This past year has been tough for everyone, to say the least. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted day-to-day lives since March 2020, and as of May 2021 life is still feeling like it’s been put on indefinite pause. Many people have spent more time inside during the past 14 months and away from their loved ones than ever before. With isolation and anxiety becoming the norm, how can you care for your mental health during the pandemic?
Gender differences: Mental health in the COVID-19 pandemic
If you are a woman who finds it harder to get out of bed lately or has been feeling the pandemic blues intensely, you’re not alone. Research by mental health advocacy group CARE found that much higher numbers of women reported increased mental health challenges due to the stress of the pandemic.
Interestingly, researchers found that 27% of women reported increased mental health challenges, compared to 10% of men. They surveyed 6,200 women and 4,000 men in close to 40 countries.
The researchers identified many reasons for the gender gap. Firstly, unemployment in the home led to stress and worries about healthcare, food, and work. Also, the researchers found that women were twice as likely as men to cite accessing quality healthcare services as being harder to get during the pandemic.
The CARE study also found that 55% of the women they reached out to had some form of job loss. For men, it was 34%. That could be partly because of more women working part-time hours than men, at least in Canada.
It’s not a surprise that mental health is suffering during coronavirus times, but the gender differences in mental health are eye-opening. I hope that recent events do not set women back in recent progress made toward gender equality.
Mental health challenges are on the rise as so many peoples’ daily routines have been disrupted. Most folks now live and work in the same space, access to families and loved ones have been severely limited, anxiety keeps us from sleeping, and there’s stress about becoming ill. Just one of these scenarios could challenge your mental health in a serious way, and all of them happening simultaneously pose a serious risk.
4 ways to prioritize your mental health during COVID
The big question is: how do you care for yourself when it feels like there are stressors from all sides pushing in? Thankfully, there are a number of ways women can care for themselves and their mental health from home.
1. Speak to someone
Especially for women who live alone without roommates, speaking to another person about how you’re feeling can make a huge difference — even if it is through Zoom. Many therapists and licensed mental health professionals have begun offering telehealth sessions for those that don’t feel quite comfortable with in-person sessions yet.
It’s important to remember that there’s no shame in therapy. In fact, it could be the best investment you can make in your mental health journey.
2. Write it down
As helpful as some people find it, talking about how you feel can also be overwhelming. Many women find it easier to write down their emotions and thoughts, especially if your mind is racing anxiously when you ought to be doing something else, such as working or sleeping.
Try writing down your thoughts, anxieties, and anything else you may feel in a journal or with printable journal pages. This activity helps empty your brain of negative thoughts and anxious feelings and leaves them on the page, freeing you up to leave those thoughts behind and move forward.
3. Ask for help
Much like there’s no shame with going to therapy, there’s no shame with needing help to get through the pandemic. Help looks different to everyone, by the way.
For example, you could need help with coverage from your boss so you can take a few mental health days off to recover from work-induced anxiety. Meanwhile, your neighbor could need help with buying groceries so she doesn’t forget to eat.
Everyone will need help from time to time, especially during a once-in-a-century pandemic. Remember that you’re not alone in needing assistance, and don’t be afraid to ask for it when needed. It could be just what you need to prioritize yourself and your mental health.
4. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
Do you find yourself turning to liquid courage at the beginning or end of a long day? While that is something a lot of people are doing right now, its long-term effects aren’t going to help you.
Coffee links to an increase in anxiety, which we have enough of as-is. While a glass of wine may provide some temporary relaxation to get your mind off your troubles, alcohol can also disrupt your sleep and leave you lying awake with nothing but your anxious thoughts. That is probably the last thing you want when you’ve had a stressful day.
For a bedtime beverage that won’t cause undue anxiety, try switching to decaffeinated green tea or warm water with lemon. You can add lemon, mint or honey, to spice it up.
Add some printable “positivi-tea” labels to the end of your teabag so you’re greeted with a happy reminder every time you take a sip. That’s great for calming your mind and keeping you at ease at the end of a long day before hitting the hay.
The pandemic has been hard, and we all deserve a pat on the back for making it this far. That doesn’t mean you need to shoulder your burdens alone, though. Do what’s best for you to ensure your mental health is taken care of as you weather the remainder of the storm until a new sense of normality forms soon.