On the flip side, when you don’t feel well mentally, it will manifest itself in how you feel physically. If you experience a life event such as a divorce, a job loss or the death of a loved one, you’ll be affected mentally and that will affect you physically.
You can end up having headaches, stomach upset, a loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, heart palpitations and more. This can lead to feeling more anxiety or sadness which in turn can cause your immune system to work less effectively.
You can end up not wanting to do the things you know is best for you such as eating right, exercising, getting the sleep you need and limiting stress.
Coping with the way that physical health affects your mental health requires a strong mindset, especially if you’re dealing with long term health issues. You have to learn to focus on only what you can change in the present moment rather than fretting over what may or may not happen with your health in the future.
Don’t allow yourself to use alcohol or drugs or other addictive substances to deal with physical health problems.
Do the best that you can to treat yourself well physically. There are positives even within negatives. When you feel anxiety or sadness cropping up about your physical health, take a deep breath and refocus on something that brings you happiness.
Parenting Affects a Woman’s State of Mind
As a parent, you want what’s best for your child. You might even have some expectations of what being a parent is all about. Many parenting woes fall under the category of unmet expectations you give yourself.
Some are because others put expectations on you based on how they feel parenting should be done. After a woman has a child, changes take place in her brain.
These changes, often related to hormones, cause a woman to feel more anxious once she’s had a child. This anxiety is rooted in a desire to nurture and protect her child.
Parenting can be a rewarding endeavor, but it’s not without its ups and downs – especially in how it affects a woman’s mental health. Once a woman has a child, there are greater demands on her physically and emotionally.
These demands can affect her relationship with her partner. For a woman who’s a single mother, the demands can seem overwhelming at times. Knowing good mental health coping strategies is a must for any woman – regardless of whether you have one child or multiple children.
You want these strategies in place before you need them. Issues that can affect a woman’s mental health as a parent include discouragement, stress, frustration, exhaustion, isolation, anger, worry, and feelings of failure.
Sometimes moms feel like the emotions they experience aren’t good or that other moms don’t have the same level of struggles. There are ways to improve common issues you’ll deal with in parenting.
Having others you trust can be helpful. This is why a support system is so important. Every woman who’s a parent needs a support system. Having a support system can help you handle how things affect your mental health.
When you have a support system in place, you’ll have people in your life that you can discuss parenting issues with. You’ll gain a sense of camaraderie and won’t feel alone on your journey.
What this can do is help relieve stress, frustration and anxiety. Because many women often feel alone in their efforts to parent, having a support system can be a good way to feel encouraged and less isolated.
Along with having a support system, you have to take the time to make sure that parenting is fun. Too often, women get caught up in the day to day parenting and forget that there needs to be days off with the kids.
And not times where you schedule something else educational. Having times where you do nothing but have fun with your kids not only bolsters your mental health, but gives your family some great memories as well.
These can be things like going for a bike ride, playing in the park, heading to the beach or staying home dancing to silly songs. During these fun times with your kids, make sure that you don’t wear your “teaching moment” hat.
Don’t correct, don’t instruct, just enjoy being with your children. This helps open communication with your children and can relieve stress, frustration and anxiety with you.
Leave the perfect house to the magazines. As a parent, your home is meant to be a relaxing, welcoming haven for you and your children. Don’t sweat the mess at all times.
You’ll want to have a system in place to prevent chaos from taking over, but you don’t want to be so rigid that you hold yourself or your children to perfectionist ideals.
Don’t try to be the perfect parent. There’s no such thing. This will only cause you to feel fretful and uptight when you feel like you’ve blown it. Parenting shouldn’t be a competition – even with yourself.
Cope with the chaos in your home (and in your mind) by having the motto of good enough is good enough. When you remove the pressure from yourself to be the perfect parent in the perfect home, you’ll release yourself from negative emotions that affect you mentally and you’ll give yourself permission to make mistakes.
Coping with Job Stress for Improved Mental Health
Dealing with the stress on the job is a common cause for ill physical health because of the mind body connection. When you feel stressed on the job, it can be because you don’t feel like you’re in control of the situation.
While there are some things about your job you can control, you can’t take on everything. Learn to focus on what you can control. If a colleague doesn’t do his or her part and that affects your ability to do your job, don’t allow that to become a trigger for you to feel anxious, angry or depressed.
Accept that what people do or don’t do is not within your ability to change, but communicate in order to find a solution to the problem. Know what your limitations are and be up front when those lines are crossed.
Sometimes what’s expected of you is more than what you can get accomplished. This can lead to you feeling overworked, which lets the stress build and can make you feel frustrated and moody as well as fatigued.
You may also start to feel frustrated and angry. This can lead to being short tempered around your family and friends because work comes home to haunt you.
It can also lead to a rise in blood pressure as your stress rises. You can fight job stress by making sure that you take care of yourself physically by eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep.
Limit the stress as much as possible by processing it. You can do this through something like yoga or meditating and learning to let go of the emotions. You’ll want to identify what your stress triggers are where you work.
This might be other people, a project or something that’s going on at work. Once you identify that trigger, you’ll be able to pinpoint what your reaction was to that trigger.
When you can pinpoint your reaction, you can begin to develop a strategy to deal with it. There are some common ways that you can deal with job stress to change how the stress affects you.
Give the job the right perspective. If it’s a job that you really enjoy and want to stay in, then you can find steps to deal with the stress. If the job is something that you can take or leave, then it might be time to leave.
Take a break – even if it’s only a mini break. Go for a short walk, get out of the building, and do something that relaxes you. Don’t let expectations get so high that they’re stressing you.
These expectations can be ones that you put on yourself or that others at work put on you. Sometimes, women take on too much at work because it can be hard to say no.
Learn to say no for your own mental health. Set obtainable goals at work. Have a list of what has to take priority and stick to your timeline to get that list completed. Stay positive.
When you’re under stress, becoming negative not only adds to the stress, but it fuels churning emotions like anger and resentment, which can then affect your physical health, too.
Your Mental Health and Aging
The golden years can be a great time in life for a woman. It can be a time of rediscovering self, traveling and experiencing new things. However, it can also be a time that affects your mental health.
As you get older, your body is going to start showing signs of aging. You’ll notice the signs of aging not only in the way you move around, but in your appearance as well.
For many women, growing older invokes some pretty upsetting emotions. Many women will experience a lot of negative emotions due to the changes they see happening physically and mentally.
There might be more times than not where your morale is low and you just don’t feel as excited about things as you once were. This can lead to apathy about life. Boredom can be common with aging, especially if you recently left the work force and you’re now at home with too many hours to fill.
You might experience frustration and depression. Or feelings of anger. If you’re cut off from the social circles you once moved in, you might go through a period where you feel isolated or alienated from the people you knew and interacted with.
These emotions can lead to physical problems. Growing older is often touted as freedom for older women. They can suddenly get involved in the activities that they had to put on hold during their younger years because of family responsibilities.
When reality meets the senior years a woman dreamed of, it can be a harsh wake up call. Dealing with medical problems, the death of friends, and an inability to physically do what you once did, it can weigh heavily on a woman’s state of mind.
Anger and frustration is common because with aging, there can sometimes be a loss of independence if you struggle with health issues. Coupled with not having the same level of income you once did, aging can easily lead to anxiety and depression.
You can determine the impact aging has on your mental health by aging with acceptance, wisdom and maturity. Rather than focusing your mindset on aging, and what you can’t do anymore, focus on what you can do and the good things about aging.
You can improve mental health while aging by determining that you’re going to age gracefully. What that means is that you let go of the inability to accept change.
Realize that change is coming and while you can’t stop it, it doesn’t have to stop you either. One of the most important things for your mental health as you age is to fight against withdrawal.
Stay involved in your activities and keep up with your social circles. Do the things that you’ve always wanted to do. Take on a hobby, get involved in a class you’ve always wanted to take, or go new places.
Plan ahead for things that will make transitioning into growing older easier on your mental health. By giving yourself some things to look forward to, you can stave off the anxiety and loneliness that often comes along with aging.
Coping Skills for Better Mental Health
Everyday experiences can make you feel a wide range of emotions. You can be irritable, happy, angry and depressed all in the space of one day. When you throw hormones into the picture, these emotions can make you think that your world is tilting on its axis.
There are areas that will always affect you mentally – your relationships, your health, having children, stress at home and work, finances and so on. You can’t prevent life from happening, but you can learn coping skill to have better mental outlook.
When you learn these coping skills, you’ll gain a way of having a better balance in your life. You can change how things affect you. Events will still happen, but your mindset and how you feel about these things will be different.
Some coping styles aren’t good for your mental health. Anything that calls for you to try to drown the emotions isn’t good. Things like using substances (alcohol, drugs, food, and more) to deal with how you feel will backfire.
By learning healthy ways to deal with the things that affect a woman’s mental health, you’ll find that your emotions and actions are more productive rather than negative.
There are three styles of coping with issues that affect your emotions. These are distraction, emotional and task. With distraction coping, you don’t let yourself focus on the problem.
You do other things. Get involved in activities so that your mind doesn’t dwell on the situation. The use of distraction coping is helpful when you’re faced with a situation that you know you can’t change – such as the loss of someone you cared about or a stressful job that you know you can’t leave right now.
Distraction coping isn’t helpful for situations that can be changed but you just don’t want to deal with it because that situation will be at the back of your mind nagging at you.
This will heighten your stress level and you’ll feel irritable. Emotional coping means that you don’t shy away from sharing what you feel. This might be done alone – such as through journaling – or it might be done by seeking support to deal with the situation.
When you use task coping, it means that you’ve decided to directly handle whatever the situation is. You have the mindset of facing it and getting it over with.
One good thing about this kind of coping is that once you deal with a situation, it’s no longer hanging over your head causing you to feel anxious or angry. There may be one coping skill that works best for you or you may find that you use a mixture of the three.
It’s important when you’re coping with situations that affect you that you find balance. This is accomplished by a journey of self-discovery. Many women get so busy in life with the things that they have to take care that lose sight of what truly matters to them.
Spend some time thinking about it and decide what’s important to you and what it is that you want to focus on. Embrace change when it happens and don’t always see it as something bad – even if it’s something that appears bad at the time.
For example, many women who were dealing with job stress ended up having to leave the job behind due to the stress. In its place, they found a career that was more meaningful and satisfying to them.
When you experience issues that make you feel irritable or moody, examine how the situation made you feel and look at how you reacted to the issue. Decide how you plan to handle similar situations in the future.
By knowing ahead of time how you’ll react, you can discover better coping skills for your mental health. The key is to be proactive and gain control over your reactions while understanding you can’t control the rest of the world.
Begin with mindset changes and utilize as many all-natural solutions as possible before you simply turn to big pharmaceutical, self medicating options. These simply mask the problem and don’t allow you to live life to its fullest.
Create a sheet for each area of your life that you feel contributes to the demise of your mental well being. Then devise an action plan that you can implement that will alleviate stressors and increase your happiness in those areas.
For example, if you’re stressed about household chores not getting done, be honest about your reaction – whether it’s overly sensitive or not. Create a plan of compromise where you know what tasks are deal breakers (like having the dishes done) versus which tasks can be overlooked now and then (like your child’s bed being made).
Try to delegate whenever possible and focus on embracing a mindset of gratitude for all of the good you have in your life from all sources – career, physical health, parenting, relationship, and more.
Read up on different methods of stress relief. Try them all out – everything from deep breathing to visual guided meditation, yoga and artistic endeavors. When you find something that works, put it to the test to see if it’s able to improve your mental health during particularly stressful moments.