Why are women so stressed?
Why are women so stressed?
April is Stress awareness month.
Mary Young, a certified mental health first aid trainer in Georgia, lived life at full speed. She was an active woman who gave her all to her work and to her volunteering at her church. Until one day she couldn’t.
“Looking at my Facebook recollections, I could see that I had a lot of bouts of the disease in 2015 that I hadn’t even noticed at the time,” Young said. This coincided with Young’s increased travel and overtime, which he was doing in part to prove himself to his new boss. At the end of the year he became very ill with the flu, followed by a flare-up of the flu in January, then shingles and finally a ministerke which was initially misdiagnosed as vertigo.
Young’s experience with the disease during a stressful time isn’t unusual, and women are more likely to experience stress compared to men. Second Linda Baggett, Ph.D., CEO of Well Women Psychology in California, “There are a lot of nuanced reasons. One, I think women are under incredible pressure and demands to be perfect. We have to be perfect moms with perfect bodies, perfect employees, have perfect exercise routines and everything in between. It is a standard that men are not held to. Of course, men have a lot of pressure in the field of work, but there isn’t much pressure otherwise.
On top of this stress, Baggett said many women struggle to say “no” and set boundaries, which often leads to the third factor: having to work harder to be taken seriously by their bosses, doctors, etc. this adds an extra layer of stress, and even more so for women with a marginalized identity, such as being black or disabled.
Stress itself isn’t always a bad thing. Some stress can be good. For example, it can help you focus on tackling a difficult task, adapt to new situations, or challenge yourself. But when stressors go beyond normal or continue unabated, they can affect you not only emotionally but physically as well. And while uncommon, in some cases, the long-term effects of stress it can kill you.
Stress can weaken you
So what can stress do to a woman’s body? While you may not experience Young’s level of physical symptoms, stress can take a toll on your health, causing many symptomsfor example:
- Chest pain
- Muscle tension and pain
- Stomach ache
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Decreased sex drive
- Heart disease
- Delayed menstrual periods
“There’s also difficulty sleeping, having difficulty turning off that to-do list scrolling marquee,” Baggett said. “And you’re much more likely to get sick if you’re stressed because stress really takes a toll on your immune system.”
Stress can also lead to anxiety. Stress is something that it has an external cause, such as losing your job, being late for an appointment, or seeing something spooky. Anxiety, on the other hand, is the body’s internal reaction to stress. Many of the tips to help manage stress also help reduce mild anxiety, but women who experience more intense anxiety may need professional help to reduce that anxiety.
Read “I’m grateful for the anxiety that blew me away” >>
Manage stress, keep it under control
Because stress is so common, women need to learn to identify and manage it before it spirals out of control. Young said that while it might seem easier said than done, the important thing is to start small. “I had to admit that I couldn’t do everything. I can’t tell you how hard it was,” she said.
Young had traveled extensively for work before having to take time off. After thinking she had recovered enough, she decided to try again. “This time it was only once a month, starting in July, but in August, I told my boss I couldn’t do it. All the reserves I had accumulated were lost on that three-day journey. Young also got better at saying no and canceling after saying yes when she realized that her yes wasn’t a good idea.
After changing up her routine to allow for better sleep and healthier eating, Young also found that adding some exercise — nothing radical, she stressed — helped, too. “Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten better by taking time off and taking a walk in my backyard,” she said. “I’ll just do five or six laps in the back yard. Works wonders, just being out in the sun.
Watch “How to sleep well at night” >>
Pause and slow down
Young may not have realized this, but her daily walks in the yard, saying no, and getting more sleep were all part of the pause and slow down approach to stress management. “Stress causes our brains to get carried away with thoughts,” Baggett explained. “Starting at the beginning. Take a few deep breaths, slow down and ask yourself, OK, what am I feeling? What is pressing me? What do I need right now? This allows you to determine if you need to take a break before proceeding, help to complete a task or you need to stop moving forward.
Baggett said do what works for you. It could be having a big cry, taking a long walk, or just hanging out. What’s very important, though, is not to say you don’t have time for it. “You can not Not have the time to do it,” Baggett said. “If your stress rises to a certain point, you’ll be totally overwhelmed and become ill or shut down in some way.”
April is Stress Awareness Month, so it’s a great time to evaluate and reflect on the stress in your life. The goal is to help people understand the importance of what stress can do to the body and how self-care can help people deal with stress before it gets out of control. Help slow down where possible.
“Slowly but surely, you can change your approach to life and manage stress,” said Young. “In rehab, they had to keep telling me that SLOW doesn’t spell FAST.”
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