6 Realistic Ways Women Can Care for Their Mental Health, According to Experts
It's time to celebrate YOU this International Women's Day!
How You Can Put Your Mental Health First on International Women's Day & Beyond
Women's mental health is often overlooked. And yet, according to the Office on Women's Health, more than 1 in 5 women in the United States have experienced a mental health condition in the past year.
March 8 marks International Women's Day, a day that not only celebrates womanhood and the conquests that have been made in the movement for women's rights, but also draws attention to what still needs to be done for gender equality. This year's campaign theme for International Women's Day is #BalanceforBetter and individuals are pulling together to promote a gender-balanced world, including the phenomenal female therapists at The Family Institute at Northwestern University who hope to spread awareness about the importance of women's mental health.
I've found that part of the problem when it comes to not dealing with mental health and self-care is not knowing where to begin. So why not start on International Women's Day? In an email with Women.com, a few therapists from The Family Institute shared a few small (and realistic) tips on how to care for mental health this International Women's Day—and days to come.
1. Give Yourself Permission to Say 'No'
It's common that women have a hard time saying no. However, there is power in the word. Emily Klear, Director of Couple Services and licensed marriage and family therapist, reveals to Women.com that one attainable way women can take care of their mental health "is to give themselves the permission to say no."
"This might mean taking a moment to reflect before responding, and asking herself if saying yes or no is best, both personally and professionally," Klear continues. "It might also help women develop better boundaries and reduce stress when they commit to things that realistically fit within their bandwidth."
2. Spend Time With Your Female Friends
That being said, there are a few times where saying yes might be more beneficial.
"One place to consider saying yes more is time with female friends," Klear says. "Research shows that spending time with female friends not only provides women with validation for their own experiences, but also improves their mental and physical health."
3. Practice Self-Compassion
Another way women can put their mental health first is to show compassion to themselves every day.
"Self-compassion sounds like a big amorphous concept, but actually, it’s just cultivating a new way of talking to yourself," says licensed clinical social worker and Director of Transitions to Parenthood Program, Nikky Lively. "Women can do it anytime, anywhere, so it also isn’t an additional time commitment women need to add to their long list of things to do."
But, how do you do it? Lively adds that words of affirmation can gradually help your mental health over time.
"I recommend women simply say to themselves as they go from one transition to another, 'I’m so proud of who you are.' Just this simple phrase encourages more gentleness and decreases depression and anxiety over time as this new voice becomes louder and louder. I hope women all over the world will be able to try this out on International Women’s Day and see how it impacts their day," Lively says.
4. Remember Your Five Senses
Jayne Kinsman, a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of the teaching faculty within the Marriage and Family Therapy Program, revealed that you can use your five senses as guides to help you de-stress.
"Think about ways the five senses can be soothing and make a stressful day more tolerable," Kinsman says. "The point here is to use these ideas to treat yourself, focus on them, enjoy them. Make a point to enjoy these things rather than focusing on the negative of the moment."
Here are a few examples of how to use your senses, according to Kinsman:
Use aromatherapy to improve your mood, for example, find an essential oil room spray like eucalyptus, lavender or peppermint
At the end of a stressful day, take off your day clothes—maybe take a shower to wash away the day—and put on your favorite sweats/T-shirt/sweatshirt
Light a candle for yourself and enjoy the warm light it provides
Listen to a music station or playlist that makes you feel powerful, or calm, whatever you need at that time
5. Take Some Time Away From Your Phone
Kinsman also says that making an effort to take some time away from your phone can be a beneficial way to boost your mental health.
"Make time to stay away from your phone," Kinsman said. "Our cell phones are always there and we often check them (email, social media, text messages, work email) constantly. This can be a drain on mental health. Make a conscious effort to wait, say, a half hour after you wake up before checking your phone."
6. Schedule Time For Yourself
Another practical way to put your mental health first is to schedule time for yourself.
According to Kinsman, you can "schedule 'me time' and stick to it." But, make sure to emphasize schedule, and have a consistent routine.
Kinsman also suggests to try and schedule some time with a therapist.
"Treat yourself by finding a therapist to talk to once a week," Kinsman says. "This is a way to make an appointment with yourself to check in and make sure you are putting your mental health first each week after International Women’s Day has come and gone."
Putting Your Mental Health First Looks Different For Everyone
While we hope that you take some of these tips into consideration, you need to remember that everyone's mental health needs differ from person to person and day to day.
"It doesn’t necessarily mean finding rest and quiet," Kinsman reveals. "Some days taking care of mental health means checking off items on your 'to do list'. It could also mean ending a relationship with a toxic person in your life. Both of those examples could mean short-term stress for long-term mental health."
We Want to Hear From You!
What will you do for yourself this International Women's Day?