Women’s month sees depression and anxiety escalate for women, during lockdown

Far from a time of empowerment and celebration, Women’s Month has seen depression and anxiety skyrocket among women as the boundaries of an already tenuous work-life balance have become increasingly blurred under lockdown.

According to a recent Ipsos poll, 40% of South African women say they are feeling anxious as a result of Covid-19 compared to 32% of men.

According to Johannesburg-based business, life coach and Neuro-linguistic programming practitioner Shanaaz Sukhraj, the underlying tenet of Women’s Month, ‘you strike a woman, you strike a rock,’ is, in reality, nowhere near being internalised as women struggle to contain the guilt of floundering under added pressures. These include months of home-schooling, extra housework, worrying about their parents’ health, and diminished social interaction with close friends while trying to run a business or work a full-day.

Marital pressures increase during lockdown

Marital relationships are also taking strain, says Sukhraj, who is experiencing her ‘busiest consulting time’ since starting her coaching journey over 10 years ago.

 ‘Many women are struggling to assign tasks to their partners who, in turn, are unaware of building resentment. Even in 2020, a high percentage of women are still subconsciously modelling their relationships on what they saw in their parents’ marriage, so they often feel ashamed to ask for help or stand their ground as the scales tip unevenly on the home chores front.’

Identity loss among women during lockdown

Many women who grapple with identity issues at the best of times find that this phenomenon has heightened under all levels of lockdown. ‘Many of my clients are questioning their career priorities with young kids in the house all day, having to take responsibility for home-schooling and round-the-clock parenting. They say that they’re afraid they’re losing their sense of self.’

Sukhraj believes that there are solutions: ‘Women have to learn how to stand their ground and tap into their power. Establishing boundaries will help women find some balance. We have to learn to stop over-giving while assigning tasks to our partners if they are not doing their share.’ She says one client who hadn’t communicated her dissatisfaction eventually wrote down a list of what she wanted her husband to take care of. The surprise? He didn’t argue or complain. He did as she asked. ‘Some people just need to be told what to help with or what to do at home.’

Depression and anxiety during lockdown

Besides depression, anxiety under Covid-19 has spiralled for many women, she says. ‘Watching or listening to too much news only helps perpetuate the feeling that the world is out of control. It’s not hard to become a sponge for unnecessary negativity. A client who thought her childhood anxiety was under control found it was suddenly an issue again. She feared for her parents and her children’s health and was struggling to cope. Neuro-linguistic programming which includes first finding out the root of that way of thinking as well as undergoing hypnosis or listening to hypnosis audios, can help change the narrative.’  She needed to focus on the positives in her life. ‘Sometimes even a gratitude journal can make a difference,’ says Sukhraj.

‘It’s about reframing the events or helping to rationalise what’s going on with one’s emotions. Sometimes, especially in these last few months, some people need to directly confront a fear of death and move forward that way.’

Limit limiting beliefs

While Sukhraj says anyone suffering deep-seated trauma should see a therapist or psychiatrist, those women who want to focus on setting and achieving goals rather than focussing on past events may benefit from coaching work. ‘It can involve hypnosis which gets to the heart of limiting beliefs. We usually have to get to a set of core beliefs planted before the age of eight-years-old and reframe these, so we don’t keep repeating past mistakes.’ These, she says, include not being able to ask for help when we’re overwhelmed. It’s about reimagining our relationships so we find inner peace and an abundance not related to just material wealth.’

While sceptics may scoff at concepts like the laws of attraction, Sukhraj says that it’s sometimes just a question of getting in touch with and challenging our subconscious mind. ‘It’s not woo-hoo stuff. If you behave differently, your outcomes will be different.’

Stats and figures

A 2007 study undertaken from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) showed four benefits identified by clients from an ICF survey:

  • *80% of clients reported improved self-confidence
  • *73% of clients reported improved relationships
  • *72% of clients reported improved communication skills
  • *67% of clients reported an improved work-life balance



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