Have I left something on the gas stove? Why is my child getting late to reach home? Got late in office, will I have time to cook dinner?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), an estimated 264 million people worldwide have an anxiety disorder. However, from puberty to age 50, women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. In the past year, prevalence of any anxiety disorder was higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%).
Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions - just as real and serious as physical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes. The term "anxiety disorder" refers to specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, and includes generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias.
Main anxiety points for women of today are managing household chores, unending work cycle at home like cooking, cleaning, washing, grocery shopping, balancing work and family life. Bijo Joseph, mental health counsellor recently founded, Bijoyful Foundation, a non-profit holistic based organisation set up to help people with mental problems. He says, “For working women the trouble is double as she has to meet the expectations at work and balance family, her household responsibilities as well. Other factors include the Superwoman syndrome, hormonal changes (pregnancy, lactation and menopause) weight gain and self neglect, adjustment problems, raising kids, schooling, parenting, relationship issues, managing teenage problem of kids, career issues of kids, over concern about raising children. We can bucket sources for anxiety 5 main drivers - household, career, hormonal, family and kids.”
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety
Feeling nervous, irritable or on edge
Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
Having an increased heart rate
Having trouble sleeping
Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
Feeling weak or tired
Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
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How has Covid 19 aggravated these anxiety levels? Bijo shares, “In the early phase of lockdown, women had to balance office and household work without maids. There is anxiety related to contamination with virus, obsessions about cleanliness, compulsive acts of cleaning. Adjustment problem with the new normal. Another cause of anxiety is financial uncertainty. Like fear of loss of job, scarcity of resources, etc.”
Work from home has perpetuated stress as there are no timelines and women have to juggle daily chores too. “Technology has invaded our lives. I remember suggesting to parents to restrict screen time of children to not more than 1 hr. Now their online classes alone take 4 hrs which is another cause of stress and anxiety for mothers,” he adds.
Here are some tips he recommends for women to alleviate their stress:
1. Avoid over consumption of news
While keeping up to date is important, rumours and misinformation can add to your worry. A father used to listen to news 14 hours/day - this not only caused him stress and worry but it passed on to his daughter who began to experience heightened anxiety that led her to a need to wash her hands for long duration, often. So watch news or other sources of information only to the bare minimum necessary.
2. Social distancing is important but keep connecting with your community and loved ones
Try taking time to check-in your close contacts/friends by calling, texting or on video chat. One of our clients shared her experience of a friend reaching out and asking how she was feeling. It was only when her friend persisted with the same question a couple of times that she opened up about her feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
3. When we look after our physical health our mental health can feel the benefits too.
A balanced nutritious diet produces an healthy body and mind. When one of my clients cut her sugar and caffeine, she found relief from her low energy and mood slumps. Most women can benefit from getting fresh air through a daily walk, adequate rest and sleep. They should try doing this by keeping technology out of their bedrooms - keep phones on silent mode at least for some time.
4. Just Breathe
Just focusing on your breath can make a big difference to your overall stress level. Breathing techniques can calm your body and your brain in just a few minutes. Changing how you breathe can help reduce anxiety. Breathing in for 4 seconds and breathing out for 8 seconds really helps in coping with anxiety.
Meditation not only brings short-term stress relief but lasting stress management benefits. It restores the body to a calm state, helping the body repair itself and preventing new damage from the physical effects of stress.
5. Relax, find a hobby
Try a new hobby or something you enjoy or excelled in your childhood. One middle-aged woman restarted her Bharatnatyam dance classes while another tried her hands at Baking during Covid. Both experienced a sense of achievement and it helped them manage their stress.
Bijo advises, “While my tips may be simple, they are not necessarily easy to practise. It requires effort and discipline to yield the desired benefit. Remember first to be kind and show compassion on yourself.”