Danielle Johnson, M.D., is a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at the Lindner Center of HOPE. She is also one of the architects of its Women’s Mental Health Program. This group of all women psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and a therapist treat women with mental health symptoms related to the reproductive life cycle–menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause and menopause and infertility. “Many women are simply more comfortable discussing issues concerning reproduction and their mental health with another woman,” Dr. Johnson says.
Her own personal journey led her into this female-focused specialty. “During my psychiatry residency at the University of Cincinnati, after giving birth to my son, I had the ‘baby blues’ which up to 80% of women experience. I was concerned about developing postpartum depression and I couldn’t find a physician who specializes in that area. I realized that if I, someone with medical knowledge felt lost, then other women do too,” says Dr. Johnson. We talked with Dr. Johnson about four key areas to strive for better mental health.
Many women are simply more comfortable discussing issues concerning reproduction and their mental health with another woman.
Do not underestimate the importance of sleep. Women are 40% more likely than men to have sleep problems. Hormonal changes, stress, anxiety and depression can all intrude on adequate sleep. Sleep quality and quantity can be a cause and consequence of mental health problems. To improve sleep, keep a consistent sleep and wake schedule, limit alcohol and caffeine, get into bed earlier and reduce pre-bed screen time. Keep bedroom temperature cool and try meditation to unwind. Getting good, restorative sleep is one of the best things you can do to promote better mental health and wellness.
TUNE IN TO YOU
Pay attention to how you’re feeling. Are daily stressors suddenly causing you to lash out or lose patience? Do you feel overwhelmed? Think about the coping behaviors you’re using to manage your stress. Are you drinking more, using substances, overeating or avoiding people? Try to refocus on positive coping skills that enhance mental health like exercise, meditation, deep breathing and journaling. If you still feel ‘off’, reach out to your primary care provider or seek help with a licensed therapist. Remember, you don’t have to be in a crisis to see a therapist. Sometimes therapy helps you gain better clarity or simply maintain stability.
DON’T BE SUPERWOMAN
You don’t have to do everything for everyone. Many women in primary caregiver roles are also juggling the demands of working from home during the pandemic. Recognize that you can’t give your best to others when you aren’t taking care of yourself. Set boundaries; it’s ok to say no – don’t overextend yourself with commitments and obligations. Establish a good support system, ask for help and accept that they might not do things the way you do. Letting others pitch in doesn’t mean you’re failing. Feeling supported can go a long way towards good mental health.
Learn more about the symptoms of depression and anxiety–you may not realize you have an underlying issue that can be treated. It’s common to think what you’re experiencing is a natural reaction to being overtired, overworked or overstressed. While these factors may contribute to your symptoms, pushing through is not usually the best way to feel better. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. If you think you need treatment, your primary care provider is a great place to start.
To learn more about the Women’s Mental Health Program, call 513.536.4673(HOPE) or visit LindnerCenterofHope.org.