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Mental Wellbeing

Today I talk to Anne Williams from Transforming Health about women who work and the demands of their jobs and families and how that stress can manifest itself in symptoms like IBS.  This is the second part of my interview with her, which you can listen to on my podcast.

Emmie: So, you focus on busy professional women who are working and they’ve got families and what kind of symptoms are you seeing with them?  Is it because of work? Or is it because they are trying to work and look after their family? How can you help them?

Anne: I get a lot of clients who come to me, as you say they’re busy professional women. They’re they’re juggling the demands of their career. They want to do a really good job at work. They’re often in responsible positions. So it’s really important that they make an input at work and it’s their own pride that they want to be able to do that. But equally, they want to be a good mum. They want to be there for their kids. They’ve got a home to run so that there’s a lot of different things that they’re they’re juggling. Lots of demands on their time and often these ladies because they’re putting everybody first, they’re putting their work first, their family first. They haven’t been that good at looking after themselves.  Making sure that they get the rest that they need, making sure maybe that they do take all their holiday, things like that. And so they’re getting stressed and what so often happens is, that the body can take a certain amount of stress, but after a while, because stress does have a physical effect on the body, it will start showing up in physical symptoms.   One of the conditions that I particularly help people with is irritable bowel syndrome. And so although stress doesn’t usually cause irritable bowel syndrome. It definitely makes it worse.

Emmie: That’s very interesting.  I wasn’t aware of that at all actually – that it was significantly linked to stress.  

Anne: Yeah, and I was going to say, the other thing that I often see people for is sleep problems and it’s the stress that’s causing problems with their sleep. Unfortunately, they only seek help when their body is telling them enough. Or even, worst-case scenario if it’s really gone too far, they’re starting to experience burnout.  

Emmie: Which is awful.   As a mum, you do try and juggle a lot and I just wonder if there is more that companies can be doing to support mums? Because obviously everyone knows that mums are trying to juggle work and children.  What can companies be doing themselves to support people in that way?

Anne: I think it’s definitely looking at flexible working, home working. So even if somebody doesn’t work at home all the time (and of course,  working on your on your own at home all the time is also not necessarily the best way of doing things). But, I’ve certainly had clients that when I’m getting them to look at practical things that they can do about their stress just saying to them ‘Well, is it possible that you can work one or two days at home’? And again, the best companies will be doing this already.

Emmie: Yes, then they all encouraging aren’t they?

Anne: Yes.  Or they’ll be flexible about time – whether it’s coming in a bit later so that they can take the kids to school or leaving a bit earlier. But yes.

Emmie: And I think just supporting them. I mean, I’ve basically worked for myself a lot. But I have done a little few stints in companies and when your children are ill and you need to go home and you feel like your boss or your company is not supported it’s just awful – it literally tears you apart. Whereas when you get someone that’s saying ‘gosh just go’, and they’re there supporting you they’re not expecting you to come back in well that’s amazing.

I remember one of my husband’s companies they were so supportive when my daughter was in a hospital. They said ‘we don’t want you coming in until she’s home – stay with your wife’ and that just meant so much to us. As opposed to feeling like, “oh they think I’m just of skulking off work”.   

Anne: yeah, absolutely and I think there are even some companies that will give you a certain amount of sick leave, not your own sick leave but a certain amount of allowance for caring for relatives. So not just children. But again very often my clients might have parents who are beginning to get a little bit elderly and they’re in that sandwich where their kids need them. But also their parents are starting to need more support. So companies can be flexible in that regard as well because ultimately okay people might have more to be a little bit more time off, but the goodwill that that generates and the loyalty that that generates is just immense.

Emmie: I know you are so right I think it is true. If you look after your staff then, they are going to be happy and healthy and they’re going to be less likely to leave and just want to do a better job.