I remember the good old childhood days of riding a bicycle and playing endlessly till dark without a care in the world. I was a student at school, a daughter at home and a kid at heart. Looking back, I feel life was much easier when I had to shift between just these three roles. The pace at which expectations grew was very minimal till I was 16-17 years. I didn’t have to worry about paying bills or knowing how to cook. This isn’t the case in my late 20s, and I’m sure for a lot of people as well!
We as women switch hats being a high-performing employee, a loving spouse, a caring mother, a dutiful daughter and so on. We’re suddenly shouldering much more responsibilities and duties. In addition, skewed and unfair societal expectations from single, married, working women, and homemakers can take a huge toll on our mental health.
Constantly switching roles and experiencing insurmountable social pressure can be tiring. Sometimes, we ache to go back to that carefree kid who loves reading a book under the tree and watching a night sky lit with stars and moon. However, most women are forced to push aside their longings and roll up their sleeves to tackle the next challenge ahead at work or home.
Women need to acknowledge that time for themselves is important. Taking time for hobbies or craving some solitude is not an act of selfishness.
Here are 10 mental health tips to improve your well-being!
1. Schedule “me time”
Whether you’re a working woman or a homemaker, scheduling time for yourself is important. As women are expected to be sacrificing souls, we often ignore our thoughts, feelings, ideas and perspectives. It makes us lose our voice, originality and the essence of who we are. So it’s important to set aside some time to do things we love. Enjoy a hot cup of tea, read a good book or simply sit and simply ask “ How are you today?”
2. Pursue a hobby
According to an article in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, women are twice as likely to be depressed compared to men. Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology, explains why this is the case. In comparison to men, women tend to ruminate over problems and take fewer actions. Having a healthy hobby can be a saviour for our well-being. It can help destress, improve creativity, and focus. Also, there are some scientific studies which augment that hobbies lower depression. Specifically, hobbies involving staying closer to nature such as gardening and composting can have a calming effect on us.
As Maya Angelou rightly puts it, ‘if you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be’. I couldn’t agree more with her wise words. Maybe you always wanted to be a voice-over artist or an introvert who was told that you aren’t fit for marketing. It’s time to shackle the cobweb of others’ opinions and stay true to yourself. Take up rifle shooting, study literature, and become a data scientist, travel blogger, singer, tutor and anything. The world is your oyster!
3. Set healthy boundaries
Boundaries help us to enjoy the best of both worlds – Solitude and social connection. Good boundaries act as a safety net for our well-being. It increases our belief that we’re in control, and boosts our esteem and happiness. It starts with realising that you’re allowed to say “No” – No to anything that makes you uncomfortable, uneasy, exhausted and drains your energy
How do you set healthy boundaries?
It begins with knowing what’s acceptable and unacceptable to you. By setting aside 30-40 minutes a day to connect with oneself, you’ll be able to notice your suppressed voice that is dying to be heard. Grab a diary and pen, and get to know the real you!
Here are some prompts to get you started:
- What are the emotions you avoid?
- What hurts you the most emotionally?
- Did you feel you’re taken for granted at home?
- What is the one thing that brings you joy every time?
- Are there any aspects of work-life that concerns you?
You can also download prompts from Pinterest or buy a wellness journal that comes with a set of pre-defined self-care questions.
4. Practice assertive communication
Knowing what your boundaries are is one thing and communicating those with others is another thing. As most women are taught to prioritise others’ needs above their own, we don’t express what we want. Hence, it’s essential to practice and learn assertiveness consciously.
What is assertive communication?
It is expressing our needs and wants clearly and directly without disrespecting others. It does not involve any aggressive language or tone of voice to express our point of view.
Here are some tips to be more assertive:
- Observe the communication style of your favourite celebrities
- Watch stress interviews
- Practice talking slowly
- Pause and think before speaking – You don’t have to come up with solutions at the press of a button
5. Build social support
Priorities change, and people have limited time and energy in a day, but it is important to take time out for friends. True to the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, leverage support from different sources – friends, family, partners, teachers etc.
Here are some ways to meet new people:
- Go on a morning walk
- Host a small house party
- Play card games with neighbours
- Join online listening circles
- Participate in beach clean-ups
- Work from a cafe or a co-working space
Meet new people from all walks of life and see how you connect with them. Over time they can become your pillars of support!
6. Take therapy
Although friends and family are our backbones, they may not be able to offer support if you’re
undergoing some serious health condition such as depression or grief. As they’ve limited knowledge about mental illnesses and don’t know how to offer solutions, therapy can be immensely useful. Even if you don’t have any mental health issues, you can seek counselors to share about things that weigh your mind and heart. As they’re non-judgemental listeners, you’ll feel heard, understood and accepted after a talk therapy.
If you struggle to communicate verbally, explore creative therapies that use interventions such as art, music, drama, dance, body movement and so on to express yourself. So, grab a brush to paint the wall red or dance to upbeat music. Unleash the intrinsic need for self-expression through creative forms.
7. Create a self-love space in the house
As the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the future of work to a hybrid model, the lines between personal space and work have become blurred. By creating a cosy self-love space at home, you can transcend into the land of relaxation and serenity. Switch between your workspace and the self-love space to bring more work-life balance when working from home.
Here are some tips:
- Add character to your space – Decorate with vibrant coloured paintings, idols, candles, indoor plants, and essential oils
- Include essentials for relaxation – Yoga mat and cushions
- Favourite books, feel-good quotes, nostalgic photo album
- Dark chocolates
Regular exercise improves mood, and concentration lowers stress, provides a sense of control, aids in a good night’s sleep and boosts self-esteem. It also releases the feel-good hormone, endorphins, helping to cope with anxiety and depression. It has been found that out of all activities, cycling has been linked to lowering depression in adults.
The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) reports that the proportion of overweight women has increased from 21% in 2015-2016 to 24% in 2019-2020. Despite all the benefits, the increasing rates of obesity in Indian women indicate difficulties in sticking to an exercise regime.
Here’re some tips to stick to get you moving:
- Understand why you want to exercise – I work out to feel good and not for weight loss. Setting the intention correctly lowers the pressure on yourself.
- Try what works best for you – If you’re flexible, try yoga and if you’re athletic, try running
- Start small – Try skipping at home
- Understand that you won’t be able to exercise for 365 days. Set a realistic target that includes break and cheat days
As Bob Proctor rightly said, “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world.” In that case, how do we enrich our inner world? Through meditation!
Stilling the mind can offer various mental health benefits such as
- Relief from overwhelming anxious thoughts
- Lesser worries about the future
- Greater acceptance of the past
- Helps in forming and securing attachments with the self
Here are a few tips to make it a habit:
- Set an intention for this habit – I meditate to lower anxious thoughts
- Enter your “self-love” space
- Start small – 10 breaths a day
- Rub essential oil and enjoy the aroma before meditating – This will bring your awareness to the present
10. Eat right
Heard of the age-old advice to trust your gut feelings? Our gut is our second brain: what we eat, impacts how we feel. As the enteric nervous system in the gut depends on the same neurons and neurotransmitters reaching the central nervous system, researchers have found the gut to communicate with the brain. This explains why we feel lethargic after consuming junk and processed food.
Here are some tips for healthy eating:
- Eat without gadgets
- Create a space to eat – Dining table or on a mat
- Listen to your body – Stop when you’re full
- Eat seasonal and local vegetables and fruits – Avoid imported Kiwis and berries
- Shop in cloth bags
- Cook in earthenware or cast iron – Avoid non-stick cooking
- Drink water from metal bottles – Avoid plastic
- Cook fresh – Avoid eating refrigerated foods
We don’t run from responsibilities but confront them with confidence, clarity and optimism. To do that, we need to shower ourselves with self-love. As Brianna West beautifully puts it, “ True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is choosing to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from”.
We must consciously lead every aspect of our lives from eating right to working right for good mental health.
“So, buckle up ladies, we got to work on ourselves!“
Composed by: “Padmapriyadarshini is an engineer turned business writer passionate about mental health, psychology and self-improvement. She has written 3 Annual reports, 40+ industry analysis reports, and 20+ blogs for various websites. Currently, she shuttles between writing and Business Development at ManoShala – A company that offers affordable and accessible mental health solutions for everyone. “