5 Ways Women Can Start Prioritizing their Mental Health

By: Guest Author

Published: September 20, 2016

By Danika Kimball- Guest Contributor

With the daily demands that come with a healthy work/life balance, many women neglect to make time for their own health. Research shows, however, that women’s health matters, and by promoting women’s health, the overall well-being of families, communities, and entire nations drastically improve.

Typically however, when women focus on improving their well being, a good deal of focus is spent cleaning up eating habits or exercising more regularly. While both are certainly important, developing healthy self care habits also involves prioritizing mental health.

“Women tend to overlook caring for their mental health, because they are busy with their fully, stretched-to-the-max lives,” Jessica Wade, MA, LPCC tells the online publication, Bustle. “Life gets so full and women get so busy taking care of it all that their own needs somehow come in last place.”

Developing a healthy self care routine can seem like quite the undertaking, especially if you’re not used to prioritizing your own care, but neglecting your own mental health can lead to stress and problems focusing at work, but it can also affect your physical health. As such, it’s important that your self care routine involves both your brain and your body. In order to put more energy into feeling more stress-free and happy, here are easy steps women can use to start prioritizing their mental health.

Learn how to say “no” to additional responsibilities

For many women, especially professionals or active mothers, it’s tempting to turn down additional responsibilities. But knowing your limits while simultaneously learning now to express when you have too much on your plate is one way women can reduce stress in their lives.

Being stretched too thin is a regular occurrence for women of any age, and can manifest itself in lack of sleep, mood swings, forgetfulness, and can exacerbate mental health issues. Prioritizing what needs to be done, and using affirmative language can help alleviate the issues that go hand in hand with being too busy.

As Lifehacker author Adam Dachis writes, “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’ try saying ‘it’s not a priority,’ and see how that feels…Try it: ‘I’m not going to edit your resume because it’s not a priority.’ ‘I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.’

If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice.”

Get an adequate amount of sleep

Sleep is as important to your physical health as eating, consuming water, and breathing, yet despite this, it’s among one of the first considerations to suffer when women find themselves trying to manage multiple responsibilities.In fact, more than 25 percent of the U.S. population reports not getting enough sleep. According to Healthline, a lack of sleep “raises your risk of accidental injury and many chronic health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and depression.”

For women on the go, getting adequate rest is one of the simplest means to promote better self care, but can require significant lifestyle changes that involve establishing a new routine, tuning out electronic devices in the hours before sleep, and participating in activities that help clear the mind.

Seek professional help

America has a long held stigma against the treatment of mental health services, with many believing that those who seek help are “crazy” or unable to handle the stresses of day-to-day life. But people seek professional help for a number of concerns, from stress, to relationship troubles, to more serious issues like eating disorders or substance abuse problems.

A counselor or therapist provides a comfortable, nonjudgemental, and safe environment for their clients to share personal struggles and receive feedback or tools to help people overcome their challenges. Counseling can be used as a temporary short-term or a long term solution for helping to balance mental health, and often those who take advantage come out feeling rejuvenated, more confident, and with higher self-esteem.

Live in the moment

People spend nearly 50 percent of their time thinking about tasks other than what they are currently focused on, and that’s certainly true for women juggling multiple responsibilities. But one major study recently found that this behavior consistently makes people less happy.

Psychologists at Harvard University collected information from nearly 2,250 volunteers to find out how often they were focused on the task at hand, and what made the volunteers the most happy.

The team concluded that reminiscing, thinking ahead, or daydreaming tended to make people less happy, even when thinking about something pleasant.

“Human beings have this unique ability to focus on things that aren’t happening right now. That allows them to reflect on the past and learn from it; it allows them to anticipate and plan for the future; and it allows them to imagine things that might never occur,” said Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral student in psychology and lead author of the study.

Killingsworth went on to argue that human beings use this ability in a unique way that makes them unproductive, and can be destructive to our mental health. For women who find themselves fulfilling multiple roles in their day-to-day life, focusing on what’s going on in the moment can be a positive step forward to balancing their mental health.

Reach out and maintain relationships with friends

As you get older and your list of responsibilities seems never ending, keeping in touch with friends gets increasingly difficult. But recent studies by Mind, Mood, and Memory suggest that socializing can help improve your health, mood, and mental acuity, while simultaneously promoting physical and mental well being.

Surrounding yourself with friends and loved ones also helps when life seems a little bit too full.

Too often, women of any age are expected to fulfill a number of roles, from mother, to caregiver, to student, to employee. As such, prioritizing women’s health remains an important factor, not only for the individual, but for the well being of society. While women tend to take on a variety of care taking roles throughout their life, it’s clear that they must first care for themselves before turning their attention to others.

Danika is a writer and musician from the Northwest who sometimes takes a 30 minute break from feminism to enjoy a tv show. You can follow her on twitter @sadwhitegrrl

The views expressed herein this article, written by a guest contributor, do not necessarily represent those of the Red Hot Mamas organization. The content is for informational purposes and should not substitute the advice of your doctor.