Our idea of normal is sometimes incompatible with a healthy state of mind or even our happiness
Here are 10 things we should all be normalising this Women’s Month and beyond for better mental health.
1. Normalise that “normal” doesn’t exist
Let’s set things straight from the start; there is no normal or right way to think, act, behave or live. There are just social constructs around what women should study, when they should marry, whether they should have children and countless other things. Your way is your normal and that is really the only normal that matters.
2. Normalise financial independence
Financial independence is key to empowering women. In fact, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that financial independence is key to the fight against gender-based violence. Normalising financial independence is about making smart decisions, saying no to debt, saving where you can and taking charge of your money, says Aimee Miller, Marketing and Sales Manager at Teljoy, the country’s foremost Rent-to-Own company.
3. Normalise supporting other women
“Girl, I’ve got your back” needs to be the mantra of all women everywhere. We can’t expect support if we don’t start by raising each other up,” Miller shares. Support takes on many forms – it’s encouragement, congratulations, a kind note, an attentive ear, it’s speaking up for her, it’s believing in the power and impact of the collective.
4. Normalise talking about the physical stuff
Periods, sex, birth and breastfeeding are all normal physical things that happen to women and that are okay to talk about. “Women run companies and countries, but we breastfeed in the broom cupboard at work, or fake a “headache’” when in fact it’s crippling period pain that’s got us off our game,” Miller says.
5. Normalise complimenting women
Whether it’s on their appearance or on the quality of their thinking or decision making, let’s normalise letting women know when it’s a job well done. By the same token, we also need to normalise accepting a compliment graciously with a simple thank you and quiet appreciation for the kind words. It’s not “normal” to respond to a compliment with “oh, this old thing” or “I wasn’t sure if it is a valid point”.
6. Normalise including women in the conversation
For centuries women kept their mouths shut and others spoke on their behalf, making decisions without consulting them and not bothering to ask for their opinion. Luckily it’s now 2020 and women are central to the conversation. “While much of the world has accepted women’s place at the table, we’re far from perfect equality and must remain mindful of including women,” Miller advocates.
7. Normalise saying no
Respect when others say no and mean it when you say no yourself. “Learning to say no without explaining yourself is one of the most empowering things a woman can do for herself,” Miller believes. This goes for everything from saying no to inappropriate advances from a colleague to no to lunch with your in-laws. Importantly, it’s also normalising the no to yourself for the new car you can’t really afford (see point 2 above) or taking on a voluntary project that you know will cause you sleepless nights.
8. Normalise talking about mental health
“We rarely hesitate to talk about physical health, be it a back injury or persistent chest pains, but think twice before revealing our feelings of overwhelm, sadness, anxiety or hopelessness, which can be far worse and harder to treat,” Miller points out. Mental health issues are on the rise worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation, and while there’s much policy work to be done, we can all contribute to normalising mental health by talking about it in an informed but sensitive manner to help reduce the stigma.
9. Normalise taking time out
All work and no play didn’t just make Jack a dull boy. It makes Jill an exhausted girl unable to live her best life. Taking time out is as important as working. “Make your down-time a priority and really switch off. Answering work calls after hours, working every weekend and never getting more than six hours sleep a night doesn’t need to be normal,” Miller says.
10. Normalise not wearing a bra
Because you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Beginning and end of story!
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