Don’t forget your mental health when coping with women’s health challenges

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Women are incredible human beings, and each has their own health journey and challenges to overcome. Every day a woman you know, or a friend of a friend, is battling challenges that affect her mental or physical health. You may be even experiencing something yourself.

These health challenges may include:

  • Fertility issues: Where a couple is trying to conceive but experiencing difficulties. Infertility affects about 1 in 6 couples worldwide.
  • Endometriosis: A common, painful condition of which there is no known cure. It affects approximately 10% of the female population.
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): A common problem for young women where hormones are out of balance. It affects about 12-21% of women of reproductive age.
  • Becoming a new mum: Being a mother is exciting, however the social and lifestyle changes – coupled with extra responsibilities – can affect a new mum’s wellbeing. More than one in seven new mums experience postnatal depression, which can be frightening and isolating.
  • Menopause: Women often get through menopause with minimal symptoms, however up to 50% may suffer considerably with physical symptoms due to changing hormones. There are also emotional changes, such as worries about getting older, children leaving home or losing family members to consider.

Regardless of the illness or condition a woman is facing – one thing remains the same, and that is the importance of looking after your mental and emotional health in the face of such challenges. While it is best to speak to your health professional for expert advice and support if you are going through any of the above-mentioned challenges, here are some more general tips to achieve a healthy mind and body:


1. Get adequate sleep

Many women experiencing health problems or physical pain experience sleep problems.

To encourage quality sleep, try to get at least eight hours a night and set yourself a regular sleep schedule –going to bed at the same time each night and rising at the same time each morning. Keep your room dark, quiet and cool as this will encourage sleep. If you are a new mum, your nights are dictated by baby’s feeds and changing needs. Try to take short naps during the day when your baby is safely asleep or in the care of another person. Even if you cannot sleep, lying down and closing your eyes will help you recharge.


2. Get regular exercise

Regular exercise helps to relieve stress and boosts your energy and mood. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five days a week. Include at least two session of muscle-strengthening activities in your weekly routine. See your doctor before you start to determine what’s right for you.


3. Try relaxation and breathing techniques

Relaxation and breathing techniques help to reduce stress, improve sleep and focus on the present.


4. Quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake

It’s widely reported that smoking has no benefits, moreover research suggests that menopausal women are at greater risk of developing depression, compared to non-smokers.  Regardless of the health challenge, illicit drugs, smoking and excessive drinking of alcohol aren’t helpful ways of coping and can actually lead to bigger health problems in the long run. It’s best to steer clear of these things. Instead, focus on healthy ways of dealing with stress such as exercise, talking to friends or doing other activities you enjoy.


5. Seek support groups

Finding women who are experiencing what you are going through can be helpful. It really helps to gain the perspective of knowing that you aren’t alone and that there are others going through this change. You might even make some lifelong friends along the way.


6. Practice selfcare

Some women don’t treat themselves half as well as they treat their family or friends. Practice being your own best friend by getting enough sleep, exercise, mix of time alone and time with others so you feel cared for and are making yourself a priority.


7. Try cognitive restructuring

This is about rewiring the brain to choose a new way to think and it can result in new behaviours and feelings. For example, if we focus on hopeless thoughts, we can powerfully convince ourselves and others there is no hope. According to an article in Psychology Today, it’s actually one of the reasons patients drop out of fertility treatment. If we choose to be hopeful, it leads to whole new patterns of behaviours and approaches that are positive.


Seeking help 

If you feel you’re not coping mentally or emotionally, it’s important to be mindful and aware of signs of anxiety and depression and seek health advice as soon as possible through your GP or another health professional. Beyond Blue offers a simple checklist to assess whether you may be affected by depression or anxiety. The checklist is not a health diagnosis, but it can give you a better sense of how you are feeling.

A really good resource for anyone wanting to learn more tips to improve their mental health and wellbeing is the Queensland Government’s Your Mental Wellbeing website.




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