Health Topics

Stress and Women

What is stress?

Stress can involve a recent change or a daily pressure. Stress happens to everyone and can be motivating and productive or negative and destructive. Tension and anxiety, as well as depression, are frequent emotional consequences of stress.

The mind and body are linked throughout our lives. We must learn to respect both our emotional and physical needs, or we will lose our equilibrium and ability to adapt.

Why do some experts feel that women are particularly susceptible to stress?

Women are socialized to be the caretakers of others. More women than men have both a career outside the home and continue to try to juggle traditional responsibilities after hours. Over 70% of married women with children under the age of 18 are employed outside the home. Sociologists describe women as struggling to achieve the "male standard" at work, while trying to maintain the perfect wife and mother standards at home.

Women are also less likely to be in as powerful positions as men to change their environment. Women find it harder to say no to others' requests and often feel guilty if they can't please everyone. They often spend less time nurturing their own emotional and physical needs, as that might be perceived as selfish. In addition, relationship alterations or the loss of loved ones can produce empty nest or other separation syndromes.

As women progress through life's stages, hormonal balance associated with premenstrual, post-partum and menopausal changes can affect chemical vulnerability to stress and depression.

Symptoms of stress

  • Feeling tense
  • Depression
  • Poor memory
  • Poor concentration
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Anger/hostility
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Negative thinking
  • Distractibility
  • Excess smoking or eating
  • Feeling overwhelmed or helpless

Stress increases the risk for:

  • Accidents
  • Headaches
  • Bowel disorders
  • Poor digestion
  • Skin disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Emotional disorders
  • Asthma attacks
  • High blood pressure/strokes
  • Colds/infections
  • Backache
  • Arthritis/immune disorders
  • Heart attacks/recovery
  • Cancer
  • Ulcers
  • Sexual dysfunction

How can I cope with stress?

Leisure time must be considered a necessity, not just a reward for doing more. Personal time for rejuvenation will never be available unless it is planned. Prioritizing based on principle rather than demand is sometimes difficult to learn, but is critical for peace of mind.

You can't be all things to all people all of the time. Don't be reluctant to ask for help. Avoid combining too many projects. Delegate if necessary. Learn to say "no."

What activities can help relieve stress?

Here are some examples of activities that can help to refresh the body and mind:

  • Taking baths
  • Reading
  • Doing breathing exercises
  • Receiving back rubs/massages
  • Listening to relaxation tapes
  • Writing in a journal
  • Meeting with a friend
  • Napping
  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Engaging in spiritual reflection
  • Stretching
  • Listening to music

Finding it hard to untangle?

Seek a little help:

  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Support group therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Relaxation training