By: Michelle Nortje
We know that women’s mental health can be impacted by several risk factors to health, such as hormonal fluctuations, lifestyle choices, genetics, and body image, to name a few.
It is therefore important to remember how this mind-body link might be affecting girls going through puberty and adult women experiencing changes in their hormonal health due to birth, menopause, medications or autoimmune disease.
With this in mind, shouldn’t we as women join forces to support each other in the multiple roles we face as mother, daughter, wife, employee, nurse and schedule-holder! I hope to share here some ideas of supporting both ourselves internally, and creating a supportive network to fall back onto in times of stress.
Do you sometimes avoid self-care?
As a generalisation, many women might be described as “self-sacrificing” and feel like a burden if they too express their own needs. If you notice that you tend to put other people’s needs before your own or make excuses, such as being too busy for self-care, then giving yourself permission to care for your own needs might be more difficult. In writing this blog, I googled ‘why is self-care more difficult for women’ and was surprised at how many articles have been written on this exact topic! It seems that women are more likely to feel selfish for caring for themselves, leading to experiences of being burnt out and fatigued.
How would you want your daughter (or sister, mother, best friend) to nurture their mental health?
The media seems to have quite a consumerist view of what is involved in self-care. This might add to the view of mental health for women as being something both unattainable and costly (in both time and money). However, creating time to fill up your own cup is so important before you can help and nurture those around you. I wonder if you consider the one thing that you think would boost the mental health of the women in your life, what would it be?
Would you hope that your daughter could be more kind about her changing body? Would you hope that your mother would be more compassionate with herself in the aging process? Perhaps if we could start to show ourselves the same kindnesses we reserve for those women we love, our own mental health could also get a boost!
How can we support each other as women?
In reflecting on women’s well-being I realised that it also should not only be the individual’s job to support themselves. I wonder how our systems and communities could shift to support women’s health. Imagine having a sisterhood of women where there is always someone to talk to or call on in a time of need. What small action could you take each day to affirm and care for the women in your life?
Showing someone we appreciate them with a text or card, giving a hug and making sure someone feels cared for, helping out when you feel more resourced to allow someone a break… These are only a few possible ways to work as a community and team, to support women’s health and mental well-being.
It is hoped that these questions have prompted some of your own reflections about your own self-care as a women, and about the care for the women around you.