Irish women are suffering from anxiety today more than ever.
I recently read some figures that really shocked me. According to a 2018 study from The National Women’s Council of Ireland, women are twice as likely to be affected by depression and anxiety than men. Furthermore, according to the European Child Safety Alliance, young Irish females experienced the highest suicide rate in Europe in 2018.
I was genuinely flabbergasted after reading the above stats, but also not overly surprised. Irish women are feeling the pressure now more than ever. Never before has so much been expected of us. Life is dragging us in multiple directions, and we feel the constant need to be all things to all people; we can often fail to look after our wellbeing as a result.
Millennial women have grown up alongside considerable advancements in technology and the introduction of social media. We are immersed in a culture where people interact behind screens instead of in person. This culture has put pressure on us to ‘have it all’ - the hot bod, be a girl boss and be full of positivity and happiness while doing so. The virtual world we find ourselves in has increased levels of perfectionism, heightened excessive expectations and has led us to be obsessed with continually achieving bigger and better things.
Once upon a time, a woman wasn’t required to stretch herself in so many directions. Today if we aren’t achieving what is perceived as #lifegoals, some part of us feels like we are failing. The overstimulation screen time is having on our minds is crazy. Excessive screen use boosts stress hormones and increases central nervous system arousal, which can cause disturbed sleep. This, in turn, can cause us to feel on edge and spike anxiety.
Many studies show that women with anxiety also tend to obsess, ruminate and reflect instead of trying to find logical solutions. This overthinking can be made even worse with our busier than ever lifestyles and constant screen time. We have lost the ability to switch off and process our thoughts. We are like hamsters running on a wheel refusing to get off.
We need to develop a healthier relationship when it comes to processing our thoughts. In Ireland, many of us turn to binge drinking or recreational drugs to ‘switch off’; however, these stimulants have the opposite effect and can trigger and exasperate anxiety and panic attacks.
Finding healthy ways to get out of our heads and off our screens are essential in soothing anxious minds. I find journaling my frazzled thoughts helpful, or going to the gym, practising yoga or getting outdoors. All of these activities allow me to switch off and be in the present moment without any distractions. I usually find that my anxiety symptoms are significantly reduced afterwards.
Exploring therapy is also extremely beneficial if you suffer from anxiety, with CBT being the most recommended. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you to recognize what is triggering your anxiety and helps you to manage these factors day-to-day. Many find that grasping an understanding of what is happening in your body during a bout of anxiety or a panic attack also helps a lot in soothing the symptoms.
We need to be kind to ourselves and treat our mental health with respect. We are the only ones responsible for our wellbeing, and we need to make it a priority; so if this means switching off screens an hour before bed or going for a daily walk, be sure to do it. Irish women need to stand up and fight this rising anxiety epidemic and put ourselves and our mental health first above anything else.
If you have been affected by anything in this article, please visit one of the following sites or talk to your GP.