Tag Archive | women’s health

Sorcha’s Healthy Living

This feature is part of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, ‘Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series. Written by Sorcha Mc Elchar, a qualified Nutritionist, Healthy Lifestyle Blogger, columnist, Fitness instructor, and YouTuber from Donegal.


My nutrition story began early on and from a very young age. I had a keen interest in Nutrition and still have a project from Primary School where we had to write what we wanted to be in the future. Some of my classmates wrote they wanted to be a Hairdresser, a Guard, a Teacher etc but what did I write…. a Dietitian. Most 12-year-olds didn’t even know what a Dietitian was…but unfortunately, I did because I had met several growing up…. along with numerous Doctors, Consultants, and Nurses. Why was that? …I hear you say.

At the age of two I became very ill. It began with sore eyes so bad I couldn’t bare to go out in daylight (I also had very pale skin so you could be thinking Vampire here….) but along with chronic diarrhoea and a failure to thrive the Doctors just couldn’t figure out the cause. That was until at age four when I went into a full body cramp (very painful) and it was discovered my blood Calcium levels were extremely low and I was finally diagnosed with a rare Auto-immune Disease called APECED syndrome. Due to two faulty genes, my Immune system was attacking the hormone producing glands in my body. My failure to thrive was because my gut didn’t absorb enough nutrients from my food. The Dietitians tried everything to help me put on weight from shakes to a ‘green card’ allowing me to eat as much junk food as I could…but nothing worked. If I managed to put on a few kilos I would become ill and lose it all again. Life was running in a vicious circle. I had no quality of life. It was either school (if I was well enough) hospital or home. I had no energy for anything else. If I managed a full week of school, we celebrated.

Then at age 17 my Doctors decided I wasn’t going to live much longer if they couldn’t get enough nutrients into me so in a last ditch attempt to save me I was put on a specialised personal Intravenous Nutrition that bypassed my Gut entirely through a permanent central line in my chest at allow the nutrition to go straight into my bloodstream. Then a miracle happened…. within days we could see improvements. I had more energy, I slept better, I caught less infections, I wasn’t cold all the time. my hair, skin and nails were healthier looking. I also felt happier in myself and stronger.


This was my light bulb moment where I saw how important Nutrition was. I still had my condition…I still had loads of medication to take…. I wasn’t cured… but my quality of life improved one hundred-fold.
Thankfully growing up my parents instilled in me the importance of hard work and perseverance. I also had an amazing SNA at Secondary school Trisha Redmond (Finn Valley College) who helped push me out of my comfort zone more and I realised I could do a lot more than I thought I could if I just put my mind to it and now, I had the energy to do this!


I was able to start dance classes with Aislingi Academy in Stranorlar and there I found a new ‘happy place’ where I could get stronger and foster a love for performing. In time I started college at LYIT doing an honours degree in Food Science & Nutrition where I graduated with a first-class degree thanks to the amazing support from my PA’s Therese Fitzsimmons and Bernie Alcorn and all my lecturers who realised despite my illness I was willing to give them 110%. The Disability officer Rosin Mc Cormack in LYIT and everyone at the Curve including the College Nurse Hannah Glackin saw my abilities instead of my disabilities and encouraged me all the way.


When I graduated, we were in lockdown so even though I had ideas of where I could get a job, I had to stay isolated due to my immune deficiency. So Covid motivated me to set up sorchashealthyliving.com where I Blog scientifically sound Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle advice. I also upload videos to my Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channel and offer one-to-one Nutrition and Lifestyle consultations and packages which can be found on my webpage and Facebook page.
My goal is to help people realise how important good Nutrition is, because healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Small steps can often make the biggest change….and most importantly….enjoy food!

Contact details for Sorcha: 

Visit her website at: sorchashealthyliving.com

Email: sorchashealthyliving@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SorchasHealthyLiving/

https://www.instagram.com/sorchashealthyliving/

https://www.tiktok.com/@sorchas_healthy_living?


Sorcha’s Healthy Living YouTube Channel


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Art of Wellness Programme for Women

NCCWN Donegal is pleased to announce the launch of our ‘Art of Wellness Programme for Women’, which is being supported through the Healthy Ireland Community Mental Health Small Grant Scheme.

As part of the programme we will be offering a number of courses, workshops and activities which support, promote and provide knowledge and skills to support women’s mental health and wellbeing.

We are delighted to start the programme by offering the ‘Wellbeing for Women with Nature in Mind’ course by Michaela Mc Daid Ecotherapy. This unique 4-week course will introduce you to Ecotherapy and the importance of connecting with nature for better mental health. 

Over the four sessions, using the four seasons as a framework you will be guided on how you can use personal reflection to create space to reconnect with ourselves, journaling as a means of letting go, how to nurture gratitude and hope within our lives, engage in small group discussions and of course, have a laugh along the way!

The course will start on Saturday 27th February 10.30am-12pm, via Zoom for 4-weeks and we do require that participants can commit to all four sessions.

If you would like to sign up for this FREE course please fill in the online form here and Donegal women’s network will be in contact with you to confirm your place.

Booking is essential, so please book early to avoid disappointment.


This programme is funded through Healthy Ireland Community Mental Health Small Grant Scheme

Covid-19: Amplifying Gender Inequality

Undoubtedly the Covid-19 Pandemic has impacted and changed the way people in Ireland have been living their lives since March 2020. Data and prior research highlight that men and women are impacted by pandemics differently and that they can amplify existing inequalities. Organisations such as the United Nations have identified women as being one of the most vulnerable groups that are being hit hardest by the pandemic. While it has been suggested that the coronavirus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality.

“Women are doing significantly more domestic chores and family care, because of the impact of the pandemic. Everything we worked for, that has taken 25 years, could be lost in a year,” says UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia.

Employment and education opportunities could be lost, and women may suffer from poorer mental and physical health. The care burden poses a “real risk of reverting to 1950s gender stereotypes”, Ms Bhatia stated [1]


As a grassroots women’s organisation NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network recognised early that women in Donegal will face unique experiences, challenges and impacts during the pandemic because of their gender. We believe it is important women in Donegal have their lived experiences through the Covid-19 pandemic documented, recognised and acknowledged. And that women’s experiences and voices are acknowledged within any local and national post Covid-19 recovery strategy and that decision-making bodies recognise the particular experiences of women’s lives in society and tailor any recovery budgets, policies, plans and programmes accordingly.

To support this, we carried out a county survey to capture information that would allow us to understand the impact of the pandemic on women’s lives in Donegal.


The survey findings provide a snapshot into the lived experiences of women during the March-June first wave restriction period in Donegal. It is evident from the data gathered that the Covid-19 pandemic has created additional stresses for women in the County and added pressure to existing gender inequalities and gender stereotypes.  

832 women took part in the survey, and talked about a number of issues and challenges they have faced between the March-June 2020, pandemic period. Which included dealing with additional household workload, increased caring responsibilities; dealing with post-traumatic stress with Covid-19 restrictions re-triggering past traumatic experiences, going through pregnancy during the pandemic, dealing with ongoing health issues while trying to stay safe through the pandemic.


Some of the most common themes raised by women with children which directly impacted their mental health related to childcare and work. Many of these women talked about the additional workload and the challenge of balancing working from home and childcare, expectations. 

While women living with a partner highlighted that even with a partner or husband in the house, it still fell on them to be responsible for childcare. Home-schooling was a particular issue raised by women, many stated that they had experienced an assumption by their partner that it would be them who would look after home-schooling. Which was a cause of frustration for women.

Many women particularly young women, women living in their own and lone parent mothers highlighted experiencing feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness. With constant worrying and isolation leading to sleep issues. Being away from friends and family also contributed to this. For others stress and anxiety was being brought on by worrying about the uncertainty of the future, finances and how they were going to pay bills if no work continued because of Covid-19.

Isolation and loneliness were particular areas of mental health that was experienced by women with 60.4% of women reporting that they have experienced feelings of isolation and 57% reported feelings of loneliness since Covid-19. These levels were particularly high for young women, lone parent mothers, single women and women living alone.


Additional stresses were also brought about from a feeling of expectation that with more free time now you should be doing stuff and being active at home all the time when in reality you’re just trying to cope with getting through the day. While women who were front-line workers also expressed that their mental health was being impacted by a lack of support from their employers in relation to new workloads, personal safety and proper communication during the months between March and June 2020. 

Survey results showed that, 61.1% of women living in Donegal feel that their mental health has been impacted by Covid-19. This percentage increased to 78% for women within the 18-25 age group and 70% for women between 26-40 years of age. While women living in the Buncrana Electoral Area had the highest percentage at 68% and 68.6% of women with a civil status of living with a partner had the highest percentage for any civil status category.

And while the survey also highlights that women in Donegal have come to learn, develop and adapt to the new way of living, a question that must be asked is at what cost to their long-term mental health? Is this adaptation and change sustainable in the long term or even fair? And is there significant capacity within mental health support services locally to meet future demand?


From a gender lens analysis perspective, some of the challenges and additional stresses experienced by women during the Covid-19 pandemic can be attributed to issues of gender inequality. However, when women in the survey were asked if they thought Covid-19 had highlighted gender inequality gaps in Ireland, with the given options of; Yes, No and Didn’t know, 23.8% of women said YES, 23.9% said NO and 52.3% said they didn’t know. These statistics would indicate that there needs to be a better understanding about gender inequality and its impact on women’s lives.

Women in the 26-40 years’ category reported the highest level in Increased physical household workload for any age group; while women Living with partner reported the highest level in the civil status category with married women coming a close second; within the household category, lone parent mothers and women in living alone other reported the highest experienced increase in physical household workload.

The findings highlighted that the majority of childcare responsibilities and housework is falling onto women, that within households there is an assumption it will be the woman who is solely responsible for this area of work.  While there may be situations where this is agreed upon, the vast majority of the experiences expressed by women would indicate that there is often no agreement within relationships but rather an assumption. Such assumptions are likely built by continued held social gender stereotypes, that a woman’s role is to look after the children and family home. Such stereotypes are detrimental to achieving gender equality and the healthy sustainable development of our society.

Women in the 18-25 years’ category (54%) reported the highest level in supporting a family/community member cocooning due to the pandemic, for any age group; while women Living with partner (53%) reported the highest level in the civil status category; within the household category, women in living alone (49%) and women living with a partner and child/children (49.7%) reported the highest level in supporting a family/community member cocooning


Fundamentally as we all learn to live with around Covid-19 and health measures we also need to ensure that we are adopting measures and a way of living that supports the growth of gender equality and does not reinforce gender inequality structures.

You can download a full copy of the Impact Survey Report below.


[1] Coronavirus and gender: More chores for women set back gains in equality; By Sandrine Lungumbu and Amelia Butterly,  November 2020 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-55016842?fbclid=IwAR3BiPLXq7H-_Q6pJygRsaChN1GKKAzv3-NKONWbtkzi9WfQrP8p4mqY6gU

 

Learn how to feel good about yourself

Since the global outbreak of the Covid-19 the United Nations have identified women as being one of the most vulnerable groups that are being hit hardest by the pandemic. This is also evident locally too.

The results of the NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network, Covid-19 impact survey reveal that 61.1% of women in Donegal feel their mental health had been impacted by Covid-19, with 36.7% of women stating that they have had less time to look after their mental health and wellbeing since March.

The survey further identified lone parents, single women and women living alone were particularly experiencing higher levels of mental health impacts with increased feelings of isolation and loneliness.

As a grassroots women’s organisation NCCWN Donegal seek to response to identified needs where we can.  We are therefore pleased to be taking bookings for the Covid to Calm course for women starting in November.  

This is a FREE 4-week online group course, being offered to young single women (26-40yrs) in an evening session starting on Wednesday 4th November, 7.30-9.00pm, and lone parent mothers (26-40yrs) in a morning session starting on Thursday 5th November, 10.30am-12pm.

The aim of this course is to support women in their health and wellness, promoting personal development, well-being and positive mental health. This course will be interactive, with talks, presentations, videos, groups discussion and many other activities.

If you would like to sign up for this course please fill our online form here https://forms.gle/kyWSDCCTLaVRki8g9

For further information please contact NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network by email on donegalwomensnetwork@gmail.com. Booking is essential, book early to avoid disappointment.

This course is funded by Donegal ETB Community Education Support Programme.

We hope to offer further courses like this in 2021 to support more women in Donegal. If you don’t fit into the November course criteria please drop us an email if you would be interested in any future courses.