Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Managing life transitions. Misconceptions: Unravelling anxiety, Episode 5

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Misconceptions: Unravelling Anxiety | Online series

Going through puberty, losing a loved one, moving house, going through menopause, starting a new job, going to university or losing a job can all cause anxiety.

“Life events can trigger anxiety, and we can’t predict who’s more at risk of that happening to,” says Clinical Psychologist Dr Epenesa Olo-Whaanga. “We know that when people are exposed to high stress events in a very short space of time, that can also make it more likely that they will experience anxiety.”

Becoming a parent can be one such high stress event. As a young mum, social media personality Krystine Nation struggled with postnatal anxiety, but was told she probably just had the baby blues.

“My anxieties got bigger and bigger,” Krystine says. Her mental health spiralled to the point that she had to see a hospital crisis team.

Mental Health Nurse Jenna Goldsworthy says there’s a lot of pressure on mums.

“Often families have to have the mums work, and they’re taking care of the house, taking care of their children, and on top of that there’s a lot of social media and a lot of influence about how you should be a mum. I think that pressure on people is actually quite a lot,” she says.

Olo-Whaanga says the pressure on mums shouldn’t be seen as normal, and that parents should be supported.

“We know enough in New Zealand when we look at our stats around perinatal mortality, that we need to do more to support women in this area,” she says.

Becoming a parent isn’t the only life event that can trigger anxiety. Ivan Yeo, Deputy Director Asian Family Services, felt anxious when he first started university – and like many young people, he used alcohol in an attempt to calm his nerves.

Drugs and alcohol are common coping mechanisms – and so is avoidance.

Anxiety New Zealand Trust National Manager Goldie Hamilton says avoidance is when we stop doing the things that make us feel anxious.

“In the long term, that’s actually a very problematic coping strategy,” she says. “You don’t get the opportunity to learn how to cope.”

If you’re struggling with anxiety, the experts recommend speaking with a friend, GP or counsellor that you trust. Clinical Psychologist Dr Lisa Reynolds says there are also simple techniques you can try at home.

Meditation can be helpful around managing anxiety, doing things that you enjoy, sometimes a bit of distraction can be helpful – hanging out with friends, going out for a coffee,” she says. “It can be useful to remind yourself that anxiety is normal, and that generally speaking, it will resolve over time.”

Hamilton adds that it’s normal to experience anxiety when going through life transitions.

“Anything that’s a challenge in our lives, that we don’t feel like we’re really well-prepared to handle, is going to be causing anxiety,” she says.

When going through a life transition, it might be helpful to develop a short daily routine that includes mindfulness and breathing exercises. Other daily habits that can help reduce anxiety include exercise, practicing gratitude, writing about your feelings, or getting outside into nature.

Unravelling Anxiety follows the first Misconceptions series by Digital Alchemist, The Truth About Miscarriage.

Where to get help
If you think you may be experiencing anxiety, you can ask your GP or a counsellor for advice. You can also reach out to the following organisations:

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