Women’s Mental Health is a complex subject. From our rich array of life experiences to the role that hormones play, many women struggle to understand our thoughts and emotions and are seeking ways to experience greater emotional and mental health. (Read Women’s Emotions: Introduction).
Though women’s mental health is complex, there are some basic facts and principles that can help us navigate our moods, emotions, and thoughts. To get us started, I’ve compiled a list of 5 facts every woman (and the men who love them) should know:
1) Female brains are born ready to connect with others. Research shows differences between the male and female brain from a very young age. Females engage in more eye contact as infants and prefer gazing at faces, whereas males prefer looking around. As we mature, females tend to think more relationally than males, looking at things through the eyes of how it will affect everyone else, and emphasizing relationships. It’s no wonder, then, that we women are so talented at nurturing, loving, and helping others–we were born this way. This can, of course, be a blessing, leading to richer relationships and more life meaning, or a curse if we fail to also nurture and take care of ourselves.
2) Hormones directly impact the brain, which directly alters women’s mental health. When hormones, like estrogen, shift, so do the neurotransmitters of the brain that make us feel “normal” and well. Each shift in hormones directly shifts a woman’s brain chemistry, which has a direct impact on her emotions, moods, and overall mental health. Read Women’s Emotions: Part 1: The 3 Components of Emotional Health, or watch this video to learn more.
3) Our life experiences alter our brain chemistry too. What happens to us in life has a physiological affect on our brains. Over time, trauma, loss, and significant life stressors can alter the brain so much that we think and feel differently too. In fact, Women’s Mental Health is really a function of life experiences + hormones + the brain. Read Women’s Emotions: Part 1: The 3 Components of Emotional Health to learn more.
4) Eventually, our brains can change so much that we experience an “Emotional Earthquake”. Mental illness, emotional struggles, and mood swings are often a result of too much stress on the brain. Between hormones and life challenges the brain can be stressed to the max, which can result in “tremors” (like feelings of sadness, anxiety, or anger) and eventually in an “earthquake” (like an episode of Major Depression, Anxiety Disorder, etc.). Read more here: Women’s Emotions: Part 2, The Emotional Earthquake.
5) Certain times of life make women more vulnerable to mental health issues. The onset of menses and teen years, pregnancy, postpartum, and perimenopause are just a few of the most vulnerable times a in a woman’s life. This is because of the extreme shifts in hormones that occur during these times. Women’s mental health is therefore a lifelong pursuit as emotions, symptoms, and experiences change at each stage of life. Understanding this can help women prepare for these vulnerable times and acknowledge the life changes that may be affecting their mental health.
Understanding Women’s Mental Health Across the Lifespan: It’s not just for women
It’s important that women seek as much education and understanding as we possibly can about our own mental, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. This not only helps us gain greater emotional health, but the more we learn, the better we can connect with and support other girls and women–our daughters, granddaughters, sisters, and friends.
The men in our lives can benefit from learning these things too. It not only brings understanding and insight for them, but husbands, fathers, brothers, friends, and boyfriends can help the women and girls they love navigate the sensitive times of women’s mental health with compassion and support.
Where to Begin: Articles/Posts on Women’s Mental Health
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