Sis, you do not have to muscle your way through depression and anxiety on your own. Taking care of your mental health is like eating and hydrating for sustenance, says Lumka Mabo, a Pretoria-based clinical psychologist.
As the country celebrates Women’s Month, it is worth remembering that the Covid-19 pandemic has also brought increased stress levels, anxiety, fear, emotional distress, and feelings of isolation.
While most people experience temporary waves of sadness and times of worry and nervousness, it becomes concerning if those feeling simply won’t go away.
Women, especially, should take note of this as they have long played a crucial role as providers, caregivers, and influencers of future generations.
“Mental health is like a glass of water. If you take a glass of water and you continue to pour more into it when it is full, ultimately the water overflows. It overflows all the way onto the floor leaving you with a mess,” Mabo tells Health For Mzansi.
As we celebrate the “sheroes” of our past on Women’s Day, we are reminded have always played a critical role in the life of South Africa. Today, the nation remembers the 20 000 women, including Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams, who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 to protest against pass laws.
Fast-forward to 2021, and we are also reminded of our present realities including a pandemic, poverty, and gender-based violence. These stressors are putting women at a greater risk for burnout, both physically and mentally, notes Mabo.
“We’ve been deprived over the years of being ourselves. We exert so much pressure, and that pressure is the one that makes us to crumble at some point, because we don’t have a safe place where you go and become replenished and become rejuvenated.”
Are you suffering from strong black woman syndrome?
Black women, in particular, will often muscle their way through depression and anxiety on their own, Mabo adds.
“Who doesn’t love the idea of putting an ‘s” on your chest and becoming a living, breathing superhero?”
What does keep black women from reaching out for help is the belief that they can handle everything on their own says Mabo.
While there is certainly power in being a strong black woman, it does impact heavily on health and well-being.
“If you are not okay psychologically, if you are not okay emotionally or mentally and you don’t attend to such, it then trickles over to your physiological being.
“Your sleep patterns start being disturbed and your appetite starts changing and then your drive. And your energy levels and zeal to wake up and attend to things that need to be attended to, starts to deteriorate.”
When should you seek help?
If you have not been feeling like yourself mentally and are not functioning at a pace you are used to, Mabo recommends that you take a step back and attend to your mental wellbeing.
“We are all about achievements. We are all about goals, but we forget to service ourselves in the process of achieving all those goals.
“We are forgetting to service ourselves in the process of us achieving those goals. So, then ultimately, we become burnt out.”
Do not wait for a diagnosis to take your mental health seriously, the expert warns. Mabo breaks down how you can pinpoint dysfunction in three key categories:
1. Personal life
Dysfunction in our personal lives manifests cognitively through our thought processes, concentration attention and ability to reason, says Mabo.
2. Physiological well-being
She makes examples of tension headaches, muscle spasms, and pains that can’t be explained by medical professionals. “You will go to a doctor, and they will say they can’t find anything wrong with you and then it is left with the psychologist to deal with that.”
“You make so many mistakes at work. You are often absent. Every day you are ill. Maybe today you are sick with a headache, tomorrow you have a runny tummy, and you are not necessarily faking these things, but it is your psychological being letting you know that you cannot bear it anymore and the physiological then suffers the consequences.”