4 major challenges affecting the mental health of working women

Statistics gathered by mental health foundations found women in full-time jobs are nearly twice as likely to have mental health problems as men with full-time jobs

By: Your Story

Working women, even in today’s day and age, have to battle with the questions of “Why do you need to work?” and “You are not the breadwinner for the family then what’s the point?”

Statistics gathered by mental health foundations found women in full-time jobs are nearly twice as likely to have mental health problems as men with full-time jobs. Working conditions and environment can have a huge impact on mental health and, equally, someone’s mental health can have a significant impact on their ability to perform well in their job.

Women not only have to keep proving their worth at work constantly but also juggle around their personal and social lives so as to not let them affect their professional life.
Reema*, 33, is married and the Head of the English department and Academic Coordinator for the Secondary Section of a school. She feels like she is constantly in a dual state of mind by trying to balance her work and personal life. She said her productivity often suffers due to her anxiety about getting her housework done, even to the point of denying promotions to avoid travelling and longer work hours. She says, “A simple hour of reading for recreation feels like a far-fetched wish.”

Roadblocks causing mental health concerns in working women

Work-life balance: Working women tend to be like a pendulum clock oscillating between work demands and home chores. Between these oscillations, there are social expectations to match up to and the constant anxiety of keeping up with demands of both the worlds, knowing that the slightest error can cost her so much more than her male counterpart. Most women find themselves juggling responsibilities at home and outside, adding to the workload and emotional burden. At the same time, at home, a woman is expected to continue fulfilling her ‘natural’ duties as a mother and wife, and is put under extra scrutiny when she chooses to work outside the house.
The combination of juggling caring commitments for children and family as well as doing paid work and facing physical health problems could increase the risk of experiencing mental distress.

Productivity: Today’s world understands productivity, in both professional and personal lives, is integrating responsibilities throughout the various parts of lives. The ability to be able to work outside the household means that all domestic responsibilities, including household chores and rearing children, are not viewed as ‘professional’ at many workplaces. Workplaces are often unwilling or unable to provide the flexibility women need, which also plays a role in affecting their mental health.
Priya*, 34, is married with a one-year-old son and working as a Coordinator for an NGO. She says, “Being a working woman feels like it’s a double-edged sword hanging on my head. If I want to give in my best at work, I can’t focus on my house chores for a while. In order to be efficient and be able to get creative and productive with my career, I often have to sacrifice on my social life, family time, or me time. If you have a child, you feel like you are missing out, but working helps create my identity and give me a break.”

Career over family: India has grown to be more welcoming to women at work. However, if a working women opts to focus on her career over having children or having a family, she is frowned upon. In India, society is still fighting the patriarchy, and men are still considered the sole “bread-winner of the family”. Hence, working women often face the question, “Do you really need to?” This is also one of the reasons for higher attrition rates of women at work.

Finding the ‘me-time’: The guilt of working all the time – even after regular working hours – has become a norm. For women to be able to find some time to focus on the self has been challenging. The complicated mix of managing family, work, and social life means that there is very little me-time left. Added to that, the norm of long working hours leads to outright unhealthy living conditions like severe lack of sleep and poor food habits. This leads to the negligence of wellbeing, with sacrifices made of the body and mind. Sleep disturbances interfere with dopamine levels, leading to an imbalance associated with bipolar and schizophrenic disorders.

Self-care is not being selfish but being empowering towards oneself. It’s imperative to be able to have a nurturing relationship with oneself. But in a fast-paced and often chaotic life, women tend to put their own needs on the back burner. So many women constantly put everyone and everything first, allowing their own needs to suffer. A little self-compassion helps being attuned to our needs, problems, and goals. Self-care is about being your own true friend by listening to your body and mind.

Self-care is not an act of selfishness; it is – as the word suggests – caring about yourself as you would about others around you. After all, every superwoman needs a day off too!

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