Picture this. A young mum powering around the front lawn behind a lawn mower, baby in the pouch on her chest screaming his head off.
Reserve your judgement, because in a very short time he has calmed down owing to the monotonous noise and rhythm. The mother has used her wisdom, love and creativity to avert several hours of frustration for them both.
That mum was me over 30 years ago, and I found that parenting took the most energy, intelligence, selflessness, generosity, kindness, forgiveness, decisiveness, endurance, perseverance, enthusiasm, commitment, organisation and wisdom that I have ever needed to muster.
You’d have to agree that we need to be both mentally and physically fit and healthy to manage the complexities of raising a family.
This week is inaugural, national Women’s Health Week, dedicated to improving the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of all Australian women right across the life span and addressing a range of women’s health issues holistically and to keep women well.
Taking time out for themselves, getting active, eating well and reaching out to family and friends are some of the pledges we’re being encouraged to make during this week.
Have a look at their website. There are the usual pledges to exercise more and eat a balanced diet, but it’s interesting to note that there are also a surprising number of pledges that acknowledge the importance of the quality of our thoughts to our health and wellbeing. For instance, “I pledge to be more grateful on a daily basis”, “I pledge to take better care of myself both physically and spirituality”, “I pledge to practise controlling my thoughts and focusing on the here and now”, “I pledge to love myself”.
All well and good you may say, but how can a spiritual viewpoint help with some of the critical mental challenges we experience when we become parents?
Experiencing post-natal depression after the birth of her eldest daughter well-known news presenter, author and columnist Jessica Rowe struggled with feelings of inadequacy, resentment, fear and shame. It was only when she summoned the courage to ask for help that the psychiatrist helped her to overcome these feelings.
I sought a similar, though different, sort of help as I dealt with the issues of isolation and uncertainty during the early years of child-rearing. I can truly say that it was my daily spiritual practice that developed a growing understanding of the divine Mind and maintained my mental health during this time. When I was ‘tuned in’, it brought moment-by-moment inspiration and answers about the how to, what, when, who and why of child rearing.
Explaining the benefits of ‘tuning in’ to the Divine, 19th century mind/body researcher and religious reformer Mary Baker Eddy, identified Moses’ unwilling acceptance of leadership and subsequent courageous nation-changing actions as such ‘tuning in’, “illustrat(ing) the grand human capacities of being bestowed by immortal Mind.”
“Australia has become increasingly secular over the years. Despite this, however, it is interesting to see a significant relationship between spiritual experiences and better mental health (lower depressive and anxiety symptoms)”, the conclusions of a recent study conducted by the School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Western Australia found.
As healthcare continues to evolve and provide more complete, holistic care for patients, the importance of religion and spirituality is increasingly being emphasised as a central determinant of quality of life and conferring positive benefits to mental health, even to coping with the distress of early motherhood.
Psychologists are now developing and evaluating a variety of spiritually integrated approaches to treatment, including: forgiveness programs to help divorced people come to terms with bitterness and anger; programs to help survivors of sexual abuse deal with their spiritual struggles; treatments for women with eating disorders that draw on their spiritual resources; and programs that help drug abusers re-connect to their higher selves”.
Pledges to develop our spirituality, by taking the time to be more grateful, love ourselves and others more, to be kind when someone is mean or thoughtless, to do a good deed each day and to forgive (even drivers who hog the inside lane) will bring not only increased mental health, but can also benefit us physically.
Along with women’s health, September offers many opportunities to consider a spiritual approach to dealing with mental health issues: RU OK Day, Exercise Your Mood Month and World Suicide Prevention Day.
Ladies, this week join the growing numbers of women choosing to adopt and benefit from a spiritual practice for all round wellbeing.