Mental health stigma has left women hardest hit by pandemic says Milton Keynes doctor

The damaging effect of the pandemic on women’s mental health has been highlighted in a new survey.

By MK Reporter
Friday, 8th April 2022, 11:54 am

Dr Sue Peacock, consultant health psychologist at The Saxon Clinic, says “it is the stigma about not being able to cope with the stresses and pressures of it all that has left women the hardest hit in Britain.”

Dr Peacock’s comments are in response to new independent research by Circle Health Group, the UK’s largest private healthcare provider.

The poll, undertaken by Opinium, looked at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Briton’s mental, financial and social wellbeing, as well as the hopes and fears about when (or if) ‘normality’ would return.

Dr Sue Peacock offers tips to help and advise to women suffering mental health issues as a result of the pandemic

Almost half of women (44%) surveyed said the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health, compared to 32% of men. There was not a single mental health symptom where more men said they were suffering than women.

Compared to men, women suffered particularly when it came to social anxiety, difficulty sleeping and lack of concentration.

The key drivers of women’s mental health problems, compared to men, were limitations on social life (49%) and family concern (35%).

Dr Peacock said: “This research is confirming what I am seeing in my own clinics. I am seeing more women with difficulty sleeping and social anxiety.

“The pandemic changed our normal behaviours, Zoom and online interactions cannot replicate the important social networks we build up throughout our lifetime.”

She added: “The increased pressure of being at home more and the challenge of balancing work and family situations placed even more strain on women at a time when the outside world was even more uncertain than normal.”

The research also found women found it harder to communicate their concerns to friends and families than men did.

“There is a still a perceived stigma around mental health. Many of my patients come to me and say they feel bad because other people are going through a lot more than they are. This in turn makes them feel like they have failed. That sort of mindset can be very destructive when tackling anxiety.

“Being in lockdown forced us all to spend more time at home and as a result the day-to-day freedom of being able to go and see a friend or family member became harder. It is harder to find a quiet place at home to speak with someone or to talk about difficult subjects over the phone or through a screen.”

Dr Peacock offers online consultations to help and advise women with her top five tips for managing feelings of anxiety and six strategies for successful sleep.

> Anxiety

Watch for your triggers

If you know what triggers your anxiety, you can then effectively plan your day around them. If there are times throughout the day that you know your anxiety is likely to be triggered, plan time outs, or periods of exercise during the times. Having an understanding of your danger spots can help to lesson your anxiety.

> Start Exercising

Regular daily exercise has many benefits, including helping to alleviate the symptoms. If you have not made regular exercise a habit in your life, its time you start. You do not have to spend hours at the gym, even a short walk down the road and back every day can significantly impact your life and decrease your anxiety.

> Take Some Time to Breathe

When you first notice your symptoms of anxiety, taking some time alone to breathe can be highly effective in managing your anxiety. Deep breathing exercises can help to calm your heart and help you instantly feel at peace. It can also aid in our ability to make rational decisions.

> Talk to Someone You Trust

You do not have to suffer in silence. Reach out to someone who will treat you with understanding and kindness. If you do not have any support at home, or with friends, then you can look up local support groups near your home or place of business. There are always resources available, all you have to do is reach out.

> Understand That You’re in Control

While it may not feel this way when you are experiencing anxiety, it is essential to understand that you have the power of your life. Even if you feel trapped, or out of control, you have to realise that you have control over every decision that you make in your life.

You do not have to let your anxiety rule your life. Incorporate these suggestions into your life daily and take control of your anxiety and take back your life.

Six Strategies for Successful Sleep

> Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is made up of three parts – our lifestyle, our sleeping environment and our bedtime routine. Lifestyle factors include how much caffeine, nicotine and alcohol we consume as these are stimulants, also we need to be more physically active. Sleeping environment – noise, light, body and room temperature, mattress & pillows. Bedtime routine – if possible, have the same routine very night and it’s important to have the same getting up time in the morning. An example would be before going to bed perhaps have a warm bath, watch a little bit of relaxing TV, put the dog out, clean your teeth, get into bed, turn the lights out.

> Put the day to rest

> Go to bed when you are tired.

> Don’t force sleep.

> Thought switching and thought stopping

> Learn relaxation and/or self hypnosis

Relaxation is a good way to relax the mind and body. It is a good distraction technique which helps to focus your mind away from intrusive and worrying thoughts. Relaxation exercises can give you more of a sense of being in control – of your breathing, your muscles and your mind. Remember for relaxation and/or self- hypnosis, it has to be practised regularly to be most effective.

For more information email: [email protected]