A woman’s work……
Women have better access to education and career opportunities than ever before, and with advances in healthcare, this means we can expect to live even longer.
Whilst this may be true, women still seem to be the ones shouldering the bulk of society’s emotional labour, supporting and caring for family and friends, remembering everyone’s birthdays, organising social events and even finding the time to call in to check on someone who’s ill.
It’s not hard to find reasons why anxiety and other mental health conditions are on the increase. We’re working longer hours than ever, with one in three of us reporting that we’re feeling overwhelmed by technology, answering e-mails at all hours. Over time, this is bound to have a negative effect, depleting our mental resources.
Taking care of loved ones is a prime example. Caring feeds your sense of purpose, but too little can make you feel isolated and too much can drain you. Common signs that your emotional tank is empty include experiencing problems sleeping, feeling irritable and finding it hard to concentrate. We all know that we need to top up our emotional reserves on a regular basis, but we’re not always that good at prioritising it. Caring can put you at risk of burnout and it’s tough to put self-care at the top of the agenda after you find your own health has broken down. As with any bank account (emotional or otherwise), you can’t keep withdrawing resources without putting anything back! You must take responsibility for your own resilience.
Feeling appreciated can protect against the impact of this emotional labour, which sometimes means patting yourself on the back. Journaling can be a good way to take time out for self-appreciation. Write down how you’re feeling and what you’re proud of having achieved. Then answer questions such as, “How is my sleep?” “What’s my ideal day?” and “How close am I to it?” You can then see where and if you need to make any changes.
Empathic people are at risk of emotional contagion, absorbing the moods and stresses of those around them. Studies have found such stresses to be as contagious as the ‘flu virus, with a ‘stressed’ person ‘infecting’ the whole office or home! If you’re at risk, visualising a forcefield around you that keeps other people’s stress out can work wonders. Use an image that works for you – whether it’s an invisible bubble or a sheet of glass, simply picture waves of these stressful vibes bouncing off it. I imagine this bubble, on a regular basis, coming down over my head and enveloping my whole body, as I play out the Thunderbirds theme tune in my head! Call me crazy if you like, but it works for me! It allows me to listen, without absorbing any negative emotions, so bypassing the racket they can create in my head, leaving me in a much better place to support my clients.
The latest figures show that among 25 to 54-year olds, women are 1.5 times more likely, than their male colleagues, to suffer from work-related stress, anxiety and depression. One major factor is that women are more prone to ‘role-stress’: the conflict of being physically at work, but mentally with your family, and vice versa. After all, it’s still mum who is called by the school when a child is unwell.
Women can also be more vulnerable to the effects of ‘surface acting’: the disconnect between an outward work persona and how you’re really feeling. It’s still not acceptable for a woman to show frustration or anger at work – a woman is seen as out of control when this happens, whereas a man is seen as authoritative or knowing what he wants ….and this pressure of maintaining such a persona increases the risk of burnout.
This Mothering Sunday, please let’s honour all the special women we have in our lives and spend time with them, without a sense of obligation, but with love in our hearts, making sure we care for ourselves as much as we care for others. Happy Mother’s Day!!