Life has changed. When I look at women's daily lives, I see all the social roles they've taken on, whether they want those roles or not. She is a daughter, wife, mother, employee, provider, citizen, and still needs to meet the dictates of beauty standards defined by her culture. This daily life directly influences the well-being and mental health of women, producing suffering in many cases.
With the pandemic in recent years, female overload has increased. The World Health Organization has issued several warnings about women's health care and the overload of work and responsibilities. It is important to say that being sick and being healthy is directly related to the psychological, biological and social aspects of life. Each aspect makes an important contribution to health promotion or illness.
Some research shows that in women's daily lives we can find both factors that protect the female psychological and also risk factors, which cause suffering and changes in mental health. Risk factors are elements (attitudes, behaviors, social situations, groups, among others) that increase the chance of developing a certain disease when the person is exposed to them. An example is the multiple female social roles that I mentioned above and that can lead a person to become ill with stress.
When I talk about factors that can cause damage to women's mental health, three themes stand out: motherhood, sexuality and work. Some risk factors that come from these three themes: the woman's marital status and the quality of this relationship; number of children – the more, the more likely to become ill; having experienced physical and/or sexual violence; level of schooling, with illiteracy being the greatest risk; arranged marriages (in cultures where this practice still exists); restricted and repressed sexuality in a heteronormative model.
To deal with risk factors without illness, we need to identify and develop protective factors. Protective factors are personal and social resources that mitigate or neutralize the impact of risk. One example: research indicates that having a support network and a positive self-concept are key elements in coping with the effects of stress and protecting mental health.
There are several protective factors in the three spheres of life (psychological, biological and social) that preserve and strengthen mental health. Below I present several attitudes to put into practice and take care of your mental health. There are suggestions for getting started now, as well as some for the medium and long term.
Short-term attitudes: to start now
1 – Take care of what you eat: Eating well is not just about being in good physical shape, but about general well-being, ensuring nutrients and vitamins, understanding what is not good for your body.
2 – Practice physical activities: Research proves the mental health benefit of regular physical activity, even for just 30 minutes three times a week.
3 – Prioritize sleep: it is very important to sleep well, having a good sleep routine. Poorly slept nights collaborate to aggravate mental/emotional disorders.
4 – Have moments dedicated to loved ones: socializing with friends, family and people who are good for us.
5 – Set aside time for leisure: leisure here are the activities that make you happy. Reading, dancing, drawing, playing games and whatever else can get you out of everyday worry and obligation thoughts.
Medium-term attitudes: habits to develop
These attitudes need time to develop. You can identify which ones you have and which ones need to develop. Developing them is not always easy. A psychologist is the best professional to help you develop these skills.
6 - Social problem-solving skills: identify how conflicts affect you and the best strategy for you to deal with them.
7 - Stress management: knowing how to manage stress minimally involves knowing the level of stress in your life, what level of stress you can experience without getting sick and what measures you need to take for that.
8 – Know yourself: there are several ways to know yourself, such as therapies, meditation, theater, recreational activities, self-care.
09 – Allow yourself to feel: It is important to accept all your feelings. Our culture dictates that it's not okay to feel anger or sadness, but allowing yourself to feel is the only way to learn to overcome them.
10 - Self-control: identify the healthiest way to deal with emotions, especially negative ones.
Long-term attitudes: care with a lifetime impact
The level of education and occupation of women makes a big difference in promoting psychic health throughout life. If you are not satisfied with these two points in your life, know that improving them can also contribute to protecting your mental health.
11 - Education: Formal education (minimum of eight years of schooling) generates cognitive skills