It seems fitting that my first blog post would be on International Women’s Day. It’s a day around the world for everyone to take a close look and acknowledge the work that is done by women in all areas of our society. It’s also a day for women to honour themselves, and the amazing women in their lives, for what they do on a daily basis, despite the obstacles they face.
I was raised by a single mother and therefore, my understanding of the world is and always has been from the lens of a woman. From a young age, I was naturally interested in the social factors that shape women’s experiences but even more fascinated by the way women have shaped and continue to shape the world we live in.
Women are strong, determined and resilient. We build communities, friendships, and families. We strive to make a difference in the lives of the people around us and we care and love unconditionally. Yet, we are human and we are real – not perfect. We make mistakes, we regret decisions, we feel tired and at time our hearts feel heavy. We are respected for the many roles we take on and we are rewarded for not giving up, yet this unattainable expectation can leave us depleted and at times our mental health can suffer.
Women’s Mental Health
Women’s mental health is determined by our biological, psychological and social contexts and these influences can have a significant impact on our quality of life. Women are more likely than men to experience mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression. We are also more likely to experience traumatic events that will lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When our mental health is not in balance, we experience an inability to cope with stress, struggle to overcome challenges and experience difficulty recovering from life’s setbacks.
Women’s Reproductive Health
As women, our mental health is closely connected with our reproductive health and the changes that take place with our bodies can inevitably impact our emotional well-being. The journey towards parenthood can vary, yet we know that experiences, such as infertility, miscarriages, pregnancy, birth and postpartum can lead to various mental health changes for women. During these times of transition, women are more vulnerable to experiencing negative mood changes, as we try to understand the shifts that are taking place in our mind and body while attempting to stay afloat in life.
I believe that our mind and bodies are not exclusive, they work in partnership and there are many factors that can support our mental and reproductive health. From a holistic perspective, our health includes our environment, our communities, our social support, the way we move our bodies, the foods we consume and the mental health support we have around us. I am a big fan of talking about, challenging the stigma and embracing women’s mental health. There is great healing power in being able to let go of your fears, worries, and concerns, as well as discussing the challenges, pain, and heartache, while creating new coping strategies and embracing self-care and self-love.
On this International Women’s Day, I encourage you to #beboldforchange however you wish! Whether it’s calling for women’s rights and equality around the world, or celebrating the amazing women in your life. I also encourage you to be grateful for all you do on a daily basis and I welcome you to reflect on what bold changes you need to make, to take care of your mental and reproductive health.
Fernanda Villanueva M.S.W., R.S.W is a mental health therapist. Fernanda has been working in women’s mental and reproductive health for over 10 years. She is the founder of Bloom Therapy Toronto where she provides individual therapy and consulting services in Toronto and the GTA.