Asian American Women and Anxiety

  • Feeling overwhelmed or exhausted these days with multiple conflicting responsibilities of work while holding space for your family?
  • Having a hard time feeling settled or relaxed?
  • Feeling guilty for shutting down and taking a day or two for yourself?

Depending on your family’s immigration history, e.g., if they’re refugees or
they immigrated to improve the life for their children, there is
often a value of hard work to survive in the U.S., a notion that we “cannot afford to sit still.” Many have had to start from the beginning to build up economic stability.  Generations have survived and learned to work harder to overcome adversities of discrimination and outright racism, as we are forever being seen as foreigners and not belonging to this country.  The intergenerational mode of working hard and always on-the-go to stave off threats to survival, may have allowed us to achieve much success educationally and economically.  It could also result in deeply-seated fight/flight sympathetic system being constantly activated in your brain and your body, which means your body and mind may actually unconsciously not feel safe to slow down. Such fight/flight (or even freeze) response may be exacerbated if you’ve experienced other trauma in your life (e.g., sexual harassment, not feeling safe when parents argue loudly or parents not being present when you were young).

As a woman, there is often an added expectation to be caretakers of family members, to make sure everyone else is OK. It may be deeply ingrained to sacrifice self to take care of others.  This may be more prevalent these days as we’re spending much more time at home with family members.  And yet, at some point, we may start to realize that we are completely depleted, not able to think clearly, and we start to learn the hard way that our relationships suffer when we are not centered, not fully present, but are irritable all too often. 

As Asian American women, we likely have had to navigate gender role expectations as well as model minority expectations, while trying to determine
our own values and priorities.  You may also have had to learn to straddle
between expectations at home if you have more traditional elders, and to
code-switch to find your voice in the workplace.  Gotten conflicting messages  when you switch between contexts–of being too loud, too quiet, too big, breasts too small, skin too dark, not smiling enough, too ambitious, etc.? 

What are some ways that you’re taking care of yourself so that you can be more present for others, so that you could actually be healthy to serve others?  Are you regularly prioritizing what nourishes you, what feeds you?  Do you find it hard to take these self-focused, self-care steps?

I highly recommend that you build and stay connected with a support system, a group of loved ones who are caring and compassionate toward you, especially those who are understanding of the challenges of straddling between Western and Eastern cultural norms, those who will remind you to take care yourself.

If you continue to have difficulties staying centered, finding yourself in tears easily or irritable too often, starting to have more difficulties with those around you, then please seek professional help with a licensed mental health professional. 

Please also feel free to call me at 408-828-8375 or send me an email to inquire further.