Did you know that 1 in 5 women in the United States have encountered a mental health condition this year? The coronavirus pandemic has placed us in a chronic state of stress, which has proven to be detrimental to our physical and mental well being.
We are dealing with the anxiety of potentially catching the coronavirus, long periods of isolation, an economic crisis, a severe disruption of our normal activities, and overall concern for the future. More women are working remotely from home. All of this has created a stressful environment for even the healthiest individuals. In a recent KFF Tracking Poll, we learned that 53% of adults in the United States have reported that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.
The effects of prolonged periods of stress are different for men and women.
SOME OF THE MOST COMMON SYMPTOMS OF STRESS THAT WOMEN ARE FACING RIGHT NOW
Prolonged periods of stress can create increased tension in the muscles. Tension in the shoulders and neck can radiate up into our heads causing persistent tension headaches and even migraines.
On March 13, 2020 President Trump declared a National Emergency in response to the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases in the United States. Local and federal governments began issuing lockdown and quarantine orders that disrupted our normal day-to-day lives and activities. This means that for nine months we have been dealing with long periods of social isolation and the inability to engage in activities we enjoy with family and friends. As a result, 31% of American adults have reported symptoms of depression as of June 2020. Women in particular are facing higher levels of depression due to conditions that are unique to women’s health. These include Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, Perinatal Depression, Postpartum Depression, and Perimenopausal Depression.
Women are facing another mental health crisis with the steadily increasing levels of high anxiety. Financial burdens due to high unemployment rates, concern for the health and well being of their family, and fear of the future and what is to come. These are just a few of the common pain points that we have been faced with since the start of the coronavirus restrictions and disruptions.
Anyone who has ever experienced even mild to moderate levels of stress can relate to the digestive issues that often come along with it. This can cause chronic discomfort and affect your sleep, eating habits, and overall wellness.
Women are more prone to stress-related weight gain and obesity than their male counterparts. When our bodies are under stress and strain, we release a hormone called cortisol. High levels of cortisol can create a habit of overeating, as well as high insulin levels. When this happens, your blood sugars drop leading you to crave sugary, fatty foods to make up for it. Over time, this causes unhealthy weight gain that can create even more havoc in your body. Obesity is known to be a root cause of many other health issues such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, just to name a few.
Stress can lessen your chances of getting pregnant a few different ways. Anxiety causes your body to release stress hormones and puts your body into fight-or-flight mode. Long periods of increased stress hormones can impact or even shut down your reproductive system making it difficult to conceive. On top of the increased stress hormones, women who are under stress tend to have a decreased sex drive which also lowers your chances of conception.
DISRUPTED MENSTRUAL CYCLES
The same stress hormones that can impact fertility can cause a general disruption of your menstrual cycle. In circumstances that cause a fight-or-flight response, your body shuts down any system that it deems unnecessary at that time. When you’re in fight-or-flight mode, your heart rate can increase and all of the blood is being directed to major organs and muscles. Because of this, you may experience a pale face, or tingling and numbness of extremities as your body focuses on its vital organs and functions to keep you alive. During stressful situations, your reproductive system is not deemed necessary which can cause a late or absent menstrual cycle during times of high stress or anxiety.
4 KEYS TO HANDLING YOUR STRESS
So now that we know how stress can affect women’s health, what can we do to fix it? The key here is going to be taking care of your overall wellness. A holistic approach to mental health is often encouraged for women, especially during the coronavirus when good health is vital in warding off the virus, or lessening symptoms should you become infected.
Be sure to exercise regularly so your body has a chance to burn off the excess adrenaline, and produce feel-good hormones like serotonin and endorphins.
A proper diet rich in vitamins and nutrients is also a key factor for improved mental health for women during the coronavirus pandemic. When stressed, we tend to learn more on comfort foods that are often deficient in the nutrients our bodies need to survive during such turbulent circumstances.
HYDRATE YOUR BODY
Did you know that dehydration can also have a negative impact on women’s mental health? Dehydration affects your ability to focus, manage your emotions, as well as your energy levels. For this reason, it is important to maintain adequate hydration throughout the day. To do this, it is important to utilize an electrolyte supplement such as GOODONYA HYDRATE. This electrolyte and mineral powder is a great alternative to sugary sports drinks and juices that women are prone to craving during times of high stress. HYDRATE is refreshing, delicious, and best of all only contains 1g of sugar. It is a great option for when you’re feeling dehydrated but are tired of drinking plain filtered water.
MANAGE YOUR MIND
If you put in to practice all the above while your mind is consuming negative content there is no point. Consuming negative thinking will trick your brain into believing there is an immediate threat you are facing. As a result, your natural fight or flight response will initiate and your mind will begin to function from a place of fear and anxiety.
Implement a routine of positive actions:
- Start your day with hearing a positive message. You can find many motivational messages on YouTube to listen to or find a podcast. One of my favorite ways to do this is listening to audio books. Do this when you wake up and before you go to sleep.
- Commit to memorize a positive quote. Read it repeatedly first thing in the morning and throughout the day until you have it memorized. Usually do this for a week and then add a new quote. Do this when you wake up and before you go to sleep.
- Focus on the good. You’ve heard about the glass half full vs half empty. Choose to be a “half full” person. Find (sometimes you must dig) the positive in every potential bad situation.
- Find humor. Watch funny tv shows and movies. Read a joke book. Tell your kids jokes daily and let them tell you jokes. I find that if you don’t have a bent toward humor this takes more effort, but it pays off.
- Get around positive people and stay away from negative people as much as possible.
All of these tips are a great starting point, but if you truly feel that your mental health has declined to a point where you feel you need some support, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for assistance. With so many women working remotely full time, caring for their families, stressing and worrying about the coronavirus, and trying to maintain their health, now more than ever is the time to look after yourself both physically and mentally.