Emotional Health – Surviving the Maelstrom

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Julie Rowley, Contributing AuthorLast Modified: 00:10 a.m. EDT, 15 August 2013

Being healthy is about more than just keeping physically fit and maintaining a good work/life ratio. With all that life throws at us: the small troubles we encounter and have to resolve each day; the monumental tribulations that arrive on our doorsteps unannounced; and the vagaries of our bodies, we ride an emotional roller-coaster that can take its toll on us.

Our Bodies

From the time we hit our menses, we are subject to the ever fluctuating chemical balance of our bodies. We may experience anxiety about our menstruation, both anticipating it and dreading its arrival. For some women their monthly cycle is a time of intense pain, with cramps which can affect not just the abdomen, but circle around to the back as well.

For women with heavy menstrual flow there is the additional concern throughout this time of keeping clean and the fear that the telltale signs will appear on our clothing. Another common fear that women face is the absence of their menses, which may indicate an unwanted pregnancy. With the best will in the world and the use of birth control, slips can sometimes occur. At the other end of this scale are the women for whom the appearance of their menses means the conception they are trying to attain has not happened – yet again.

This comes with the corresponding disappointment and when this becomes a long term occurrence, depression and anxiety, as well as feelings of failure can set in.

Pregnancy is for most women a strange mixture of joy and misery: from the morning sickness (who ever coined that phrase has a lot to answer for…), through the dizzy spells; water retention; and cravings for foods we would normally not look at once, let alone twice; to the discomfort of the baby taking up so much room that all our normal body functions are disrupted. This is seasoned liberally with the awe and wonder of this little being growing inside us; the swelling abdomen; the first noticeable flutter of movement and we become completely and compellingly absorbed in this process.

Our hormones are wildly out of control during this time and although usually rational and reasonable people, we become emotional and volatile. Things which normally we would shrug off hurt or anger us instead. Some women find that their desire for a normal, intimate relationship with their partner dwindles or vanishes altogether during their pregnancy. This can be frustrating for the partner and a source of concern that the relationship is not as close as it was beforehand.

The diminution or complete loss of desire during pregnancy may come as a surprise, but in actual fact it is quite common and a normal feature of pregnancy. Nonetheless it can cause tension and stress between partners. Added to this already complex bundle of changing needs and emotions is the ongoing concern about the baby: the fear of miscarriage during the first 16 weeks; the waiting for the first movement and worrying if it does not happen at what we are told is the “right time”, even though it varies from one pregnancy to another; then dealing with all the odd twinges and aches which occur through the later part of pregnancy.

The birth itself can be a source of anxiety and fear, particularly if it is the first; and this is mingled with a sense of anticipation and excitement that the moment has finally arrived and very soon the “bump” will be gone and we will be able to hold our son or daughter.

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Published: 15 August 2013 (Page 2 of 2)

Further along the line, when we reach the end of our childbearing years, we have the looming specter of menopause. Not only do we have to deal with the regrets and feelings of loss as we leave behind the prospect of fertility and release our past identity to embrace the new phase we are entering, which in itself can be difficult and prolonged; but we have to deal with any physical symptoms which can accompany menopause.

Some women are lucky enough to sail through, while at the other end of the spectrum are those who experience every unpleasant physical side effect in the book, having to deal with the embarrassment of: sweats; mood swings; sleeping problems; and palpitations; to name but a few.  We may have to deal with depression, anxiety and feelings of loss of identity or alienation as we struggle to find new meaning to our lives.

Dealing with the Emotional Fallout

The emotional and mental experiences of these phases of our lives would be enough by themselves to live through and come out the other side in one piece. However, this is only, as women know only too well, a small part of the picture. We can add to this the many milestones and events, both large and small, in our life which can cause stress, anxiety and depression; the negatives can often seem to outweigh the positive, especially when we are dealing with bereavement and loss.

We now recognize that grief follows a natural cycle, whether that grief is related to losing a job or perhaps a divorce; anything which takes something out of our lives will trigger the grief cycle. This is composed of around 5 different stages, although there are different interpretations and some include 7 stages.

The first stage is of shock and denial, when it is difficult to grasp or to accept what has happened. As the reality of our loss becomes more real, the initial shock can turn to anger, which can be directed inwards at us or outwards at the world.

Following this we may enter a stage of trying to change the situation by altering our position in relation to it, by bargaining for the return of what or who we have lost.This passes and we then enter a phase of deep sorrow and depression, where life can lose its meaning for us and everything becomes a struggle. Finally we reach a level of acceptance of what has happened and our lives start to move forward again. It can take several years on average to work through this process, although everyone re-adjusts at their own pace and may take longer to pass through some stages than others.

Occasionally our own internal emotional processes become unable to complete the grief cycle and we can become stuck in one of the stages. At times like this, where our own resources and inner strength are not enough to find resolution to our problems, we depend on those close to us to understand and be there for us.

Sometimes though they are unable to give us the help we need to move on through the grieving process and it is at times like this where counseling can be invaluable; to be able to release our thoughts and emotions around our loss to someone who can understand and empathize, as well as helping us to see things from a different perspective and facilitate our moving forward once more.

When we think of the toll that a lifetime of such emotions can take on us, it is truly amazing that not only do we manage to survive this wild ride, but is a tribute to women everywhere that we emerge as such profound and inspiring human beings.

Follow Julie Rowley on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report

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The Demise of China's Inhuman One Child Policy?

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Sam Hargadine, ContributorLast Modified: 16:04 p.m. DST, 19 March 2013

China One Child Policy PropagandaCHINA - As incomes rise, the fertility rate falls – or so says demographic trends. Unique to China though, this trend did not evolve naturally, it was mandated by the government.

China’s one child policy was instituted in 1979 and has underdone modest reforms in the three decades since. However during this month’s National People’s Congress, China’s legislature approved a radical reshuffle over the bureaucratic office in charge of the policy. A sign the rule may soon be scrapped.

On 10 March, it was announced that the family planning office would be merged with the health ministry to create a new super agency, the Health and Family Planning Commission. By routing decisions through the health ministry, the effect is likely to curb the influence of one-child bureaucrats on the national level.

According to Zuo Xuejin of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, the combining of the two offices will weaken the family planning wing because health ministry officials are far more competent. As the two agencies combine, health officials will likely crowd out once all-powerful bureaucrats from the family planning office.

This change is gradual and behind the scenes, indicating a trend in itself for the new Presidency of Xi Jinping. The President understands that the Communist Party’s rule is partly owed to a perception of stability and indefatigability. Radical changes, such as a quick scrapping of the one child policy, could unleash a call for even greater reforms in areas more sensitive to one party rule. An outcome Mr. Xi hopes to avoid.

In actuality only 35.9 percent of China’s population is subject to one-child restrictions. These Chinese are largely urban and therefore more likely to be middle class. Ethnic minorities, rural households, and households where both parents are only children are allowed more than one child. Specific to China’s largest and wealthiest city, Shanghai, the fertility rate has dipped to 0.7 births/woman, one of the lowest rates in the world.

In South Korea and Japan the fertility rates are well below replacement, at 1.21 and 1.27 respectively. Hong Kong and Macau round out the bottom of league tables at 0.97 and 0.91. This suggests that the average urban Mainland home will follow this demographic trend. Thus asserts Mr. Zuo, the policy is simply not needed anymore.

The likely course of action will be a gradual relaxation of enforcement rather than outright repeal. Already provincial level governments largely enforce the policy, further reducing the influence of family planning mandarins in Beijing.

As is often the case in China, change comes slowly. Because demographic trends will likely make one-child homes a preferred choice on the mainland as it has with China’s neighbors, a radical shift does the government little good. Slow and steady wins the race – at least so thinks Mr. Xi.

Follow Sam Hargadine on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributor: @SamHargadine

Dying to Walk Fashion Week Catwalks

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 18:03 PM EDT, 7 September 2012

Skeletal ModelNEW YORK CITY, New York - Once again attention is being focused on professional models and their struggles with body dysmorphia, bulimia, and anorexia. To be fair the initial push for models to strive to become ever thinner was driven by an industry that desired to use them in the truest sense as mannequins versus actual human beings.

The women in the modeling industry are no longer emblematic of anything that most American women, indeed most women globally, could hope or want to achieve. The industry has strayed so far from functional fashion as to inhabit the milieu of performance art. The complicit victims of this macabre dance are the girls and women who model in a fiercely competitive industry which demands that they achieve a size “0” in order to grace the runways of the fashions centers of the world.

Unfortunately, the diet methods used by women who are 5’8” to 6’0” ft. (176 cm to 183 cm) tall is appalling and extreme by any measure. Diet regimes include excessive use of laxatives; self-induced vomiting (bulimia), extreme caloric restrictive diets including those that eliminate all forms of carbohydrates which sometimes leads to (anorexia), and using medication prescribed for ADD/ADHD because it is an amphetamine that also suppresses the appetite.

Then, there are some who try more drastic measures such as consuming illegal street drugs such as speed and cocaine, and more recently hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women. This product has not been approved by the FDA which has issued warning to manufacturers against its sale and use.

There have been a number of high-profile deaths over the years. In 2006, Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, 21, died of anorexia on the eve of a Paris photo shoot after existing on a diet of apples and tomatoes.’ (Source: Daily Mail UK).  In 2007 ‘Uruguanian model Luisel Ramos, 20, died of complications from anorexia. ‘Her sister Eliana Ramos, 18, also an anorexic model, died three months later from malnutrition.

All three had a  Body Mass Index (BMI) under 18, which is severely underweight, though this has been set by the industry as a minimum threshold. The World Health Organization considers a BMI of 16 to be starvation. Most recently, British model Bethany Wallace, 19, suffered heart failure in May 2012 after succumbing to anorexia and bulimia. (Source: The Sun UK)

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Published: 7 September 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

In an effort toward self-governance and to manage public relations, the industry established guidelines to ensure that models stay healthy during Fashion Week. This includes “models showing ID on the day of show to affirm they are at least 16 years old, supplying healthy meals and snacks backstage, educating the industry to identify the early warning signs in an individual at risk of developing an eating disorder, and encouraging models who may have an eating disorder to seek professional help while prohibiting any model from continuing in the profession without first being approved by a medical professional.” (Source: Fox News)

However, these guidelines are not enforced as designers strive to achieve the ultimate presentation of their designs at unimaginable cost to the models. Once someone develops an eating disorder and is body dysmorphic, the only way to treat the condition is with serious psychological intervention that includes overseeing food intake and supplements. This is definitely not occurring or enforced despite the fact that the girls present healthy meals and snacks to gain admittance.

And unfortunately in the case of the deaths of the models above, the designers callously absolved themselves of any culpability by claiming that the women had preexisting eating disorders. However, there are some signs in the industry that designers who target their clothing to average women are attracting models that have been scouted because they are healthy and more representative of the population.

It remains to be seen how long it will take for the industry to reverse this unhealthy trend, but it can only occur if there is a concerted effort by the female models to reassert their power and desire to control their bodies and their health. Let’s hope that no more models or the young girls who aspire to look like them die before this is achieved.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias

State of the World's Mothers | The Mother Index

Today, 03 May 2011, the organization Save the Children released its annual report 'State of the World's Mothers,' also referred to as the Mother's Index, it ranks countries by the care each country provides for its most precious resources - mothers and children. I was sad to learn that America continues to decline in ranking as it embraces corporatism at the sacrifice of family. Many mothers, including myself, often find ourselves on the loosing side of the battle to balance work and motherhood. A battle in which we are required on a daily basis to choose work over our welfare or that of our children. It is true that many in the world could accuse us of being soft and spoiled and I would have to agree on whole because the quality of life in America far out strips that of most mothers and children in many other countries. However, this fact does not diminish the struggles that American mothers are increasingly facing, and which is evidenced by America's decreased standing among developed nations.

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