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Worrying made it seem worse than it was

Fiona was overjoyed after giving birth to her son, but as the time neared for her to return to work from maternity leave, she became increasingly anxious.

“My first worries were about my son and spending any length of time apart and what it would mean leaving him with a stranger at nursery, someone he didn’t know, and whether it was safe. Then also worrying about work itself.

“Theres a worry that people will not know who you are anymore when you come back or might not know what you’re about. Almost like starting a new job,” said Fiona.

Fiona, who works as a general manager at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, said her worries became worse as she dwelled on them.

52 percent of mothers surveyed said that they worried about returning to work after maternity leave, while over a third said returning was harder than expected.

“Once you start to come back again and take it on, you realise it’s actually not as bad you think it might be. Once you come back you realise that you do remember all the things you thought you wouldn’t remember and you become much more confident in yourself and remembering that you’re able to do your job and you’re still competent and capable. You get used to being back at work,” said Fiona.

Setting boundaries and talking to her manager about her worries were some of the things that helped Fiona to manage.

“I take my emails off my phone in the evenings so I don’t get tempted to check them so I’ve definitely got that time with my son, and I’m not worrying about work too much. I’m fine just not even having it there on my phone. It’s a sort of ominous thing in the corner you’re worrying about. I don’t do that in the evenings, and I’m committed to that. And it’s been really helpful.

“Worrying about it makes it seem much worse than it actually might be. I think as well talking to your managers and colleagues and making sure that you’re sharing with them the things you’re struggling with, for instance if your kids are unwell and you need to take time off work, and you feel like you’re failing in some sort of way, but being upfront with your manager and having a conversation about that, and making a plan for how you’ll make up the work, was really helpful to have.”

We’re observing Mental Health Awareness Week from 15 to 21 May. This year the theme is anxiety – a very common emotion, which can easily become a mental health problem, when it’s not properly managed.