When it comes to women’s health, Meredith Vieira is quick to point out that some of the most urgent matters don’t take the form of an easily identified physical illness.
The situation at Fox News — namely, ousting host Bill O’Reilly for numerous instances of the sexual harassment of female colleagues — has brought the issue of women’s workplace challenges to the forefront, the veteran journalist says.
“The pressures that women are under and continue to face in the workplace can be so damaging to their psyche and their mental health and trigger all kinds of stresses,” she tells SheKnows.
When it comes to the effects of workplace harassment, the stress symptoms tend to go unnoticed because they’re not a physical illness that’s obviously visible.
“Women tend to take on everybody else’s problem and not take enough time to deal with their own and take care of their own health,” Vieira says. “You’re always thinking ‘I’ve got to do this for my kids or my husband or my parents’ — and I think it’s important to remember that we’re important too.”
Reproductive rights are also something Vieira says she worries about “tremendously, every day.”
Another important health concern for Vieira is making sure that caregivers have access to the support they need to continue to provide assistance for others. Last week, she lit the Empire State Building yellow and orange to celebrate the work of Project Sunshine, a nonprofit organization that provides free educational, recreational and social programs to children and families living with medical challenges.
“Because we have illness in our own family, I’m sensitive to [Project Sunshine’s mission], and I saw what the organization does — it’s literally 15,000 volunteers purely working to bring joy to these kids and their families and let them know they’re not alone and show them there’s hope out there,” she adds.
Vieira says she appreciates the work Project Sunshine does because “they see illness in a holistic sense — it’s not just the child who is ill; it affects the entire family.” She has experienced this firsthand in her own family with her husband’s multiple sclerosis.
“It’s a family affair,” she notes. “Everybody feels it one way or another.”
The mental health of caregivers is also often overlooked, Vieira says. In addition to the pressures of dealing with a loved one’s illness, there’s also “the guilt, the isolation, the loneliness, the fear,” she adds.
“You have to be the cheerleader for the person who is ill, and at the same time, you need a little bit of that, so it’s really important to take into account the caregivers,” Vieira says.
Her advice to caregivers: “Reach out for help.” She explains that when you feel isolated, your instinct is to “hunker down” because you don’t want to intrude on your family or friends. But in her experience, they actually want to help, but may not know what to say or do to initiate it.
“Admit that you need somebody’s shoulder, somebody to come by and help,” Vieira says. “Don’t take that all on yourself because it can debilitate you, and if you’re debilitated then nothing’s going to work.”
And if your form of self-care involves a couch and a Netflix binge, Vieira has a recommendation: Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, a six-part Netflix-produced series on women in the porn industry, which she calls “very, very empowering.”