Feeling stressed and depressed? These positive mental health tips from mental health counselor, Ankhee Gupta, will help you improve mental health and mental hygiene.
Creating positive mental health is essential if we want to live a happy and fulfilled life. Learning how to be mentally healthy requires some mental health awareness, mental health education and mental health information.
If you’re wondering how to improve mental health, these mental health tips will help you focus on your mental wellness so you can improve your mental health and mental hygiene.
Women And Mental Health
According to mental health statistics from the National Mental Health Survey of India-2016, nearly 10.0% of the Indian population have mental health issues and mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders.
Women’s mental health is even more worrisome as studies show that Indian women are experiencing a mental healthcare crisis. Women in India are at high risk of mental health disorders because of the undue expectations placed on them.
Studies have found that 87% of women in India are stressed and have no time to relax. It’s no wonder that mental health facts show depression and suicide risk is higher in women in the age-group of 40-49 years and among those residing in urban metros.
As a mental health counselor who deals with mental health problems, my recommendation is this – Dear ladies, just open up. It helps! Venting verbally embalms and heals from within.
Our rigid social norms have often forced women to mask their plight and pain so it cannot touch or impact others. Because of the mental health stigma, most women hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for mental health treatment.
Every morning, most women just hope to have a ‘perfect day,’ a ‘perfect life,’ hoping for a miracle to change their lives for the better. A few say it has happened to them, while the rest just keep waiting.
Psychology says that a change in perception, developing good mental health and mental hygiene, creating a proper balance in life and venting your problems to a mental health psychologist can heal you from within.
Bottling up your emotional and mental health issues can lead to psychosomatic issues, affecting the mind and the body, and causing disequilibrium in your mental and physical health.
14 Positive Mental Health Tips To Improve Mental Health
Looking for ways to improve mental health? Here are 14 positive mental health tips that will help you improve mental health by dealing with your emotional and mental health issues from within.
1. Create ME time
After household chores, office work, meeting commitments and deadlines, one essential self-care tip that every woman must practice is carving out alone time or “Me time” for yourself.
This is a good mental hygiene practice that nourishes mental health. You can use this time to call up an old friend, read a book of your choice or apply your favourite nail colour.
This helps you deal with boredom and monotony, boosts your happy hormones and increases self-love and self-worth, so Me-time is non-negotiable.
2. Learn assertiveness
A woman has all the right to say what she feels. Because of outdated social norms and the fact that we’re brought up to be nice girls, many women hesitate to speak their truth.
“What will people say if I give up?” is a self-defeating attitude. Voicing your opinions and having a say in issues related to the household is your absolute right.
No one will give you space – you must claim your right to speak over time. Of course, there are always women who prefer being compliant and submissive and will refuse to speak.
3. Refuse to tolerate violence or abuse
Indian law states that a woman cannot be abused mentally or physically. Legally and socially women are protected from this evil, but many women would rather tolerate it all their lives than create trouble or shame the family.
Women must learn to stop tolerating the evil of domestic violence and abuse. If any family member has made her a victim of domestic violence, she must resort to parental intervention or talk to a lawyer, contact organizations working to help women and put an end to it.
Being tolerant in the face of domestic abuse is not a sign of strength. The domestic violence laws in India protect women in many ways, but first, you must be aware of your rights and take steps to protect yourself.
4. Build financial independence
If one talks about equality for women, financial independence should not take a backseat. Many women in rural and urban areas want to earn because they are educated. Some want to opt for a good career, some work for financial independence or to provide monetary support to the family.
Many women have chosen to be career-oriented because they want to have an identity of their own. Whatever the reason, if you want to be a working woman, even after marriage, you must work.
You may have expectations from your family but if, after completing all your duties, taking care of your husband, in-laws and children, you’re still keen to work outside the home, you must go ahead.
If you’re facing domestic violence, read this comprehensive financial rebuilding guide for domestic violence survivors and learn tips for keeping your financial documents safe, how to inventory your assets and debts, and ways to start setting aside some money of your own.
5. Take care of your mental health
Research says that women are more susceptible to depression and other mental health issues. If you feel that you need mental health care, you get over the mental health stigma and consult a mental health therapist or mental health psychologist on a mental health helpline.
If reaching out is challenging, sharing feelings with a friend or a family member with a progressive mindset is often helpful. You must understand that being self-sacrificing will eventually rob you of your happiness.
It is wrong to be selfish as well. So you need to set boundaries and draw the line so you can take care of others while making your self-care a priority too. Make good mental health a priority so you can take care of yourself and your family.
6. Be more open with your children
Women often get confused with balancing how much to share and what not to share with their children. You don’t have to be a “friend” and let your child take you for granted. Your children need a caring and understanding mother – one who loves her child but maintains discipline as and when required.
As a millennial mom, you should educate your child about sexual abuse, teaching them about ‘good touch and bad touch,’ menstruation and other biological facts they need to know.
With growing children, involving them in healthy discussions about healthy sexuality and consent and inculcating positive attitudes towards women, will be more helpful if it comes from an understanding parent.
7. Reconnect with Nature
As a woman who works around the clock, both inside the house and outside, an essential self-care idea is to take a day off every week. You must allow the world to operate on its own and spend time in nature to heal your body and mind.
Reconnecting to the natural world with gardening, attending flower shows and exhibitions, a trip to a place of great natural beauty, spending time in nature, or any other way you enjoy, can do wonders for your health.
In fact, doctors in Shetland, Scotland have been authorized to prescribe nature to their patients to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and increase happiness for those with diabetes, a mental illness, stress, heart disease, and more.
The Japanese practise something called forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) which involves simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
Leaves contain phytoncides (essential oils) which reduce stress hormones and boost immunity. Disconnecting from the world of gadgets, limiting screen time and enjoying nature can help you rejuvenate and boost your physical and mental wellness.
8. Join a girl gang
This is surely not age-specific! Even if some traditional families practice the custom of girls just mingling with their immediate family members and not going out with friends, you must have a small circle of friends to stay connected and uplift each other when needed.
There are only-women social media apps and all-women digital platforms which are safe, where women can find like-minded women with whom they can connect for emotional support and connection.
Social media networking is not harmful when done right and can help you deal with isolation and loneliness in the age of social distancing. Women must stay in touch with their women friends and others of the same age group to broaden their horizons.
9. Eat what you love
Physiologically we all are different. What suits one person might be disliked by another. Taking care of your body is important.
Many women complain that they are forced to eat oats just because others in their family prefer oats or some elderly family member has made it mandatory. Remember, you’re not obliged to eat foods or do things you don’t prefer just because the rest of the family is doing it.
For physical and mental nourishment, you must only eat and use things that you enjoy or prefer. Don’t allow anyone to dictate what you eat or do when it comes to your physical and emotional well-being.
Break these barriers and focus on developing a healthy lifestyle that works for you instead of following other people’s rules blindly.
10. Be the woman who empowers women
Misogyny and insensitive words are not a crime, unfortunately, so most people feel free to pass judgements about women.
A UN report has found almost 90% of men and women hold some sort of bias against females, so it’s not surprising that both women and men use derogatory comments and language to demean other women.
But as they say, empowered women empower women. So, if you want to empower women as a gender, you need to stop listening to body-shaming or slut-shaming comments about the way you look and dress.
If you want all women to be empowered, stand up for other women when you see your friends putting them down, and support women achievers instead of allowing others to pull them down.
Be empathetic towards other women. Jealous behaviour and denigrating other women will harm your own mind. Women are more successful and mentally healthy when they work together to empower other women with a broad vision and a positive attitude towards life.
11. Cherish your parents
Many Indian women complain that they don’t get to meet their parents often after marriage as they are not ‘allowed’ to spend much time in their ‘mayka’ (parent’s home) for fear that their in-laws and husband will get offended.
It’s time to stop trying to appease others, ladies! Make it very clear at the pre-marital stage that your in-laws must respect your family and allow you to perform your duties towards them. After all, the law is on your side.
A landmark ruling by the Bombay High Court stated that a married daughter does not stop being a part of her parent’s family, rejecting the pre-conceived notion that a married daughter has obligations only toward her husband’s family and not her own parents.
There’s nothing to stop you from taking care of your ailing or ageing parents. With the nuclear family set-up, many parents are isolated after their daughter’s marriage and the daughter misses being there for her parents when they’re unwell.
Of course, not all in-laws are cruel and callous. Some are caring, and for women who feel they may need their in-laws’ consent, these things must be handled delicately and discussed openly, even before the knot is tied.
12. Find your Ikigai
The Japanese concept of Ikigai states that every individual must have a passion to pursue – something that gets us out of bed every morning.
It’s important to focus on something that does not involve your work or family – a hobby, passion, or constructive and interesting activity that brings you joy and fulfilment.
Every woman is unique in her own way. You have a unique talent and gift that only you can give to the world. All you need to do is acknowledge it and rediscover it every day.
You may have brushed your identity, desires and passion for life under the carpet for the sake of family reputation and social norms, but for how long can you keep doing that without affecting your mental health and wellness, is the question.
Finding your Ikigai will help you de-clutter your mind, relax and rediscover your passion with life, but every woman, irrespective of her lifestyle and background must have an Ikigai to keep her going.
13. Take care of your body
As an Indian woman, you might spend all your time taking the child to the dentist for a toothache, the mother-in-law to the orthopaedic doctor for her joint pain, and then the father-in-law to a cardiologist for his heart-check-up.
You may convince the husband to see the family doctor if he is unwell. But what about you and your needs? Every woman, above the age of 35 to 40 (or perhaps even earlier) must go for a routine full body checkup at intervals to see if her body is functioning well.
This is another act of self-love, a way to treat yourself with care. Being too busy is not an excuse to avoid a check-up. Your well-being also matters, to you as well as your family, so you must not hesitate to book doctor’s appointments for yourself.
14. Stop judging yourself
Social stigmas and labels such as single mom, divorcee, widow, married a second time or homemaker, create shame and damage our self-worth and self-esteem.
To regain your sense of self-worth and self-esteem, you must make peace with your identity and stop judging yourself. Yes, it’s not easy to stop judging ourselves when that’s exactly what the world does to us.
A lady, who belonged to an orthodox family, once attended a counselling session, telling the therapist how her parents were dominating her and mentioned that her husband worked in Dubai.
In the next session, she confessed that she was a divorcee and was not sure how the therapist would react. So it takes weeks, months or years for people to reveal the truth about themselves as they feel, ‘What if I’m judged?’
Once you learn self-love, self-acceptance and self-compassion and get over the fear of being judged, life becomes easier.
Many women complain about the fact that they don’t have enough support financially or from other family members. The solution to this is to stay motivated, believe and trust in yourself. You are eminently capable of going ahead in life and making the best of what life offers.
Stop asking other women to “adjust” to abusive situations. It’s human to celebrate another’s joy and support them when they feel low.
You don’t have to be a social activist, writer, journalist, mental health therapist or mental health doctor to help another woman facing hardship.
Just being there, setting an example and paving ways for others to grow can bring small changes in the lives of every woman. You are powerful and you just need to realize it!
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