A woman came running towards me as I left my son to school.
‘‘Are you going to the party on Saturday, it’s supposed to be fancy dress what’s your son going as?’’ She appeared rather anxious.
‘‘He doesn’t want to dress up so he’s wearing ordinary clothes,’’ I replied. She then turned to another mum, ‘‘Is your wee one dressing up?’’ she demanded becoming increasingly agitated.
‘‘She’s not sure yet if she wants to get dressed up,’’ answered the woman backing away.
‘‘Well, I think what we’ll do is we’ll have a costume ready, and wait outside the party venue in the car to watch everyone going in. If lots of kids are wearing costumes she can slip hers on. She doesn’t want to be the only one wearing fancy dress but she doesn’t want to not wear one if everyone else is.’’
She nodded her head vigorously at her decision, happy that she had found a solution to her quandary which, although seemingly unimportant, had worked itself into a matter of mammoth importance in her mind.
Another mum was pacing anxiously in front of the recycling bin. ‘‘What’s up?’’ I asked as I approached with party spy mum.
‘‘I was putting clothes in the recycling bin yesterday and I realised when I got home I’d put one of my new shoes in! I’ve asked at the office and they said the van was due soon to collect the clothes and the driver might find my shoe for me. I can’t wait much longer or I’ll be late taking my mother to her doctor‘s appointment!’’
As we sympathised with her an alarm bell began to ring loudly. Yet another mum appeared from nowhere and began to shout: ‘‘Oh my goodness it’s the fire alarm, I can smell burning!’’
At that point I too could smell burning and felt my stomach contract a little as I had visions of the school erupting into flames with my son inside.
The four of us then seemed to go into a collective blind panic running and bumped into each other as we tried to decide what way to run.
‘‘Go to the office,’’ one shouted. ‘‘I’m going back to the classroom,’’ I yelled and still we couldn’t negotiate our way out of the huddle we had formed.
Like flies bumping aimlessly against a window looking for a way out, we careered into each other in mass confusion and panic. Suddenly the alarm stopped, the smell of burnt toast escaped from an open window and someone ascertained the fire bell had been set off by cremated toast in the breakfast club.
All four frantic mums immediately relaxed, giggled a bit about our frenzied over-reaction then marched off into the day, where no doubt we would meet more situations head on with a soupcon of mild hysteria.
I see varying degrees of stress at the school gates on a daily basis. Women go from nought to 60 on the anxiety scale in a matter of seconds as stress and panic overtake them over seemingly innocuous matters. Many women seem to be permanently sitting on an imminent panic attack, as they juggle their responsibilities of child care, work, elderly parents and apparently the most stressful activity of all, trying to negotiate a school parking space.
A survey carried out by the Mental Health Foundation revealed more than one in five women say they suffer from anxiety most or all of the time. Money worries were named as the main cause of angst for women with the welfare of loved ones and children coming second. Figures show 8,720 patients in the UK were treated in hospital in 2013 for anxiety.
Some people don’t like admitting that they feel anxious, depressed or stressed. We are afraid others will see it as a weakness. I suffered anxiety and panic attacks for many years which included enduring crippling agoraphobia. I never thought I would recover, but I did when I explored alternative therapies. My recovery began with varied treatments including the use of herbal supplements, reflexology and aromatherapy with natural therapy practitioner Kapil Puri. I keep these sessions up, they help calm and de-stress me. Talking therapies (CBT) are also helpful in treating stress and mild to moderate depression.
If you suffer from anxiety be assured you’re not alone. Many people seem to be unflustered on the outside but like a swan that appears to be gliding along serenely, they’re paddling furiously underwater to keep themselves afloat. Don’t try to keep calm and carry on if stress is eating you up, seek help. See your GP or try an alternative therapy, many are surprisingly effective in dealing with stress and anxiety. Find complimentary therapies at