A Female Approach to Mental Health – Lisa Lloyd

As a chartered psychologist, you might assume Lisa would naturally be interested in mental health. But it was her experience of working with families experiencing hardship, caught up in a cycle of self-perpetuating, damaging behaviours with inadequate preventative support, that triggered her need to contribute to this area. Nine years later, she qualified as a psychotherapist so that she could better support individuals with mental health needs.

It was in 2011 that Lisa founded ‘It’s Time for Change’ when she started working with organisations to make a difference to individuals’ ability to feel good and to be able to fully engage with life. Another nine years later and she is loving working with company leaders to create cultures that work for employees. But it’s been during 2020 that Lisa worked with the Women Utilities Network and wrote for ‘Yellow Eve and You Magazine’, (https://itstimeforchange.co.uk/are-you-ready-for-your-midlife-moment) about empowering women. Lisa said, “I’ve come to appreciate mental health from a distinctly women’s perspective.”

Lisa discussed that it was a good time to think about women, in light of covid19 and the impact it has had on the most vulnerable cohort of the labour force. She said the term Pink Collar Recession has been coined as a result. Female-majority sectors have been hardest hit and, paired with caring responsibilities that tend to fall to women, this has led to a recipe for stress.

Lisa went on to say “We need to embrace opportunities to excel by engaging with activities, projects, learning and development outside of our day-to-day routines to provide us with a sense of meaning and purpose, achievement and our need to be motivated. When we prioritise what we seek to experience, instead of fulfilling the needs of people around us, we begin to meet our emotional needs for control, a sense of status, meaningful connections, and attention. This isn’t about neglecting our families, friends, and colleagues but about balance, where we’re at the centre.”

Lisa says she encourages women to make a list of their strengths and skills, not forgetting to ask other people what they would say. 

She reported, “Women experience imposter syndrome (https://itstimeforchange.co.uk/imposter-syndrome-podcast) more than their male counterparts so we need to learn to challenge the inner critic that puts us down and focuses on our flaws. Female-dominant traits of emotional intelligence such as self-awareness, empathy, and interpersonal relationships play in your favour (and can give you an advantage) so utilise them and build your sense of self-belief.”

“Self-awareness means, in part, recognising your early warning signs that emotional arousal is on the way up. Whether it’s tension, sweaty palms, or negative thoughts, when you notice, you empower yourself to take control. If we ignore these alarm bells. Think of the times when you’ve been juggling children, work, and jobs around the house – my brain is pattern matching back to the stress as I write this! We are choosing to let our amygdala take charge. That is a tiny almond-shaped part of the brain that has enormous power. It can hijack the clever cognitive brain that we need to be calm, rational, to plan and problem solve. In other words, the bit where we’re at our best. Think of it as a security guard, on the lookout for any type of threat. Those moments when we’re feeling out of control or psychologically unsafe, for example when we’re at risk of failure or embarrassment, Bob, my security officer, gets ready for fight or flight to deal with the threat.”

She went on to say that heart racing, adrenalin pumping, a spotlight on the problem, feeling over-sensitive, being less able to think clearly, and expressing resistance to others’ input, we can dig ourselves deeper into a hole. The cost of charging ahead regardless is to our relationships, our performance, and productivity but most of all, to our wellbeing.

So, Lisa suggests that we ladies need to be able to hit the pause button, evaluate what has triggered the emotional overwhelm, and most importantly, what we can do differently to avoid the ongoing pattern. When we recognise what being our best looks like, we’re able to plan one small step at a time to achieve that. To calm our emotional brain and put our neo-cortex back in control, building healthy practices into daily life is a must. 7/11 breathing triggers calm, and mindfulness allows the brain to stop analysing the past and worrying about the future and instead, be present in the moment. It’s not fluffy; it’s scientific and it works to slow the brain to allow Bob to sit back down.

In closing, Lisa gave this advice. “Looking after you isn’t a luxury. It’s a must. Think of it as putting on your own oxygen mask before others. And if you don’t believe you have time, compare your outcomes when you’re emotionally aroused compared to when you’re calm – you won’t need a scientist to point out the danger of Bob being in charge.”

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