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Empowering Women’s Wellbeing: in Partnership with the kate spade new york foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women’s mental wellbeing, both at work and at home. Over 25% of women in the United States reported increases in stress, anxiety and other mental health challenges since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; and 83% of women reported increased depression, compared to 36% of men.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is sharing expert insight from National Trainer Jen Cox on how women can help reduce stigma, build a culture of nonjudgmental listening and support community members that show signs of needing help.

The kate spade new york foundation believes that when a woman’s mental health is supported, she is able to make positive change for herself, her family and members of her community – including her coworkers. With this in mind, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing hosted a webinar series focused on four domains of wellbeing – life, mind, social and body – and exclusively for women, girls and those who support them in New York City and New Jersey.

We invite you to learn more about how to help empower women – yourself or others in your community – by viewing the recorded webinars below.

Life – Shifting Sands: Standing Tall Through Changes and Challenges

The trauma, grief and guilt brought on by the pandemic has greatly impacted our wellbeing. This webinar discusses the many effective ways to cope. For example:

  1. Pay attention to your emotional state, reflect on what you’ve lost and allow yourself to “feel your feelings” without judgment.
  2. Give attention to your strengths and coping skills. Consider how you’ve navigated difficult experiences in the past and ask yourself how you can apply those coping skills now.
  3. Stay connected with the people that matter to you, even if it’s over the phone or via text for now.
  4. Create a routine and stick to it. Try scheduling self-care activities and commit to them the way you would to an important project at work.
  5. Limit your news diet to what you need to know today.
  6. Give yourself space! Spend your off hours with family or loved ones and working on your hobbies.

Mind – Finding Your Flow

Languishing – the sense of stagnation and general blah we’ve all experienced over the past two years can be hard to bounce back from. Languishing can look like fatigue and burnout, apathy, feelings of detachment or loss of interest in passions and hobbies.

This webinar outlines a three-step plan for post-traumatic growth that allows you to move from languishing to flourishing – when you feel generally positive toward life, even when bad things are happening:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings, which helps neutralize them and gives the power back to you.
  2. Turn inward for solutions. Try starting your day by acknowledging that, even though you don’t know what might come next, you are alive, doing the best you can and don’t want to waste the day or the moment. This shift in mindset generates oxytocin (known as “the love molecule”) in the brain and activates our internal regulation system.
  3. Lean in to change. Transitions are hard – and normal and essential; they also build our resiliency and allow us to embrace the benefits of the learning that came from that change.

To put this plan into action, make a list for yourself of the things you want to leave behind (e.g., toxic relationships, daily commutes) and a list of things you want to keep (e.g., increased family time, working from home), then strategize how you can make it all happen.

Social – Please Hold: I am Connecting

This session focuses on how social isolation and loneliness impact our mental wellbeing. Loneliness is a common human emotion; it’s a subjective experience in which a person feels solitary. Social isolation on the other hand is the absence of social interactions, support structures and engagement with wider community activities. When people voluntarily isolate to support their wellbeing, it is referred to as solitude and can be a very positive thing. But involuntary isolation like what we’ve experienced as a result of the pandemic can be detrimental to our wellbeing if we don’t take care of ourselves.

A few warning signs of unhealthy social isolation include:

  1. Avoiding social interactions that we used to enjoy
  2. Additional stress and distress
  3. Overindulging in substances
  4. Disrupted sleep
  5. Increased physical health issues

To combat loneliness, fill your cup with self-care strategies like these:

  1. Engage in relaxing activities.
  2. Follow a routine.
  3. Maintain healthy habits.
  4. Move your body and engage your senses.
  5. Stay informed.
  6. Stay connected with others to care for your social wellbeing.

Body – Women Rising: From burnout to burning bright

While often discussed as a pair, stress and burnout are different experiences. While stress can cause over-engagement and hyperactive, urgent behavior, burnout causes disengagement, detachment and lack of productivity.

Women are 1.5 times as likely as men to suffer from burnout in the workplace and are more likely to develop physical and emotional symptoms of burnout. This disparity has many potential causes, including heavy workloads and gender exclusion in male-dominated industries, pay gaps and poor work environments.

Women can help limit this stress by prioritizing work-life balance, creating healthy work climates and taking advantage of the existing support structures at work and at home, participating in stress management programs, utilizing time off and mental health days – as well as encouraging those around you to do the same.

Remember: you are on a journey. It’s OK not to be OK.

To become a Mental Health First Aider, visit MHFA.org and schedule your training today. Thank you for choosing to #BeTheDifference!

Sources:

Corporate Wellness Magazine. (n.d.). Workplace stress hits women harder than men. Corporate Wellness Magazine. https://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/article/workplace-stress-hits-women-harder-than-men

Grant, A. (2021, Dec. 3). There’s a name for the blah you’re feeling: it’s called languishing. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html#:~:text=Languishing%20is%20a%20sense%20of%20stagnation%20and%20emptiness.,it%20might%20be%20the%20dominant%20emotion%20of%202021.

Van Ness, M. (2021, April 1). COVID-19 and women’s mental health: the impact on wellbeing, disparities and future implications. Baylor University. https://www.baylor.edu/communityconnection/news.php?action=story&story=222809

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