The challenge of anxiety never tests you more than when you become a mother.
From conceiving, to pregnancy, to birth, and forever more, there are infinite reasons for your anxiety to be heightened. The impact on mothers isn't just the anxiety itself, it's the stop sign it seems to put up in front of you at almost every turn. Anxiety can stand in the way of living a rich, full and wonderful life, and from fulfilling your potential personally, professionally and as a mother. But this doesn't have to be your reality. Dr Jodi Richardson, co-author of the bestselling Anxious Kids, knows this because she lives with anxiety and is a wellbeing expert. Now, she wants to educate and inspire mothers to:
· recognise and understand your anxiety
· build the skills and a lifestyle to manage and minimise your symptoms
· develop thinking skills to manage unhelpful and worrying thoughts
· cultivate confidence to embrace change and uncertainty
· strengthen your ability and willingness to tolerate discomfort
· know and act by your values· enrich relationships with your partner, friends and children· understand emotional labour and manage your 'mental load'
· strive to fulfil personal and professional goals and ambitions
· raise emotionally intelligent children with skills for flourishing mental health
Grounded in positive psychology, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Anxious Mums cuts through the science, giving mums the knowledge, tools, support and confidence to make a positive difference not just to their own mental health but to that of their whole family.
About the author:
Dr Jodi Richardson is an expert on anxiety having lived it and studied it. She has spent more than 25 years in the field of health, wellbeing, clinical practice, elite sport and education. She is the founder and director of Happier on Purpose, the Mental Health and Wellbeing expert for Parenting Ideas and co-creator of the Parenting Anxious Kids online course. She writes regularly on parenting, mental health and wellbeing for magazine and online publications.
Penguin Books Australia
Author: Dr Jodi Richardson
Question: What originally inspired the idea of Anxious Mums?
Jodi Richardson: It's a story that can only be described as serendipitous. I was speaking to a group of Under 18 female footballers about anxiety, how to recognise it, how to manage it and where to get help if they need it. I'm always open and honest about my own experiences when I present and shared some of my own journey with anxiety from childhood to now. One of the parents listening that evening, Ali, told me after my presentation that what I shared was life changing for her. Ali also just happened to be a close colleague of my amazing publisher at Penguin Random House who she contacted to say 'Jodi has to write a book for mums'.
Question: How did you develop your approach to mental health?
Jodi Richardson: Like so many others, my anxiety remained undiagnosed for a long time. My first symptoms showed when I was 4 and it wasn't until 20 years later my anxiety was finally diagnosed. Prior to that I intuitively managed my anxiety through exercise. After my diagnosis I found an incredible psychologist who helped me understand and begin to manage my anxiety by developing new thinking skills, learning to meditate and through therapy over many years. Beyond that I've learned other profound and powerful techniques through my training in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and research in psychological flexibility, neuroscience and physiology.
Question: What did you learn, about yourself, whilst writing Anxious Mums?
Jodi Richardson: I decided early on while writing the book that I would share openly about how anxiety impacted me over my life both before and after becoming a parent. Much of it was difficult to share, especially about some of the obsessive-compulsive behaviours and intrusive thoughts I experienced when I was overwhelmed by post-natal depression. While researching the book I learned that the risk of OCD during the perinatal (conception to bub's first birthday) period is high, and that the majority of new mums have intrusive thoughts about their babies too. It was such a huge relief to learn how common those experiences are, hard as they were to go through.
Question: Was it difficult reliving certain aspects/times of your life, whilst writing Anxious Mums?
Jodi Richardson: It really was at times. It was hard reflecting on how challenging it was for me parenting our children while struggling with anxiety and depression, and not knowing what I know now. At times I cried as I thought about how many beautiful moments of parenting were lost to me because of my mental health. At the same time, reflecting on those experiences continued to reaffirm just how impactful the book I was writing would be for other mums going through similar experiences.
Question: Can you share some tips with us featured in the book?
Jodi Richardson: Worry is a huge challenge for those of us with anxiety and it's something that can cloud the brightest of days. It stands in the way of us being present with our children, our partners, our friends and our work, and can also act as a stop sign between us and what we aspire to. One of the many strategies I share in the book is how to develop new thinking skills to manage worry. One part of that strategy invites mums to as a different question when they're worried about something. Instead of asking themselves 'Is this true?' I invite them to ask 'Is this helpful?' Once it's established that the worry isn't helpful (because most of them are not), the next step teaches mums how to take the sting out of what they're thinking and how to return their attention back to, and take action towards, what's important in that moment. This set of skills has been life changing for me.
Question: What other tips do you have in regards to working from home?
Jodi Richardson: Working from home is amazing in so many ways but one of the downsides is the way the lines between work and family life can quickly become blurred. My advices is to set boundaries around when it's time for work and when the work is done as would be the case when working outside of the home. The benefits of working from home can be swallowed up fast if there's never any downtime!
Question: What research did you do, prior to writing Anxious Mums?
Jodi Richardson: A lot! There are hundreds of references in the bibliography of Anxious Mums. My academic training means that my readers always rest assured that what they're learning is evidence-based and trusted. That said, I don't write in an academic way. I write with warmth, honesty, openness and in a way that's relatable so my books are easy to read but chock full of empathy, trusted advice and practical strategies.
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
Jodi Richardson: Begin publishing and sharing your work today. In my experience, the more you create the more you develop your tone of voice or distinctive style. And the more you share, the more people you can impact with your work while building your experience and reputation. I'd also encourage writers and artists to dedicate time every day to their craft as opposed to waiting for inspiration to come. It pays to remember too that each and every one of us can impact people with our work now, we're so lucky to have platforms to widely share what we create.
Question: What or who inspired your love of reading/writing?
Jodi Richardson: Funny thing is, it took until I was 27 years old and bringing together the puzzle pieces of my own research and that of others for my PhD thesis for me to discover how much I loved writing! After that I began pitching unique ideas in the areas of high performance, mental health and wellbeing to magazine editors which led to eight years of work as a freelance writer. Anxious Kids: How children can turn their anxiety into resilience, the book I co-authored with Michael Grose, was born of a conversation over coffee where Michael asked me 'what's the dream?' My answer was 'to write the book I wish my parents and teachers had when I was an anxious kid'. To have now written two practical and impactful resources for parents is so very fulfilling.
Question: What's next, for you?
Jodi Richardson: Love this question! Right now I'm in the middle of a rebrand, new website build and creating an online course to empower parents to support their anxious kids and teens. Keep an eye on drjodirichardson.com.au for updates! After that course is complete I'll be creating another online resource specifically for mums who'd love support and strategies to dial back their anxiety and get it out of the way of their goals and aspirations.
Personally - I'm training towards my 2nd Dan grading in karate at the end of 2021 and working on nailing my handstand push ups in CrossFit! I still love exercise!
Thank you so very much for your interest in the book and learning a little more about me :)
Interview by Gwen van Montfort