A number of factors have made the pandemic uniquely difficult for women. As the traditional caregivers in families, women may have to take on a much heavier burden during times like the pandemic, when schools are virtual and older relatives may need care. This stress is equally applicable to the many men who are their family’s caregivers.
“For many women, and caregivers in general, this pandemic has blurred the lines of what their roles are,” said Dr. Geeta Tadepalli, a Marshfield Clinic Health System psychiatrist. “We’re working from home, trying to uphold our professional roles, while also dealing with having kids and pets around us. We may get distracted by household chores and duties and feel the need to maximize every minute of down time to get various tasks done.”
Tadepalli said women patients are also talking more these days about stress in their relationships with their children, partners and friends.
“We have this increased level of anxiety, but there’s no outlet because there’s no concept of me-time right now,” she said. “It gets hard to find even five minutes for yourself. That wears on people after a while; both genders are facing this and it’s taking a toll on their mental health.”
Domestic violence a growing concern
Tadepalli noted a unique concern for women: pandemic and social distancing has led to social-isolation. This has led to increased risk for domestic violence. As partners are in close quarters for such extended periods of time, they may criticize each other more, argue more and this can lead to violence. In addition, many domestic violence shelters for women are closed because of the pandemic.
Tadepalli advises her female patients on ways to keep situations with their partners from escalating and how to develop a safety plan to remove themselves from the relationship, if necessary.
Let it out
For women who are not in a violent relationship, but are still struggling with the stress of the pandemic, Tadepalli suggests a few options for coping. She suggests that if one partner is at work and the other is home, they both get 15 minutes to vent about their day to each other in the evening.
“You don’t interrupt, you just listen. And that is so important. It makes you and your partner feel validated and heard,” Tadepalli said. “The goal isn’t to solve the issue, but rather to express the emotion and let it out.”
“What I want people to realize is that we are all in a period of acute stress, and it doesn’t make you a bad person to feel angry or frustrated,” Tadepalli said. “This is a unique circumstance we’re in and we need to work through it without throwing each other under the bus. Treating each other with grace and mutual respect is vital.”
If you feel you need someone to talk to about your stressors, talk with your primary care provider or your behavioral health provider.