8 min read
Mental health and gender
It is a truism that mindfulness practice can help anyone feel and be well. In this article, I want to explore mindfulness and anxiety as it relates to gender. Who is increasingly affected by anxiety, worried, tired and overwhelmed? Is it the men or the women? Is there a gender mental health divide?
By examining the impact of mindfulness on mental health on people of all ages, we will see how mindfulness can provide encouragement, support and insight into everybody’s journey back to full health, inner resilience and happiness.
Scientific research shows gender bias to anxiety and stress!
For many years now, research has shown the differences between the genders statistically as they are affected by anxiety and stress. Below are the findings.
[Gender Differences in Anxiety Disorders: Prevalence, Course of Illness, Comorbidity and Burden of Illness Carmen P. McLean, Anu Asnaani, Brett T. Litz, and Stefan G. Hofmann J Psychiatr Res. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2012 Aug 1.]
Women are more prone to be affected by anxiety than men.
The graphs above show that in almost all cases of anxiety disorder, women are more prone to suffer to a greater degree.
Women were more likely than men to meet the criteria for all anxiety disorders examined, with the exception of SAD, which was equally prevalent across genders. There were no differences between men and women with regard to the age of onset and the estimated chronicity of anxiety disorders. Significant gender effects were observed in the patterns of comorbidity and in the dysfunction associated with having an anxiety disorder, which together underscores the importance of gender to the epidemiology of anxiety.
Affected by anxiety
- Mindfulness reduces anxiety and stress
- Anxiety will often lead to physical illness.
Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Serum Cortisol of Medical Students
– Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress by lowering levels of cortisol in the body. The research work was conducted on 30 medical students between the age of 18-20yrs
Mindfulness meditation lowers the cortisol levels in the blood, suggesting that it can lower stress and may decrease the risk of diseases that arise from stress,
such as psychiatric disorder, peptic ulcer and migrainous headache.
Mindfulness for Change and Anxiety
– Mindfulness has also been shown to lower anxiety symptoms.
The benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices during times of crisis, such as COVID-19, were researched by Cambridge University. Their conclusion was:
Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that change is the only constant. Meditation and mindfulness can offer a helpful way to live with this constant change. MBSR programmes already extant within services can be adapted for online delivery. Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 May 2020
– Studies show that mindfulness training improves sleep quality
The feeling of anxiety
Affected by anxiety: Mindfulness Zoom sessions.
In a group or a one to one. There is no need to turn up to a hall or a clinic, be at work, or in a conference room. Just log on and be there. You can even mute your microphone and disable your camera and still be at the session—easy, effective, and accessible.
A randomised trial comparing a brief online delivery of mindfulness-plus-values versus values only for symptoms of depression: Does baseline severity matter?
Affected by anxiety: Start right now.
You have three choices and One imperative. If you are suffering affected by anxiety, panic attacks or stress of any kind, then a daily practice of meditation mindfulness is just a MUST. I am not selling it to you, but all the evidence points to the fact that when you spend time Doing Nothing on Purpose,[meditation], then life gets better.
Learning mindfulness meditation takes time to get the habit right, but it is really worthwhile; whoever you are, whatever your age or gender, It just makes sense.
You can join a local group of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses (MBSR). It is 8 weeks long for one 2hr evening every week and will cost around £220 for the course. It is a great way to get to grips with mindfulness’s whole view and the ins and outs. The main advantage is that of having the group support of like-minded and intention people to support and help you get it!
Anxiety and worry are states of mental and emotional distress. They are characterized by feelings of nervousness, unease, worry or fear that arise from the anticipation of a future event or concern about an ongoing issue in one’s life.
-those who have experienced trauma may often experience anxiety symptoms when they feel unsafe. Affected by anxiety shows symptoms that often include both feelings of physical health problems and psychological unease. It is as if both the body and the mind spiral and dance together, diminishing the quality of life.
Mindfulness positive loops
There is a positive feedback loop between the body and the mind. (Positive feedback loops are not as good as they sound). Positive feedback loops can and do worsen a poor situation by reinforcing the problem or condition rather than stopping or limiting the situation. For instance, affected by anxiety, you release cortisol, an endocrine hormone that prepares the body for action, fight, flight or freeze. This does not calm the anxiety down, but on the contrary, it hypes up the feelings of fear and anxiety. Designed early on in evolution, it is for running from sabre tooth tigers.
Luckily, there are not many of them around. Unfortunately, the modern-day interpretation is formed in the mind and of the mind, making physically running away from the sabre tooth tiger difficult. You take your mind with you where ever you run.
If you do not deal with the rising anxiety, the positive feedback loop will soon be heading for a panic attack. All due to a couple of thoughts catalysing the couple of feelings which activate a couple of neural pathways in the brain, which give the go-ahead for the secretion of dollops of hormones into the system, which then run riot, making you feel that your whole anxiety is not only real but just about to destroy your whole existence.
Now here is the rub. The Bain has the ability to learn. The brain learns and prioritises the importance of conscious events as to the thought’s frequency, depth, and connectedness. Rather like a good Google algorithm! Yet has little to zero understanding that it might just not be in your interest to have that panic attack. The new neural pathways in the brain are screaming DANGER, yet the context really is not that desperate.
Left to its own devices, we have four options.
Option one. Hang on in there and suffer.
Option Two. Go to the medics and get some pills. [Could work for a while?}
Option three. Go to a shrink and talk all about yourself until you are so bored you finally surrender.
Option four. Learn mindfulness and get to the root cause of the whole thing.
Mindfulness isn’t that difficult. It just takes time and practice
The best way to deal with those feelings and emotions and being affected by anxiety is by taking a deep breath and bringing yourself back to the present moment.
This does not mean that what you are feeling or experiencing isn’t important; it means bringing mindfulness-awareness into your emotions, thoughts, and life experience so as to loosen their grip on your reality, and slowly you get a clear view. Unobstructed by the mirrors of uncontrolled emotions and the smoke of the hormonal shifts.
If you are affected by anxiety try this.
- Sit on a chair, a kitchen chair, one not too comfortable
- Switch off any music, phones, TV’s, tablets, laptops
- Sit alert spine and back straight, head upright, eyes looking forward and slightly down
- Feet flat on the floor
- Hands in your lap
- Now the difficult part. Bring your focus of attention into this very moment.
- Don’t think of anything which is not immediately present with you now.
- You may observe everything about you: your environment, your clothes, your body, your posture.
- You may not make up stories in your mind. You may not think of anything from the past( the past being ANYTHING before this moment in time.)
- You may not think of anything which is in the future, fictitious or might be happening later, including the end of this post.
- You are going to spend 30 seconds at this very moment.
- You are going to focus 100% of your attention on the sound and feel of the inhalation of your breath.
- Then you are going to focus 100% of your attention on the sound and feel of the exhalation of your breath.
- Whilst doing this, you are subjected to the above rules. Yet. You are going to watch your own mind as it attempts to distract you from this pointless escapade of doing nothing on purpose.
- You will tell yourself, ” why am I doing this?” “What is the point of this?” “What possible good or effect this has on my feelings of abject loneliness, despair and depression?”
- Do not entertain such thoughts. They are just distractions, nothing more than your clever monkey mind trying tricks to regain control of you and your focus of attention.
- Ok … Got it… Well, here goes 30 seconds or three deep breaths in and out.