The second wave of the pandemic has taken our country by surprise. From experiencing grief over the loss of loved ones to discovering new hobbies, there has been a drastic transformation in the Indian communities, impacting people’s professional and personal lives. However, Indian women have been affected most severely. In light of COVID-19, women have been submerged in household chores and caretaking while also managing their professional lives, in the case of working women. The added workload in these uncertain times has enforced various behavioural changes in women about household decisions and lifestyle choices like food, skincare, immunity, health, among other factors.
Food For Thought
A collaborative study by DMC Insights, MomJunction and HerHQ Media, named ‘DeMISStifying Her Pre Vs Post COVID-19 Behaviour’, noted that regarding food-related habits, cooking has always been an elaborate process, with Indian women spending more than 14.2 hours a week on it. However, post-pandemic, 37 per cent of women formed an inclination towards easy meal-making instead of extensive cooking, leading to a change in the type of meals cooked. Subsequently, 33 per cent of women observed an increase in the consumption of ready-to-eat food products due to their better hygiene than ordering from outside or visiting restaurants.
On the other hand, post-pandemic, some women have become health-conscious and prefer freshly cooked food over packaged food. Due to an increase in the frequency of food consumption, binge-eating, and quick meal fixing, their buying patterns have evolved, with almost 50 per cent of women stocking up more food post-COVID. Owing to this, 39 per cent of women claimed that there was an increase in their grocery consumption.
Beauty And Wellness
Due to restricted mobility and high risks, the skincare and overall health of women also shifted radically. Limited access to beauty salons and grooming services acted as the key reasons behind the magnified use of these products, whereas 41 per cent of women in the Demisstifying report supported that sensitivities towards overall health became the reason for their increase.
For overall health, women maintained their immunity even before COVID, with 66 per cent of women claiming that immunity-boosting activities were a part of their routine even before COVID, and this continues now. However, with 62 per cent of women claiming that they aren’t exercising post-COVID, their physical exercise regime has been absent, which could stem from limited mobility. Subsequently, 16 per cent of women who weren’t exercising before are doing so, which possibly originates from the pandemic paranoia.
While women are working from home, they also have to work at home. Women’s occupational status has majorly contributed to an increase in their workload post-COVID, with 63 per cent of women and 47 per cent of homemakers stating in the Demisstifying report that their household chores had increased. With women shouldering extreme pressure, 19 per cent of women claimed that their husband’s contribution to household chores had increased.
The silver lining of this situation has been the strengthening of bonds between spouses, as agreed by 72 per cent of women from the Femina Urban Homemaker Report 2020. Women also took up various activities to alleviate the strain of the pandemic, such as experimenting with food, watching online videos, streaming shows, among other leisure activities. 17 per cent of Femina homemakers explored physical exercises like yoga, aerobics, etc. during the lockdown. This nerve-wracking situation has led to an adverse impact on the mental health of women. Due to reasons like lack of housekeepers, increased expenses, and increased time in the kitchen, salary cut of the spouse, and children’s education, 38 per cent of women have observed deterioration in their mental health.
However, despite umpteen adversities, these women haven’t given up. Their indomitable spirit sets an exemplary example before everyone- to move ahead.
Here is what experts across industries have to note on the impact of COVID-19 on women.
Nutritionist and holistic wellness and food coach, and founder of Right Living
Women are known to be mentally strong and brilliant multi-taskers. But the COVID Pandemic has brought about serious issues with their overall wellness. Organizations like CARE and the UN have brought to light serious setbacks that women’s mental and physical health has taken during the year and a half of the pandemic globally.
Unfortunately, there has been a rise in physical abuse on women, especially during these unprecedented times. Additional responsibilities at home with or without help from other members of the family (women being the primary caregivers) have only deepened the chasm in their relationship with mental health. Studies show that there has been a 27 per cent peak in mental illness, anxiety, and depression amongst women across the globe during the corona pandemic as opposed to a 10 per cent peak amongst men.
Worries about putting food on the table, managing careers alongside, possible pay cuts, managing children at home 24/7 (especially the young ones below the age of 8years), and reduced access to healthcare facilities have taken a heavy toll on their sense of positivity and wellbeing. Studies by nutrition health bodies also show that regular physical activity and social interaction can help fight depression and maintain better mental equilibrium which unfortunately has been compromised due to the shutting down of recreational areas like parks, gyms, sports centres, and restrictions at cafes and restaurants.
The globe had come a long way in improving its outreach in health care for the sexual and reproductive health of women which again has taken a beating due to the pandemic. Reaching doctors easily, the fear of going to hospitals for scans and other required facilities has not been easy added to the trauma of worrying about safe delivery at the hospital.
Prolonged stresses affect also a woman’s period cycle bringing in it’s a separate set of issues like weight gain, the risk to PCOD, and possible gut issues. All of these factors need deep consideration and practices must be set up by healthcare facilities and helplines to help women combatting health and wellness concerns during the pandemic.”
Yash Vardhan Swami
Celebrity health and fitness educator and coach
The pandemic has led to a lot of ups and downs in our lives. From COVID stress to restricted movements and messed up eating habits. So, what are the biggest challenges women have been facing during the lockdown/WFH period?
Lack of activity: As proven in a lot of medical researches (even in cases of COVID), regular activity and exercising are great for cardiovascular and lymphatic health, immunity and burning calories (to keep weight gain at bay). But due to the COVID scare and work from home, activity has gone down. How do we tackle this? By being creative with workouts at home… Doing bodyweight workouts, yoga, Tabata or even dancing as also stair climbing at home if knee health is not an issue. And even staying active by walking more especially while talking on the phone, texting and scrolling through Instagram etc!
Increased consumption of food: A lot of us have the habit of ‘boredom eating’. Since we cannot go out, we have a lot of time to ourselves, leading to us eating more food. This effect is amplified due to stress. Stress can increase our food cravings too. How do we deal with this? Hydrating properly might help with cravings. Choosing low-calorie high protein snacks, fruits and salads instead of high-calorie food can help us mitigate this issue. Managing stress would also indirectly help with our cravings and even productivity. Reduced activity and increased consumption of food can put us in a positive energy balance i.e. consuming more calories than we burn, leading to ‘unwanted’ weight gain. However, tackling this is easy
Apart from these two, I would also like to keep an eye on getting enough sleep at night (7+ Hours), being aware of posture (due to long sitting hours) and getting enough sunlight exposure during the day along with all essential nutrients in our diet, from protein to fibre to all essential vitamins and minerals.”
M.S.W., PhD, Professor, Researcher, and Coach for Working Women Belonging to South Asian Cultures and author of the ‘Five Minute Break for Mediation and Yoga manual’
On one end of the continuum are ‘Working Women and Homemakers with children’ who have not faced any personal experience of COVID disease or loss but who have struggled with a sense of generalized stress and anxiety – worrying about the infection, time management to accommodating dual routines at home, and with mentally never being off duty. A number of surveys done by corporate advisories like McKinsey have reported this. On the other end are women who have faced the loss, of people they love, of personal health, or jobs… their depression and trauma will likely last unless treated. The physiological impact of the disease including ‘brain scatter’ or disorientation and compromised long term immunity are still being researched and we expect it to be around for a few years.
Socially, this social distancing norm has had severe consequences for Indian women as ours is a collectivist culture and survives on social gatherings. For women, it also means, their caregiving responsibilities within homes to young and old will need more time and effort when they themselves are coping. At such times, what helps is spirituality, planned and regular connectedness with the community – friends, family, colleagues through phone calls and texts and groups. Advice on nutrition and sleep, and investing in mental health counselling are going to be critical needs.”
– Inputs by Saher Khanna