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To see if what you’re experiencing or observing in a loved one could be a reason to seek help, fill out a short mental health checklist.
Natural disasters and other major global crises like viral epidemics, wars or acts of hate can have major and long-lasting impacts for many people. These can reach far beyond the individuals, families and communities directly affected by the events themselves and can last for a significant period of time.
People may react in different ways to traumatic events, and sometimes the true impacts may not appear for some time. Those directly affected by a disaster or crisis may be injured or ill or feel grief from the loss they have endured. They may also experience shock, difficulty sleeping, inability to focus or plan ahead, be overwhelmed, feel unsafe or constantly replay the traumatic event in their minds.
Climate change and the effect it will have on our planet is another long-standing and common concern for many. Anxieties related to climate change can build up over time leading to the erosion of a person’s belief in what the future holds for themselves and their families.
Climate change, natural disasters or other global crises can have a major impact on how expecting and new parents feel about being pregnant or bringing a new little one into the world. It can be hard to balance the joy and excitement of pregnancy or having a new baby with a concern for what the future holds. In addition, there may be direct concerns for your health or the health of your baby from fires, smoke, an epidemic or other event.
It’s important to remember that any and all of these responses to these events are normal. It’s also important to remember that worrying about the future and the health of your baby is something that has been felt by parents forever! And there are ways to manage these feelings and maintain emotional wellbeing on your journey to building a family.
The following tips for expecting and new parents who are worried or experiencing symptoms of anxiety related to natural disasters and other crises have been compiled by PANDA’s team over many years drawing on evidence-based research and the experience of our callers and others who have accessed PANDA’s services.
One good way to keep worry and anxiety related to disasters or other global events at bay is to be conscious of your own needs and go a little easy on yourself, including:
It can also be a good idea to avoid too much media coverage (including social media) of the events that are worrying you. Consider deleting your Instagram or Facebook app from your mobile device for a little while, just to break the need to check for updates or be exposed.
“It doesn’t have to be manicures and massages (as nice as these are) but instead can be daily ‘rituals’ where you take five or ten minutes for yourself at different times during the day.”
We know how important exercise is for our physical health, but it can help us manage anxiety too. Exercise can:
Anxiety can alter how we think and feel and can leave us feeling trapped, robbed of the energy and motivation to exercise, or too agitated and stressed to be able to plan anything. Here are some tips to help get you started on building exercise into your daily life. The key is to take small steps:
“Do what is enjoyable. Any activity that gets you moving will make a difference.”
Mindfulness is about trying to be present in the moment, staying calm and simply experiencing your emotions and physical feelings without being overwhelmed by them. Learning to sit with strong emotions instead of pushing them away or numbing them can take some practice! However it can also help us to process and resolve anxiety and fear caused by things we feel are out of our control.
Be kind to yourself as you practice mindfulness of your emotions and try to remember the value of being a ‘good enough’ parent.
“We hold our breath without knowing we are doing it if we’re stressed and tense so feeling this and letting it go helps us both physically and emotionally. Try to build a couple of mindful breaths into activities you have to do anyway, like brushing your teeth, making lunch for the kids, or when you’re stuck at traffic lights.”
It can be hard asking for help. You may feel shame because you are not coping with the anxiety of expecting or caring for a baby in addition to the worries around a disaster or other event, or guilt because the anxiety is affecting you so deeply.
Try to remember that it is completely normal to worry about yourself and your baby at difficult times like these. And please ask for help if you feel it is all becoming too much. This might be your family, friends, members of your local community, a health professional like a doctor or a psychologist, or PANDA’s Helpline.
For more anxiety management strategies, visit Beyond Blue.
“I used to feel so guilty asking for help, but once I let go of that it made it easier both for me and the people around me who wanted to help.”
In challenging times it can be hard to know what emotions are normal and which ones should worry you. PANDA’s Mental Health Checklist for Expecting and New Parents is a free online tool that can help if you are worried about your mental health and wish to anonymously assess your emotional wellbeing.
The Checklist asks questions about your experiences since learning you or your partner were pregnant, including your thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and relationships and gives you an indication of whether your experiences could be a reason to seek help.
The Results page can also be taken to appointments with your doctor or other health professional as a way to start conversations about how you’ve been feeling. You can also opt to send your results directly to PANDA and request a callback.
“I sometimes find myself wondering if I did the right thing, bringing a child into this world. I wouldn’t wish a future without my son, but I worry about what lies ahead for him.” - Laurelle
“I never imagined my child would be prevented from playing outside because of bushfire smoke from 400km away. I used to wonder what kind of world she would grow old in, but what is she growing up in now?” - Stephanie
“The news on TV was really scary. It made me increasingly anxious that my baby could get sick! I had trouble sleeping and felt hopeless most of the time.” – Verona
“I find taking action is my best way of combating anxiety. Volunteering for environmental groups, helping wildlife and planting trees and doing what I can at home to reduce my environmental impact. But it’s important not to let taking action become overwhelming in itself.” – Rachel
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