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This article was written by Kristen N. Hubbard. 

Working Moms and Anxiety: The Problem

According to Women’s Health, women are twice as likely to get anxiety disorders as men. Anxiety is defined by the American Psychological Association as an “emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and increased physical changes like higher blood pressure.” Anxiety is normal, but like so many other things, in excess it can cause harm. That harm comes in the form of anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, according to Harvard Health, anxiety disorders often go undiagnosed and undertreated. This is especially worrying when taking into account the high rates of comorbidity between anxiety disorders and major depression

Working Mother’s Anxiety: Undiagnosed and Undertreated

By virtue of being incredibly busy and incredibly stressed, working mothers are incredibly prone to anxiety disorders. Pew research conducted in 2013 shows that 40% of all American households have working moms as the sole or primary breadwinners. These numbers do not take into account the massive blow to women’s presence in the labor force dealt by COVID-19, but the point stands. More mothers are working than ever before. 

There is a good chance that working and self employed moms will mistake their anxiety for simple stress. However, there is a major difference between stress and anxiety. Stress is the body’s reaction to a trigger, an external source. That external source can be anything from work, to family to bills, etc. Stress is often a short term experience. Anxiety is a long term reaction to stress that does not go away, even in the absence of a stressor. Because of the similarities between stress and anxiety, a working mom should ask herself some questions. Is she unable to stop thinking about what stresses her out and is she anxious even when those stressors are not present? If so, there’s a good chance that she has an anxiety disorder. No matter how busy working moms get, constant worry is not normal.  

What’s At Stake for Working Moms

Women, especially pregnant women and new mothers, face very real discrimination in the business world. Because of this discrimination there is good reason for working moms to be reluctant to speak up about having an anxiety disorder. In an interview for Forbes, a female employee of HP under the pseudonym Vicky was interviewed about her new leadership position. Vicky explained that she wouldn’t tell her boss that she felt overwhelmed because she didn’t want to appear weak. But even the strongest people need help from time to time and working mothers definitely need help. They require reliable resources that will allow them to manage their anxiety and maintain their health. 

How Working Moms Can Cope: Therapy

One of the best things working moms and mompreneurs can do to manage their anxiety is to find a therapist. Previous articles have already expounded the virtues of Psychology Today. Psychology Today allows people to search by region for a proper therapist. The therapists listed are found to be properly licensed under the Verified By system. The pandemic makes in person meetings a problem, but telehealth/virtual options are also available.

Working Moms and the Benefits of CBT

Upon finding a therapist, working moms would do well to ask about a therapeutic technique for treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is a form of psychological treatment which focuses on changing the way people think and is often used to treat anxiety disorders. CBT is effective because the method is a collaborative process between therapist and patient. CBT involves identifying the cause of anxiety, examining the cause realistically and using problem solving to cope with the situation. Antidepressants are also an option therapists may offer, and can even be taken alongside CBT. But CBT alone is a great way to confront anxiety and deal with it without the aid of potentially addictive substances. 

Seeking Reliable Information

Another resource for managing anxiety that working moms should make use of is the National Institute of Mental Health. Shareable Sources on Anxiety Disorders is a page on the NIH website offering tips, informational guides and resources on anxiety disorders. NIH has provided all of the information. So when working moms are looking for help through NIH, they can rest assured that the information is reliable.   

Working Moms: Take a Minute to Breathe

Working moms lack time. Sometimes they need quick, easy to use solutions for managing anxiety. A systematic review and meta analysis conducted for the medical journal known as JAMA, demonstrated that mindfulness meditation had a small to moderate effect on reducing anxiety. Meditation is a technique working moms can utilize until they find a more permanent solution. It’s easy to find guides online for how to meditate. There are even apps that can help guide people through meditation from their phone. Alex Arpaia of The New York Times recommends Headspace for more structured sessions better suited to beginners and Calm for more open ended sessions better suited to those with experience.

Seek Support

Talking it out can do wonders for a working mom struggling with anxiety. And this is where support groups come in. Support groups are group therapy sessions led by a trained therapist, which allow individuals to interact with those who are struggling with the same problems. Those attending can share experiences, suggestions and thoughts on how to heal. Some of these groups meet online. It is safer to attend online meetings given the current situation with COVID-19. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers free, peer to peer, online support group sessions.  It’s far from the only one. Psychotherapist and Editor in Chief at verywellmind, Amy Morin, has six other suggestions for online anxiety support groups. 

To All Working Moms: Asking For Help Is Not A Weakness

Not all treatments will work for everyone. It’s extremely important that working mothers find what works best for them. And it’s also extremely important that they stop and ask themselves if they ever stop worrying. Working mothers have a lot to worry about, in large part due to the sexist assumptions they face. Because of  these sexist assumptions, working mothers struggle more than anyone to be respected in the business world.

And this struggle proves that society has a long way to go in terms of equal status for women. It is exactly why working and self employed mothers must be vigilant and proactive about their mental health. For working moms, the road ahead is twice as perilous as that of their competitors. No one is able to do everything alone, so there is no shame in asking for assistance along the way.  And more often than not, it’s necessary.  

Hopefully you enjoyed this article about anxiety resources for working and self employed mothers.