Have you ever felt like your emotional state is a roller coaster? One day you feel like you are riding all the hills and valleys of life smoothly but the next day your emotions are plunging down and all you can do is hang on and close your eyes? Every woman experiences ups and downs in their life but when you find yourself feeling sadness, anxiety, or panic, it is time to talk to your health professional. It is important to realize that you are not alone. The National Institutes of Mental Health reports that “Approximately 12 million women in the United States experience clinical depression each year”.
Why do we need to be concerned over mental wellness for women? Mental Wellness needs to be a topic of discussion especially when we look at these facts from the Centers for Disease Control.
- Younger women (65%), African American (73%), Hispanic (68%), other nonwhite racial and ethnic groups (68%), and uninsured women (66%) are unlikely to be diagnosed with depression.
- Women with frequent mental distress are more likely to smoke, be overweight or obese, and have less social support before becoming pregnant.
- A higher percentage of women with current major (18%) or minor (18%) depression, or a past diagnosis of depression (20%) reported binge or heavy drinking compared to women with no history of depression (15%).
- Among U.S. women with major depression, most (89%) have one or more chronic physical conditions or risk factors, such as diabetes, smoking, binge or heavy drinking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
Women might brush off feelings of depression or be apprehensive about talking to family members for fear of being ridiculed. But there is help! If you have any of these symptoms described by Mayo Clinic, especially if they interfere with your daily routines, please seek out your health care provider as soon as possible.
- Ongoing feelings of sadness, guilt or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Significant changes in your sleep pattern, such as falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much
- Fatigue, or unexplained pain or other physical symptoms without an apparent cause
- Changes in appetite leading to significant weight loss or weight gain
- Feeling as though life isn’t worth living, or having thoughts of suicide
Mental wellness focuses on your overall emotional and psychological feelings and how resilient you are to bouncing back after a life change or set back. Women with strong mental health enjoy laughing, seek strong relationships with friends and partners, and have a sense of purpose in life. They are positive and confident. This does not mean that these women don’t ever feel down or stressed. They do! But they have developed strategies to help them through the challenges in life they face. Resiliency is the ability to overcome life’s problems and daily issues. How can you build resiliency?
First and foremost it is important that you stay connected with family and friends. They can be your sounding board when you need someone to listen and your support in difficult times. Having two to three people you can turn to for positive encouragement can strengthen your resiliency. Make a coffee date or call your friends just to talk. Make your relatives a healthy snack and drive over to visit them.
Set Goals and Act
Resilient women don’t wait around for years to solve a problem. You can work with support groups or a mental health professional to set small steps you can take each day to improve your emotional health. For example if you are having problems at your job, talking to your counselor may help you find ideas that can make you love your job again. You could determine that you need to have a heart to heart with your boss to solve these issues. Hiding at your desk and ignoring the problem won’t solve anything. By spending time discussing the issue you can take a positive action toward a resolution.
Resilient people use exercise to stay positive. Set up a routine to walk, swim, run, dance or join a yoga class. A study by Dr. Andrea Dunn found that mental health patients, who did the equivalent of 35 minutes of walk, six days per week, experienced a reduction in their level of depression by 47 percent. Conducted in Dallas, Texas at the Cooper Research Institute, the study shows that regular exercise as little as three hours per week reduces depression that is moderate or mild just as effectively as Prozac or other antidepressants. (http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(04)00241-7/abstract)
Resilient people reflect on their personal life. Use a journal to reflect on what is occurring right now in your life or what has transpired in the past. This reflective writing allows you to put your feelings down on paper. The Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation EveryWoman’s Journal is an education program that will teach you how to use journaling to be aware of your mental, physical
and emotional health. The objective is to improve your health and sense of personal well-being.
Focus on Your Mental Wellness
I hope if you have any symptoms of depression to seek help. If you don’t have symptoms, I urge you to use these strategies to strengthen your mental wellness.
Because it all begins with a healthy woman…
Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit wwhf.org or call 1-800-448-5148.