COVID-19 and Women’s Mental Health

COVID-19 and Women’s Mental Health

It’s been a long haul since the first cases of COVID-19 arrived… and not just physically. The pandemic has had a significant impact on the nation’s mental health, and women’s mental health specifically.

“When day care centers close or schools go remote, or when kids are quarantined due to illness or exposure to COVID-19, women in the household are generally responsible for ensuring their children’s educational and care needs are met,” said Patricia Roehling, PhD, psychologist with Holland Hospital Women’s Specialty Care. “Many take on this responsibility while working from home, which is a tremendous stressor.”

“Pandemic-related financial stressors have also fallen disproportionately on women. Women were more likely to lose their jobs because of the pandemic,” she added. “They were also more likely to leave their jobs, or reduce their hours because of unmanageable work-family conflicts associated with the virus.”

When it’s Time to Seek Help

While it’s normal to have periods of feeling down or anxious, talk to your health care provider if the following symptoms persist: 

  • Extreme sadness or feelings of hopelessness
  • Inability to cut down on substance use or problems related to substance use (heavy drinking is defined as eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks for men)
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Excessive fear or worry
  • Seeing or hearing things that are not there
  • Extremely high and low moods
  • Aches, headaches or digestive problems without a clear cause
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts (call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest ER immediately if you have thoughts of suicide)

For a better understanding of what symptoms may mean, there are several self-scoring assessments available, such as:

Ways Women Can Cope

Along with seeking support from friends, family and/or a professional, women can also improve their mental health by:

  • Setting boundaries: Remote work environments may seem more relaxed, but they can lead to burnout, too. Establish a set work schedule and unplug at the end of each day.
  • Exercising and eating well: “If we take good care of our bodies, we relieve some of the stressors that can contribute to mental health problems,” Dr. Roehling said. “So it’s important to exercise, eat well and set aside adequate time to sleep.”
  • Staying connected to others: Virtual gatherings or socially distant connections can provide you with a welcome mental and emotional outlet. Better yet, combine exercise with social support by taking regular walks with a friend.
  • Sleeping on it: Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day if possible.
  • Meditating: Research has shown meditation can sometimes be as beneficial as medication for treating anxiety symptoms. Headspace is an excellent app for learning meditation skills.

For urgent mental health concerns, call the Ottawa Country 24-hour crisis line at (866) 512-4357 or the Allegan County Crisis Line at (269) 673-0202. For life-threatening emergencies, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest hospital ER.

Holland Hospital Women’s Specialty Care offers comprehensive care to meet the needs of women across their lifespan, including mental health support. Call (616) 748-5785 for an appointment.

 

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  • Patricia V. Roehling, PHD

    Patricia V. Roehling, PHD

    Patricia Roehling, PhD, is a clinical psychologist with more than 25 years of experience. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan and earned both her master’s in educational psychology and doctorate in psychology from Wayne State University. She is also professor emeritus of psychology at Hope College. Dr. Roehling addresses a wide range of behavioral health concerns and sees patients exclusively at Holland Hospital Women’s Specialty Care. Patricia V. Roehling, PHD

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