Like so many things linked to childbirth, women’s emotions both during and after pregnancy can be incredibly hard to predict.
And while society has gradually become better at helping new mothers identify postpartum feelings of depression, sadness and withdrawal, other symptoms associated with giving birth haven’t been as widely explored.
I’m speaking today about postpartum anxiety.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM ANXIETY?
Together with its more well-known counterpart, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety affects approximately 23% of Canadian mothers, according to Statistics Canada. It is characterized by excessive nervousness, nonstop worry and an inability to relax in the aftermath of childbirth that impacts a mother’s ability to care for herself and her newborn child.
Unfortunately, these signs often go undiagnosed by medical professionals or get lumped in with “new mom jitters” that so many women experience in the frenzied days and months following delivery.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP?
A reasonable amount of worry is to be expected after having a baby, especially as a first-time parent. It’s when those feelings of fear or panic become overwhelming (for example: you avoid leaving the house with your baby out of fear they’ll get sick or hurt or you can’t sleep for worry of leaving them unattended) that it’s time to seek additional support.
If you’re feeling overcome with anxiety after giving birth, speak to your pediatrician or OBGYN about getting help, including asking for a referral to a therapist with perinatal experience. Speaking to an expert can be beneficial in and of itself but they can also provide evidence-based solutions, like grounding exercises and controlled breathing techniques, aimed at promoting relaxation.
Medication that is safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding may also be recommended in the case of extreme postpartum anxiety.
Though often harder to recognize and more seldom discussed than postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety is a real condition affecting a significant percentage of new moms. Thankfully, it is also highly treatable and does not have to define your experience of motherhood.
Do not hesitate to seek help if you or someone you love is showing signs of postpartum anxiety. It’s never too late and support is always available.
You registered them in the middle of winter thinking you’d have more than enough time to get prepared, but now the start of summer camp is around the corner and…well…you’re both feeling a bit unsettled.
Rest assured those feelings are completely normal— especially if this is your child’s first time away from home. Thankfully, with the right combination of positivity and planning, you can ease your own mind and help make their first summer camp experience one to remember.
PROS OF SUMMER CAMP
First and foremost, it’s important to remember why you thought camp was a good idea in the first place!
The upsides of summer camp are many. From developing leadership and social skills to building confidence and spending active time outdoors, camp is a unique ecosystem for kids to learn and grow outside the classroom.
In fact, a University of Waterloostudy of both day campers and overnight campers found that 69% of participants showed positive growth in the area of emotional intelligence, while 67% displayed growth in the areas of self confidence and personal development.
Speak to any summer camp alumni and chances are they’ll tell you how their most beloved memories and cherished life experiences are tied to their childhood summer camp.
Still, even with all its benefits, the prospect of putting your kids on a bus and sending them away for weeks or even days at a time can be daunting for everyone involved.
You may find yourself asking: Will they be well taken care of? Are they going to be homesick? Will they shower and eat properly? These questions are perfectly valid and likely go through the mind of every parent in your shoes.
If you or your child are feeling a bit anxious in the lead-up to camp, the below tips may help:
PREPARING YOUR KIDS
From nurturing independence to fostering physical activity, there are endless benefits to a summer spent at camp. By following the above steps, you can help ensure this summer is a successful one for the whole family.
The days are getting longer and finally a lot warmer, which can only mean one thing: summer break is almost here!
This time of year is generally fun and full of excitement, but for families with young kids, it can also be a period of transition as everyone looks ahead to a new routine.
If you’re a parent whose feeling a tad (or a lot) uneasy about the shakeup to your daily groove, you’re not alone. Afterall, humans — especially kids —are creatures of habit and after 10 months of settling into a comfortable school-work-life balance, it’s natural to be anxious about an upcoming change.
The trick to keeping your cool as a parent this summer boils down to two simple words: Be prepared.
Here are just some examples of what that means:
In an earlier post, I wrote about the symptoms, triggers and treatment of a panic attack — an intense and often sudden wave of distress that can include physical symptoms like heart racing and shortness of breath.
In addition, I explained that while panic attacks can be brought on by a trauma or phobia, they can also be caused by more subconscious influences that are a bit harder to nail down.
Above all, the most important thing I wanted you to remember about panic attacks is that they’re not inherently life-threatening and aren’t necessary indicative of a more widespread issue.
Which brings me to this post.
EXPLAINING PANIC DISORDER
Panic attacks become a greater cause for concern when they happen so frequently that they begin to affect a person’s everyday life and cause them to become fearful or make drastic behavioural changes (i.e. avoiding people, places or things) to avert another episode.
This escalation of factors is known as panic disorder and it affects approximately 3.7% of Canadians in their lifetimes, with women being more likely to suffer than men.
HOW CAN PANIC DISORDER BE TREATED?
As with panic attacks themselves, panic disorder is treatable.
A therapy professional can not only help identify triggers that lead to frequent attacks and the fear surrounding them, they can provide evidence-based solutions aimed at preventing future occurrences. Self-help techniques, like controlled-breathing and grounding exercises, along with joining a local support group can also be effective as part of a multifaceted treatment plan.
Panic Disorder does not have to define you!
MENTAL HEALTH CHECK-IN
With this being Mental Health Week across Canada, it’s a good reminder to check-in with your own mental health and that of your loved ones. Here is a great toolto get you started!
Remember, it’s never too late to get help and support is always available.
Among the most disconcerting sensations any of us can experience are the feelings of being in danger, trapped or out of control — especially when those feelings strike with no apparent warning.
Thankfully, our bodies have a built-in mechanism to help us handle threatening situations—a physiological reaction is known as the ‘flight-or-fight’ response that has been conditioned over time to help us defend against or escape imminent harm.
The tricky thing about the ‘flight-or-fight’ response is that doesn’t always discern between actual threats and imagined ones. This instinct to ‘flight-or-fight’ in the case of perceived danger or a non-life-threatening situation can, in some extreme case, turn into what’s known as a panic attack.
Symptoms and Triggers of a Panic Attack
Similar to the characteristics of a ‘flight-or-fight’ reaction, panic attacks generally come on quickly and peak within a few seconds, though some can take a few minutes to rev up.
Traits generally include feelings of extreme discomfort like being in danger, trapped or out of control and are often accompanied by marked physical symptoms including heart palpitations, extreme sweating and shortness of breath. In fact, the aforementioned characteristics are what often lead sufferers to believe they’re experiencing something gravely serious, like a heart attack.
Panic attacks can be prompted by a trauma, phobia or stressful life event; they can also be triggered by more subconscious factors that are harder to pinpoint or detect. It’s the somewhat random nature of panic attacks that makes them disorienting and scary for people going through them, especially if they’ve never experienced one before.
The important thing to remember is that while they may feel traumatic at the time, panic attacks are not life-threatening in and of themselves.
What to Do?
If you suffer from panic attacks, don’t despair. It’s a treatable disorder that can be managed with evidence-based techniques. Every case is unique so it’s best to have multiple strategies in your back pocket when a panic attack strikes, for example:
If you suffer from regular panic attacks, consider speaking with a therapy professional about how to manage and prevent future occurrences. An understanding of your mental health can better help you deal with it.
If you’ve reached a place in your relationship that has you contemplating couples therapy, one of the biggest hurdles can be figuring out how to broach this sensitive matter with your spouse.
It can feel risky and uncomfortable — particularly if the subject hasn’t come up before — but there are neutral and non-aggressive ways to bring up counselling that can help your partner understand where you’re coming from and why therapy might be a worthwhile idea.
The idea of broaching couples therapy with your partner can seem daunting, but if approached with care, it can be the first step in a productive and life-changing journey.
Whether you’ve welcomed a new baby into your home or have undergone a stressful career transition, chances are your relationship has weathered some ups and downs.
And you’re not alone.
Couples of all stripes face challenging headwinds from time to time; the important thing is finding ways to manage the storm or better yet, head it off entirely.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about couples therapy.
What is Couples Therapy?
When it comes to defining couples therapy, I usually like to start with what it’s not. Couples therapy is not a sign of failure or the impending downfall of a relationship. Nor is therapy necessarily reserved for times of crisis or as a last resort before breaking-up.
Rather, couples therapy can be an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy relationship that may actually preempt problems down the line and help break the cycle of disconnection — an all-too-common pattern of fighting more, talking less and feeling increasingly isolated from your spouse.
While usually initiated by one half of the couple, successful therapy depends on equal participation from both partners. Sessions generally last around an hour and some, but not all, therapists will assign ‘homework’ for the couple to work on between appointments.
Reasons for Couples Therapy
As much as I wish therapy was standard practice in relationships, realistically I know most couples will only seek counselling when something ‘big’ forces the issue. Here are just some of the reasons a couple may embark on professional counselling:
The decision to embark on couples therapy is a landmark choice in any relationship and like any big step, requires effort and commitment. Thankfully, it can also provide much-needed clarity in the context of a safe and neutral environment that may yield the answers you’ve been looking for.
In this two-part series: I explore the meaning of job satisfaction, the consequences of low job satisfaction and ways to improve job satisfaction in your own life.
Picking up where we left off, it’s time to recognize the downsides of low job satisfaction and how to conquer it.
Remember in the last post when I told you that most of the world’s population spends one-third of their lives at work? Being discontent in an activity that occupies such a major chunk of your time can have significant ripple effects on your life both inside and outside the office.
Some of these consequences include (but are not limited to):
HOW TO IMPROVE JOB SATISFACTION
Strategies for improving job satisfaction are subjective and vary in each situation. Less extreme cases could be improved with a few simple tweaks while more extreme cases may require a drastic change.
Here are some of my go-to tips for improving job satisfaction:
With work playing such a significant part in our lives, it’s important to feel satisfied on the job. Consider the above strategies if you’re struggling in this area and reach out to a therapy professional if you need additional support.
In this two-part series: I explore the meaning of job satisfaction, the consequences of low job satisfaction and ways to improve job satisfaction in your own life.
While the start of a new year is generally seen as a time of optimism and change, for many it’s a time of introspection and self-examination, particularly when it comes to work.
And it’s easy to see why.
According to the World Health Organization, a majority of the world’s population spends one-third of their livesin the office so it stands to reason that people want their careers to offer a certain degree of fulfillment.
Unfortunately, career satisfaction isn’t universal and low job satisfaction can have serious consequences for people both inside and outside the workplace.
WHAT IS JOB SATISFACTION?
Job satisfaction is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean in the practical sense? And what are some real-world indicators of workplace fulfillment?
In my observation, job satisfaction is dependent on a host of factors, including (but not limited to):
Someone who is professionally satisfied is usually content to go to work and doesn’t dread the thought of Monday morning. They generally feel a sense of contribution and perceive that their day-to-day tasks fall in line with their professional goals. A common thread among satisfied employees is knowing their work is respected and valued.
Canada’s former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Brian Dickson, hit the nail on the head in describing the importance of workplace conditionsto an individual’s overall wellbeing:
“A person’s employment is an essential component of his or her sense
of identity, self-worth and emotional well-being. Accordingly, the
conditions in which a person works are highly significant in shaping the whole
compendium of psychological, emotional and physical elements of
a person’s dignity and self-respect.”
Now that we’ve established the meaning and significance of job satisfaction, we can delve into the consequences of low job satisfaction and strategies for overcoming it.
Stay tuned for part 2.
It seems counterintuitive that a city as massive as Toronto could ever feel lonely, but it definitely can — especially around the holidays when it seem like everyone else’s social calendar fills to the brim with friendly gatherings and family functions.
Social media can often compound these feelings with 24/7 timelines of winter vacations, kids opening presents and happy couples in their Pinterest-worthy pajamas.
If you find yourself far from loved ones, dealing with a break-up or simply struggling with loneliness during these winter months, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. In fact, the phenomenon of seasonal sadness has become so prevalent that it’s spawned a new term: the holiday blues.
Understanding that feelings of isolation are common during these end-of-year months, here are some strategies that may help you cope:
1. Get Busy: The holidays arrive at the same time each year so you have plenty of time
to formulate a game-plan that will make you feel more plugged-in and less on your
own. For example:
2. Focus on the Positive: Rather than dwell on what’s missing right now, try and focus
on the many positives in your life and the world around you. You can jot entries in a
diary or simply say them out loud; either way, you will gradually notice how much
there is to be thankful for.
3. Embrace Solitude: Sure, the holidays may scream ‘togetherness’ but on the flip-side,
everything non-holiday generally slows down and provides an opportunity for some
rare ‘me time.’ Maybe you’ve shelved an old hobby or have neglected treating
yourself to a day at the spa. Guess what? Now’s the ideal time to buck the crowds
and focus on you!
4. Be Kind to Yourself: Even with the above strategies, being alone on the holidays can
be tough. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings as valid and normal and
recognize that this too shall pass.
The holidays are a unique and often challenging time to be on your own. If you’re feeling isolated or disconnected during this time of year, consider the above suggestions and reach out to a therapy professional if you need additional strategies or support.
Wishing you a peaceful and fulfilling holiday season.
Lindsay Ross, MSW RSW, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.