Guest post from Leilah Nelson.
Following the birth of my first child my greatest fear was suffering from depression. And being a psychologist I was always quick to self- diagnose!
My family and friends were my lifeline and since then I have never taken my mental health for granted and neither should you. Yet statistics show that many of us might be ignoring the symptoms.
Of the two most common mental illnesses – depression and anxiety, women will experience them both in higher rates than men.
One in five women will experience depression while one in three will experience anxiety.
While genetics plays a part is determining your risk, others contributors include chronic health conditions, personality factors and stressful life events. Life events that can create major stressors are pregnancy, motherhood, menopause, and caring for elderly or unwell family members.
Women are at increased risk of experiencing depression during pregnancy and post child birth for up to a year. Nearly 10% of pregnant women will experience antenatal depression (during pregnancy) increasing to 16% experiencing postnatal depression in the 3 months post birth.
Working mums, while busy caring for others, must be careful not to dismiss the signs and ignore the symptoms of mental health problems.
My tips for maintaining good emotional health while working and caring for your family:
- Cut your TO DO LIST in half. By reducing the daily tasks we expect ourselves to complete we can reduce our stress. Stress is a symptom of anxiety and depression. It can also be a catalyst for many physical related health problems. Remember your brain is an organ too and deserves care and attention.
- Maintain your SOCIAL NETWORKS, especially mothers group and playgroup. Consider the girls night out as sacred. Women, generally speaking, enjoy social communication, be it chatting with girlfriends or going to the movies or theatre. These exchanges allow us time to express our worries and fears and to reach out for support from the group. Statistics show that you are less likely to suffer from depression if you have a strong social network to rely on.
- Prioritise YOUR TIME to do things that MAKE YOU HAPPY. Basically give yourself the permission and the freedom to do things you enjoy, FOR YOURSELF. Working mums are quick to prioritise the needs of their children, their partners, the housework, etc. and often leave little or no time for themselves . Include regular EXERCISE into your routine. Maintaining exercise has been proven in reducing the affects of mental health.
- Take SHORTCUTS and don’t feel GUILTY about it. Often Mums feel pressure to be wife, chef, housemaid, cleaner, nanny, teacher, in short order. We can’t be all things but we can find more efficient ways of doing things (for me that involves employing a cleaner once a fortnight!) Finding a Work/Life BALANCE can help reduce our risk for mental illness.
- Don’t be AFRAID to SEEK HELP. GPs are becoming better trained at diagnosing mental health problems and quicker at referring to counselling services. Medicare will rebate up to 10 sessions with a counsellor if referred by your GP under the banner of mental health. Some employers have an employee assistance program (EAP) with free access to telephone or face-to-face counselling. A lot can be done to improve your mental health through life style changes but for some the answer is medical intervention. Simplified, anti-depressants assist with bringing a chemical balance back to the brain which then allows for counselling to be affective.
For further information on mental health, I have found the following sources useful:
-beyondblue 1300 224 636 (beyondblue.org.au)
-Lifeline 13 11 14 (lifeline.org.au)
-SANE 1800 187 263 (sane.org.au)
-Australian Psychological Society Referral line 1800 333 497 (psychology.org.au/findapsychologist)
Thanks to Beyond Blue for references