Work, Home, Multiple Roles and Stress
What are women's roles in society today?
Women have taken on multiple roles to adapt to changes in society today. They continue meeting household and family responsibilities, while at the same time working and trying to maintain personal interests. Women can view these roles as challenges, or they can perceive them as threats. As demands increase to fulfill these roles, women often feel a sense of losing control and helplessness, making them prone to stress and burnout.
For most women, stress ranks at the top of the list of daily problems. Women are more likely candidates for stress than are men. Women strive to be perfect in all areas of their lives, and women do not spend enough time taking care of themselves. Women need to understand stress, recognize warning signs, and develop coping skills to maintain health in all dimensions of their lives.
What is stress?
Stress is a response to daily life. Acute stress might produce temporary physical changes from which the body recovers. When stress becomes chronic or excessive, the body might not be able to adapt and cope. Chronic stress for women can build up in the daily experiences of life: pressure at work, marital conflict, caretaking for an elderly parent, or rearing children.
Not all stress is bad. For many women, stress can be a positive force in their lives, enabling them to do their best.
Stress is psychophysiological, which means that stress includes:
- Psychophysiological factors — Thoughts and emotions are critical elements in determining the level of stress a person experiences.
- Physiological reactions — Physiological reactions might be voluntary (what can be controlled) and involuntary, such as the "fight or flight" reaction when faced with physical danger or high emotional stress. This response produces physical changes in the body, including increased heart rate, muscle tension, and a rush of adrenaline.
What are stress warning signs for women?
As stress increases, women develop warning signs in multiple areas, giving them the sense that their lives are out of balance. Taking a personal stress profile to identify these signs is the first step in managing stress.
- Physical — headaches, tension, insomnia, fatigue, appetite change, smoking, alcohol or drug use
- Emotional — anxiety, anger, unhappiness, irritability, depression, frustration
- Mental — forgetfulness, constant worry, inability to make decisions, negative thinking, boredom
- Occupational — work overload, long hours, inadequate recognition, conflict in relations, unfulfilling job
- Social — lack of intimacy, isolation, family problems, marital conflict, loneliness
- Spiritual — apathy, loss of meaning, emptiness, unforgiving, doubt, guilt, despair
How can women manage the stress in their lives?
Managing stress means learning to cope with stress, not avoiding it. When undergoing periods of intense stress, women need to make sure they have sufficient recovery periods along the way that help them replenish lost energy. During high stress periods, women also need to build in time for self-nurturing.
Taking a wellness approach to life — which is achieved through balancing and integrating diverse aspects of life — is a helpful way to manage stress. Recognizing the connection between mind and body can also help women manage stress and give them healthy control over their lives. Women need to recognize their own unique makeup and tailor a stress management program with healthy coping skills.
Here are some examples:
- Physical — exercise, relax (such as deep breathing exercises or yoga), eat healthy, have a physical exam, sleep, play
- Emotional — express emotions, have a good cry or laugh, write about emotions, accept yourself
- Mental — find new interests, identify negative thoughts, change "shoulds," prioritize
- Occupational — reduce work load, set realistic goals, examine job and career goals, delegate
- Social — seek support, talk out your problems, develop intimacy, nurture friendships, help others
- Spiritual — reconnect with your values, call on your personal belief system, reflect on life, meditate
What will make well-being and balance work?
- Practice acceptance. Find the inner peace to accept what cannot be changed and change the things you can.
- Find a balance. Optimal health nurtures and promotes wellness in all areas of life.
- Face change. Change is inevitable. Accept change as a challenge, not a threat.
- Focus on the present. Stay in the present moment without living in the past or future.
- Let go. Practice letting go or forgiving.
- Confront stress. Face and manage stress rather than hide with unhealthy coping mechanisms.
- Listen to your mind. Examine your beliefs and how they influence your life.
- Integrate love, work, and play. Learn how to live fully in each area.
- Accept yourself. Honor and love your inner self and the roles you play in life.
- Seek professional help . Seek professional assistance to learn how to manage difficult stress.