Every woman wants to feel safe to be themselves within a group of women; we secretly crave to have a deeper level of intimacy with each other. The Esoteric Women’s Health Well-being for Women group in Melbourne on Sunday 17th March offered just that – the topic discussed was anxiety and stress.
Sara Harris and Bianca Barban, Esoteric Women’s Health practitioners, opened the presentation and workshop with a warm welcome, and this gentle offering from Bianca – “Women are innately wise, we are not here telling you what you don’t already know. Well-Being for Women groups offer presentations that support you to come back to that wisdom that is within yourself.”
We quickly dived into the deep end of the topic of anxiety and stress, one that is on every HR person’s lips in the corporate world, every teacher and youth worker across our education systems and every medical practitioner working on the planet at present. As Allison Macdonald, Senior Counsellor and Psychologist at Melbourne University, shared with us, “The demand is increasing for support around anxiety and stress. Anxiety is the most common mental health issue in Australia, it is far more common then we realise.”
According to the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing in 2007 published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 18% or nearly 1 in 5 women and 11% of men suffer from an anxiety disorder in any 12-month period. However, Allison shared with us that the current trends in her practice are disproportionate to these statistics, her experience was that 100% of the students she treats suffer some form of anxiety. Cynthia Hickman, Melbourne’s Soul Psychologist and Holistic Counsellor, added that 80% of the clients she treats in private practice display symptoms of this noxious mental health illness.
So where does it come from? In simple terms, it is a reaction and/or coping mechanism to the stresses of everyday life. Our duo of psychologists gave the following examples of what commonly triggers this reaction;
- It comes mainly from a person’s expectations and pictures of how they would like their life to be, and if reality looks like it might jeopardise that picture.
- People also worry about the uncertainty of how their future might be and turn out.
- People often compare themselves to others and feel diminished as a result and/or worry about being judged by others.
- In many cases of anxiety, a person will also present with perfectionism.
- People worry in general about a myriad of things, which brings a tendency to try to control outcomes.
As a group, facilitated by Allison and Cynthia, we were given the opportunity to workshop what anxiety looked and felt like in our own lives: it may be called a mental health issue, however what we discovered is that it affects your thoughts, your feelings, and your body.
For women, in this group, we discussed that it came from just thinking about the future, owning your own business, not having enough money, being a caretaker and/or responsible for others’ well-being, the endless list of jobs to do, relationships and so on. Some of the thoughts we experience during times of anxiousness are;
- It’s my job, I have to do it on my own.
- I can’t think clearly, I cannot perform, I am going to lose my job.
- I am not enough, I can’t do it, how am I going to get through this?
- I am not responsible, I am hurting people, and there will be consequences.
- If I put myself out there, I will fail or get criticised.
- Don’t speak up, I will be punished for that.
We further workshopped the behaviours and coping mechanism we use to attempt to deal with anxiety, by avoiding experiencing it:
- Withdrawal from conversations, family, friends, at work and the world.
- Procrastination, putting things off.
- Numbing with food, work, entertainment and emotional dramas.
- Creating lots to do, a list of tasks that never ends.
- Creating a fight with a loved one or work colleague, even a stranger.
- Getting involved in other people’s issues.
- Avoiding situations and avoiding people.
- Constant worry about getting sick – am I going to have a stroke, heart attack or get cancer?
- Turning everything into a joke, pretending things are okay and making it appear to be funny.
- Talking a lot and quickly, gossip and lack of meaningful conversation.
- We use screens (mobiles, laptops, tablets and televisions) as a constant distraction.
Where do we start when it comes to dealing with anxiety now that we have started to define how debilitating this illness is? Having anxiety leads back to a lack of self-worth and having a lack of self-worth is like living with a bully that is constantly beating you up. What makes this more insidious is that sometimes, if not most times, we are not even aware the bully is in the house.
Cynthia presented that we are all born with an essence, a divine spark within that cannot be changed, nor can it be affected by anything or anyone. That while we develop from birth to adulthood it is fundamental for all people to feel the warmth of being held. And that we need to have that same essence that lives within us all be reflected back to us from our parents.
However, this is not what most people experience, they don’t have that solid holding nor the reflection from their parents. Unfortunately, the end result is that people don’t know who they are, they forget how to connect to that divine spark within – this on its own can create anxiety let alone trying to navigate this world without the confidence of who you truly are. This is magnified when there is abuse in childhood, which often leads to more throughout adulthood.
Cynthia offered the following, “The only way to address this is to hold ourselves – each person has an awareness within and we each can choose where to direct that awareness, including towards ourselves. Holding yourself in presence (the connection to the warmth within, the divine spark) is the antidote, it is what is healing.”
We finished the day with a session of Sitting Yoga facilitated by Sandra Dallimore, Yoga of Stillness Practitioner. This practical tool was offered to support us all to re-connect to that divine spark within, to further the support of holding oneself and to confirm the innate wisdom that the group was first reminded of at the beginning of the presentation and workshop.
By Terri-Anne Connors, Business Manager, Melbourne, Australia
The next Well-being for Women presentation and workshop will be held on Sunday 25th August 2019. The theme for this year’s series of talks is, “What does health and well-being mean for women in 2019?” The talks will cover a variety of topics such as stress, anxiety, self-care, exhaustion, women and relationships.
For further inspiration..
Could we take honouring ourselves as women to a deeper level, and what would this look like?
Is there a link between anxiety and our expression?