Categories
Mary Holtrop Mental Health

Autumn Anxiety

by Mary Holtrop

When asked most people will tell you that Autumn is their favorite time of year.  It’s hard to dispute this because the colors are so vibrant, the sky seems bluer and most of the colors in our flowers are at their brightest.  Some people will tell you they love fall because the hot days of summer are over and the cooler temperatures are what they enjoy. 

art autumn autumn leaves beautiful
Photo by Valiphotos on Pexels.com
Advertisements

I absolutely cannot dispute any of these things. I love walking and biking in the fall. The bike trails by me are just stunning. I love the sound of the leaves under the tires of my bicycle. On my early morning walks that take me past ponds, the browns, golds and dark greens are so beautiful. I love the tall ornamental grasses in the fall. Their tall stems blowing gold in the breeze.  And mums, one of my favorite flowers are so colorful. 

But for me anxiety starts to sink in. I read an article recently called Autumn Anxiety. It talks about mood changes as the days get shorter, the dread of winter blues and the affects of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I never realized that I could possibly have SAD. I honestly never took things like this very seriously.  They say this Autumn Anxiety can stem from spending less time outside, shorter days, cooler weather or even the possible stress of the upcoming holidays.  

beach woman sunrise silhouette
Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

I supposed as you get older and life slows down you come to realize things about yourself that maybe were there all along. But life is so busy with work, family, kids, activities that often we plug along and don’t even realize some things like Autumn Anxiety is real for us.  I think my first realization was in February of 2012. It was 4:30 a.m. and I was walking my dog. There had been a lot of ice that year and I had fallen several times in our early morning walks. One morning it was almost 5:00 and I noticed that the sun was just beginning to wake up. I remember saying to my dog that soon our early morning walks will have sunlight. I was so excited about this. It was the following June on the longest day of the year that I started to get a little depressed. It was because I knew that the days were going to get shorter. It seems silly to worry about this in June but I thought about this and I also realized that on the shortest day of the year I feel so hopeful because I know the days are starting to get longer. As early as December 22, we start to move forward to more daylight. 

bright sun rays passing through clouds
Photo by Alex Kozlov on Pexels.com

I know now I do experience Autumn Anxiety. I love so many things about fall but I dread the shorter days, how darkness comes so early, and those winter blues. I crave sunlight. I love to be outside doing anything. Sitting inside for me just brings on depression.  I was discussing this with my walk buddy and she was suggesting some ways for me rise above this dread. She did remind me that the past 10 years I have held part time jobs on top of my full-time job that kept me busy in the evenings. And right now, due to COVID most of these jobs have dried up.  In addition, we talked about volunteerism or finding ways to help others. But unfortunately, for now these opportunities are not available. My walk buddy gave me some good suggestions. But being a nay-sayer, I just found fault in all of them. 

Advertisements

It doesn’t help that living in the Midwest, winters can go on forever. It feels like we turn our heat and drag out those winter coats and they are with us for up to 6 months.  My neighbor said to me the other day “I am changing my attitude this year. I am going to find some joy in winter.” I thought maybe I should do that too. That sitting around thinking about how long, dark and cold winter won’t help me. My first step will be my monthly goal setting journal. I will write down ways to do and stay positive during the upcoming months.  I will do and say kinder things and  little things each day that make me feel better about myself.  I will check back and give you an update. Until then, stay well.  

Categories
Mental Health Rachel Warner

The Question Every Mom’s Been Asked…

by Rachel Warner MAT, ATC, LAT

Every mother experienced it at least once, and I don’t typically make absolute statements. Whether it was said by a health care provider, a friend, coworker, or a family member, every mom has heard it. 

“An insult disguised as a clinically relevant question.”

For me I was sitting in L&D for the 3rd time at 36 weeks pregnant in so much pain I swore I was going into labor this time. Literally fetal position, stabbing pain, couldn’t make it down the stairs, called 911, the whole nine yards. In walks the resident. She briefly glances at the strip, and tells me I’m not in labor followed by that condescending look. That’s when she says it, “this is your first one, isn’t it?” An insult disguised as a clinically relevant question. She could have seen that in my chart, had she bothered to look, at this point I’m convinced she hadn’t. 

“This is just ONE of my stories, and I’d be willing to bet every mother has at least one.”

She was right, it was my first child and first pregnancy. However, that fact did not eliminate my gallstones she had missed because she failed to order diagnostic imaging or the intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) that nearly cost me my son and resulted in an emergency cesarean birth 2 weeks late. My inexperience did not negate my concerns for mine or my child’s health. This is just ONE of my stories, and I’d be willing to bet every mother has at least one. 

I am talking about those comments made by friends and family, medical providers, acquaintances, or even perfect strangers. The comments that plant that seed of doubt. Whether you are a first time mom or a battle test pro, it happens. It is always accompanied by a smug tone that makes you doubt all your instincts as a woman and mom-to-be. Occasionally there’s an “oh just wait” tacked on the end, or maybe a “when I had my kids”, or my absolute favorite, “oh you’ll change your mind.” 

The comments are typically well intending, but come off like a punch to the gut. Moms from the very beginning are sold some contradicting advice, “trust your gut, oh, but not about this.” But maybe, if we took steps to educate moms instead of embarrassing them, understanding them instead of questioning them and assisting them instead of opposing them, we’d have fewer women walking away with birth related trauma. 

Yes, the hormone fluctuations can send anxiety into overdrive during the antenatal and postnatal periods. Moms can at times be a bit tough to reason with, we go on the defensive. Can you blame us? America is the only developed nation with an increasing maternal mortality rate, it has more than doubled since 1987. Oh, and if you’re an African American woman, your mortality rate is 3.26 times greater than white women, according to the CDC.  

A small study of 40 mothers, by Beck, found that birth trauma is truly in the eye of the beholder. “Mothers perceived that their traumatic births often were viewed as routine by clinicians.” Other studies have gone on to confirm this finding and recommend implementing assessment and counseling strategies to determine a mothers risk of developing PTSD or other trauma related effects.  

See it isn’t just an off handed comment or necessary clinical question. It is a systematic tendency to negate a mother’s needs or concerns. Practitioners all over the world are simply doing their jobs while women are bringing life into the world. What is an emotional, sensitive, and irreplaceable moment in a woman’s life, is just another day in the office for the birth attendant. This disconnect, in my very humble opinion, leads to anxiety and discontent for mothers surrounding their antenatal, delivery, and postnatal periods. 

So what’s the solution? Ideally it would be a system to screen women to determine the most vulnerable and provide them the support they need to cope with trauma and anxiety surrounding fertility, pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood. Not just a quick questionnaire at a newborn appointment, but regular check-ins for mom by mental health professionals. It would be medical professionals that ask questions and actively listen for concerns.

So what do you do while we wait for those things to be put in place, for the broken system to improve? 

  1. Enlist your partner or another safe person to help. If you become overwhelmed by your anxiety, and moved to tears when bringing up your concerns, that’s normal. Consider discussing your concerns with a safe person prior to the appointment. They can be prepared to speak for your, or the rehearsal will make expressing your concerns easier. 
  2. Request a second opinion. This is always your right. If your health care professional is not providing the care you need, seek a second opinion from another qualified health care provider (not just your favorite mom group). 
  3. Write down your questions. If you tend to feel rushed, or suddenly forget all your questions during your appointment, write them down. Keep a running list during the weeks between appointments and bring them up when you are with your healthcare provider. If you feel rush consider sending the questions via the message system or through a nurse in the office. 
  4. Ask your OB-GYN or Midwife about local resources. Most hospitals have community groups and lactation consultants available. WIC can be a fantastic resource for those that qualify. Churches could be another source of community or support. This is a wonderful question to put out to a local online mom group.
  5. Lastly, find a village. Reach out when you are feeling anxious, alone, or just off. We all need a little help sometimes. 

Lastly, just know, whatever you’re feeling is valid. There is help out there, it is just a shame you have to look so hard for it.

 

Categories
Mary Holtrop Mental Health Occupational Health Uncategorized

In Search Of Patience

by Mary Holtrop

I work in administration at a public library. My library is in a town of about 18,000 people and we have 25 employees. Since mid-March our library has been closed due to COVID-19.  My responsibilities in the library include finance, human resources and building maintenance and contracts.  When we first began to discuss the COVID-19 virus we talked about what we were going to do in regards to our staff. Of course at the time, we had no idea that almost two months later we would still be closed. We are now beginning to plan re-opening in a phased approached.  During this closure we have paid our employees. The expectation was employees were to work at least half the hours they are normally scheduled to work in a week. This work includes planning and implementing online programs, story times, crafts, collection development, attending training and webinars. I have been in our building working every day Monday-Friday since we closed. Some much needed building projects were addressed. I tackled some long planned records disposal and organizing files.  I have updated essential paper work and created some long needed databases. All this including supervising a window replacement project in one of our buildings, paying bills, paying employees and assisting in updating policies we will have to implement when we open. 

Today the department heads had a long overdue meeting to begin discussing our phased in approach to re-opening the library. This week of each month is my busiest week. I have to coordinate the paying of bills, library reports, paying employees, reconciling bank statements, putting together our board packet and on top of this our fiscal year ended last Thursday. I started suggesting in mid-April to begin these phased in approach conversations, but my suggestions fell on deaf ears. Now here we are, possibly a week away from either accepting checked out materials or doing drive up service, and I am sitting in this 5 hour meeting trying not to be angry, frustrated, or talk myself into walking out of the meeting. 

These are difficult times as we all know and are experiencing. What I am experiencing is nothing compared to those who have lost income and attempting to file unemployment, get loans for their small businesses, or front line health care workers trying to save patients. I am fortunate that I am getting paid, I am healthy and I am still working. But for many reasons I am in search of patience. I have learned that in crises we all respond differently. We all perceive this pandemic in a different manner. We have people who are angry, protesting, and want their lives back. We have businesses who are trying to stay afloat and find innovative ways to sell their goods and services. We have families who are struggling to keep children safe and happy and well educated. We also have couples who are finding their love again. We have dogs who have been walked more in the past two months than in the past year. And it’s so good to see children outside and playing again. The sidewalk chalk art makes me smile.

Yet, during this meeting today I found I was barely holding myself together. I could not understand my feelings of anger and frustration. I sat in this meeting trying to find patience. What was making me feel so anxious, uncomfortable and frustrated? I had my phone and started to search for meditation and phrases that could bring me back. I contributed about how we should all feel fortunate and blessed. But all the while my anxiety level continued to rise. A co-worker saw this and sent me encouraging statements, some pictures of her beautiful children and offered to get me coffee.  I decided during this meeting I needed to do something to turn me around. My goal for the month of April was to do yoga daily. I achieved this goal about 2/3 of the month.  In conversations I have had with others we talk about people we see at the stores and some who are so helpful, friendly and encouraging and others are so angry and rude.  The positive experiences uplift me but the negative bring me down immensely. 

During the meeting today I decided I have to dedicate May to finding patience and serenity. I cannot continue to view the world as I have in the past two months. I want to believe we are better and stronger than this virus. I can try to be part of the solution and I can help myself.  I will let you know in June how I do.