Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: Prioritizing Women’s Mental Health

Be honest: When did you last take some time just for yourself? If you’re a woman, you might have trouble remembering.

Women are phenomenal at doing it all—juggling the responsibilities of careers, parenting, home life, and so much more. But there’s a downside to the round-the-clock hustle that comes with being a wife, mother, businesswoman, friend, daughter, and all the other roles we assume every day. We can often let ourselves fall by the wayside as we care for everyone else around us.

Women may be natural nurturers, but that’s why it’s so important that we take care of ourselves first and foremost. After all, we can’t fully show up for any aspect of our busy lives when we’re exhausted, frazzled, and depleted. You know the saying: you can’t pour from an empty cup! In other words, self-care isn’t selfish—it’s a necessity to ensure we’re ready and able to reach our fullest potential every day.

The Importance of Mental Health for Women

Mental Health Self Care Tips | BrainMD

In today’s fast-paced world, stressors are everywhere. We’re bombarded with information 24/7, which is chock-full of doom-and-gloom predictions. On top of that, many Americans add to the problem by making unhealthy lifestyle choices: eating junk food, not exercising enough, or binge-scrolling on notoriously damaging social media sites. Or they don’t allow themselves a break at all, going into overdrive mode fueled by massive doses of caffeine, so that “keeping busy” becomes another harmful habit.

As a result of these factors and many more—the pandemic, the economy, past personal trauma—it’s no wonder that so many women are feeling burdened, burned out, and overstressed. According to the Office on Women’s Health (a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), women are more likely than men to experience stress symptoms. They’re also more likely to experience depression and anxiety as a result of stress, compared to men. Experts hypothesize that the way we females process stress hormones may be a key factor in this difference. Ultimately, an accumulation of stress over the long term is more likely to affect women’s moods and create anxiety.

Among females of any age in the U.S., 1 in 5 experience a mental health condition each year. And teen girls are struggling with their mental health more than ever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2011-2021. This survey showed that 57% of teen girls reported feeling so sad and hopeless for two weeks or more in the last year that they were unable to complete their usual activities—a 60% increase since 2011. And 30% of high school girls reported seriously considering suicide in the year prior.

These alarming facts and statistics make clear that it’s crucial for women to prioritize their mental health. When we do, we not only benefit ourselves, but our daughters too. After all, I know firsthand from being a mother that you can tell your kids what to do all day long, but how they really learn is by watching the example you set. We women need to set the example for our children that taking time to care for our well-being is non-negotiable.

What happens when we don’t take care of ourselves? Plain and simple: Your body will go into revolt. Excess stress can create numerous negative effects on health. According to the American Psychological Association, stress affects every system of the body—including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems. Stress is associated with chronic inflammation, which creates chronic disease over the long term.

3 Self-Care Tips for Women’s Mental Health

I’ll admit that I wasn’t always great about being alone with myself and taking time to rest. I’m blessed with a lot of energy and a lot of motivation to get things done! But now I know the importance of spending time in solitude and scheduling downtime every day. Here are some ideas that will help you get started on the path to a rejuvenating self-care routine:

Set Aside Time

I get it—we’re all busy. But self-care will fuel you for all your to-dos, so make it your first priority. If you need to actually schedule time in your calendar, do so. Also avoid stacking appointments and other tasks back-to-back; schedule some additional space in your day. Even if you take a 5-minute break to do a brief meditation or breathing exercises between your day’s to-dos, you’ll find that your mood and energy levels improve. If needed, set boundaries with your family that protect your downtime. If guilt creeps in, remember that you’re doing this for them. And learn the power of the word “no!”

Meet Your Basic Self-Care Needs

Before you start adding lavender-scented baths and positive affirmations to your self-care strategies, consider the most basic ways you can take care of yourself. Are you getting enough sleep, and do you stick with a healthy sleep hygiene routine? Are you eating a nourishing diet, like The Omni Diet, that incorporates plenty of fresh veggies, plus protein and healthy fats in the optimal ratio?

Are you scheduling time for human connection, such as talking and hugging friends and family, to stimulate feel-good brain chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins? And are you getting enough movement every day, including outdoors in a natural setting? Take care of these basics to create a solid foundation for a less-stressed life. And, for even better results, try mental health-supporting supplements—I love BrainMD’s L-Theanine Gummies and Happy Saffron Plus for a natural mood boost.

Make Time for Fun and Rest

Too many adults have long abandoned the joy and playfulness we felt as children, and this missing piece can make life feel like a chore. Ask yourself: What did you like to do when you were a kid? What hobbies have you placed on the back burner that you’d love to try again? What new experiences could you attempt, either alone or with your loved ones? Many activities, even while keeping us busy, allow us to switch off our overactive minds and find a relaxing flow.

You want to rest throughout your day, too—not just at night when you’re sleeping. Many of us can resist taking breaks, but this simple practice has actually been shown to boost productivity. Just make sure it’s real downtime: replace your internet scrolling or TV watching for quiet solitude, a walk in nature, or time spent in meditation or mindfulness. If you find your mind racing, put your thoughts and emotions down in a restorative journaling session to help process them. Spend time in reflection by making a gratitude list. Let your mind wander by indulging in a daydreaming session. Or set aside some moments for prayer.

Regardless of what you choose, look for moments when you get to stimulate your creativity, connect with yourself, and recharge throughout the day. Our brains crave both activity, like a pleasurable hobby, as well as time to rest and recharge. Make sure you include both in your average day or week.

Consider Self-Care Your Non-Negotiable

With so many tasks, screens, and people calling for our attention every day, it can feel impossible to take a moment for ourselves. How often do you reach the end of the day, week, or month and wonder where the time went? When we’re caught up in the whirlwind, we barely know where our lives are being spent. And that makes it impossible to check in with ourselves and monitor our mental health.

Intentionally slowing down, decreasing negative and harmful stimuli, and nourishing your physical body are some easy antidotes for feeling stressed-out and overwhelmed. Start taking better care of yourself today—even if you start small—and witness how the positive effects reverberate in every area of your life.

Tana Amen, BSN, RN