Whether you’re under a lot of pressure at home or struggling to meet deadlines at work, stress is a fact of life. Some people turn to drinking or drug use to unwind, which can have severe consequences. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the unique stressors that men and women experience. Today, we invite you to learn the signs of stress in women, along with some helpful mindfulness techniques that will help you to relax.
Stressors that Affect Women
Think of stress as a reaction to challenges and changes. In the short term, a stress response can be helpful; that rush of adrenaline can give you an added boost to complete tasks. In the long term, however, stress can wreak havoc on your life. Women are actually more likely than men to report feeling stressed. They’re also more prone to have co-occurring mental illnesses that are worsened by stress.
In a 2018 article on this subject, The New York Times mentions a “stress gap” between the two genders. Women and men have many stressors in common – almost everyone will contend with financial struggle, career changes, health problems, and relationship issues. However, there are a few stressors that are almost exclusive to women:
Unpaid domestic work usually falls to women.
The United Nations found that women do nearly three times the housework as men. However, because housework isn’t often considered real labor, this stressor tends to be swept under the rug.
Women do more emotional labor.
Emotional labor involves supporting others, masking your own emotions, and stressing yourself out in the process. Women are much more likely to do these “invisible duties” than their male counterparts. Think of all the little things that have to be taken care of before an outing. While a man may get dressed and drive there, many women find themselves handling little steps of the process: picking outfits; buying, wrapping, and bringing a housewarming gift; ensuring that everyone leaves on time. Each of these tasks may be taken for granted, contributing to ongoing stress even at home.
Wearing many hats is exhausting.
We all know someone who wants to be Superwoman – maybe it’s you. Juggling your career, your relationships, your caregiving role, and your social life is a massive challenge. No matter how hard you try, you may feel like you’ve failed in some areas. This can contribute to low self-esteem and worsened stress.
Signs of Stress in Women
Stress affects everyone’s health, but for women, its effects are magnified. They’re also very different than what happens to men. Women are more likely to experience insomnia, fatigue, and anxiety before a heart attack, for example. However, because these symptoms are so common among women, they are often written off without a second thought. Women also won’t experience the “classic signs” of a pulmonary issue, which means that they are more likely to die within the year after they have a heart attack.
This is just one example of the ways in which a woman’s stress response will differ from that of a man. Read below for a list of chronic stress symptoms that typically appear among the female population. If any of these are familiar, it may be time to seek help.
- Headaches, migraines
- Fatigue, low energy
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Upset stomach (IBS)
- Irritability, short temper
- Burnout and job dissatisfaction
- Difficulty focusing
- Memory problems, forgetfulness
- Changes in appetite
- Disruption to menstrual cycle (severe PMS, irregular periods)
- Weight gain
- Feeling “out of control”
- Anhedonia (loss of pleasure in favorite activities)
- Substance abuse
- Decreased sex drive
- Heart problems (blood pressure, heart rate, stroke, heart attack)
Stress Management Techniques
Luckily, there are steps women can take to manage these feelings and push back against the stress gap. The American Psychological Association reports that women are more likely to take action and get their feelings of overwhelm in check. Here are a few of our favorite techniques for doing just that.
Take Care of Yourself
Self-care is something of a buzzword these days, but it’s more than just a long bath and a lit candle. Think of self-care as a type of mental hygiene. If you take time just for yourself, you’re more likely to recover from the events of the day. You can also consider nutritious meals, frequent exercise, and getting enough sleep to be self-care.
Resist the urge to let your emotions boil beneath the surface. Instead, talk to loved ones about your feelings. When you open up about your problems, you gain both support and a new perspective on your situation. If needed, you can also speak with a professional in a therapeutic setting.
It’s time to stop being Superwoman. Remind yourself that you can’t do everything and set limits around what you will take on each day. These boundaries can help you to manage your workload. Finally, don’t be afraid to talk to your supervisor or your spouse about reallocating some of your work. They may be surprised to hear that you are struggling, but they will probably want to assist you in your journey to improved mental health.
Deep breathing is the fastest way to reset your brain. Taking in a lot of air stimulates the vagus nerve, which interfaces with the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. This sends your body a signal to calm down; if you’re breathing slowly, your brain will believe that the threat has passed.
Write It Out
Journaling can be an almost meditative practice for many women. If you aren’t able to talk to others about what’s going on, writing it down can assist in processing. Once the words are on a page, you can objectively analyze the situation and find solutions.
Stressed people often become disorganized, and that can actually contribute to more stress. Give yourself structure with to-do lists. Then you can prioritize things, check items off, and feel accomplished at the end of the day.
Stop Using Substances to Cope
Many women begin to have “just one drink” at the end of a stressful day. But if every day is stressful, that pattern can become problematic. If you find yourself drinking or using drugs to unwind, we recommend that you find an accredited treatment center near you. That way, you can learn healthy stress management techniques while disentangling yourself from a life of substance abuse.
Find Peace at Augustine Recovery
At Augustine Recovery, we have created a gender-specific haven for recovery. Our women’s addiction treatment center provides the safety and serenity that are crucial for long-term healing. If you’re combating chronic stress with drugs or alcohol, we can help. Contact our admissions coordinators to learn more about our approach to treatment.