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Protecting Women's Health During COVID-19

Providing resources to keep women successful.

Kamala Harris persisted in every aspect of her life despite gender stereotypes. She was the first Black woman to be elected California's district attorney, the first woman to be attorney general of California, the first Indian American senator, and the first Black woman and first Indian American to become Vice President. If we want our daughters to truly believe they can choose to follow in the footsteps of Kamala Harris, we cannot allow gender stereotypes ingrained in society to hold them back. We must provide the proper resources to keep them successful.

Source: Rochelle Brown/Unsplash
Our girls are looking up to us.
Source: Rochelle Brown/Unsplash

Research shows that as early as age five, girls develop self-limiting beliefs that they're not as smart and capable as boys. They may stop believing in themselves and start listening to cultural norms. But as more women assume new roles in society, the more examples young girls have that they can be whatever they want to be.

But COVID-19 is demonstrating otherwise. The pandemic led to a large increase in childcare and housework. There has been increased involvement with men in housework and childcare, but most of the burden has fallen on women. In the U.S., 55% of employed women do housework compared to 18% of men, and women tend to spend twice the amount of time with their children than men do. The COVID-19 crisis has increased gender inequalities. Recent data from the Labor Department states 865,000 women left the workforce in September, nearly four times more than the number of men.

If we want women to stay in the workforce during the pandemic, in addition to targeted economic policy it’s also important to invest in mental health resources. More than 20 percent of American women already struggle with depression or anxiety according to the Office on Women’s Health. Nobody is spared from the emotional toll of COVID-19, but women are almost three times as likely as men to report suffering from significant mental health consequences.

Some may wonder why women are more susceptible to depression than men. One reason is that a woman’s body is constantly changing from puberty, pregnancy, childbirth through menopause. Some of these physical and hormonal changes can cause postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and perimenopausal depression. In addition, women often carry more domestic responsibilities than men with little support.

Many elements of the pandemic are out of our control, but here are some things that we can. If you are a working mom who is struggling, this top 10 list may help you.

Source: Asha Shajahan, M.D.
Sunshine. Nature. Exercise.
Source: Asha Shajahan, M.D.

1. Get at least 15 minutes of sunshine per day. Sunlight increases serotonin in the brain and also increases Vitamin D production, both of which can elevate mood.

2. Spend 20 minutes outside. Whether on a park trail or just in a backyard, nature boosts endorphins.

3. Exercise for at least 30 min daily. Don’t have time? Break it up into three 10 min segments in between zoom meetings. This includes simple free-weights and not only aerobic exercise.

4. Get adequate sleep. It’s tempting to scroll and scroll through social media at bedtime, but put the device away and enjoy about eight hours of sleep. Having trouble with this? Read up on proper sleep hygiene.

5. Try a scenic change. This can be going for a short drive or a trip to a place you haven’t explored. Even just for a few hours, this can provide increased mental stimulation.

6. Unplug from devices. This stops the constant flow of messages and the never-ending multitasking. Try this during meals or for one hour before you go to bed.

7. Practice kindness. Send an uplifting text to a friend or family member. Share a compliment to a friend or coworker. Reach out to a person you haven’t spoken to in a while. These acts of kindness will not only lift others but will provide you with the endorphin boost you may need.

8. Talk to a trained professional. If you’re feeling detached from others, extremely negative, or unable to complete your daily tasks, these are signs to seek professional help. If you’re struggling with hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, addiction to food or illegal substances, a medical professional can help you regain control of your life.

9. Be at the table when COVID-19 decisions are being made in the workplace. Be present or at least have a female representative at meetings about COVID-19 relief for employees.

10. Use an employee resource group. Women employee resource groups can be crucial as well as employee well-being services with coaching, mentoring, and counseling opportunities available. These can help tremendously with decreasing anxiety, feeling heard, and developing a plan for one’s success at work and at home.

Source: Valentina/Unsplash
Source: Valentina/Unsplash

If we want to be safe from COVID-19, protecting women’s mental health is almost as important as masking up and social distancing. To prevent women from continuing to be disproportionately affected by this pandemic, we need to keep women in the workforce and provide them with the mental health support that they need and deserve. Everyone can use a little more help than usual during this crisis, so let’s not forget to support our women.


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