What Are Some of the Best Ways for Women to Deal With Stress?
By Martha Michael
Professional advancement for women is a development that’s unfolded over time, but other less fortunate aspects of life are on the rise too. Stress is something everyone deals with regardless of gender or other factors, but as women welcome more opportunities, it’s important to be aware of their limits. Some choices have a better outcome if you adjust your expectations or find new forms of stress relief.
No one said life was easy for women, and the comic strip “Frank and Ernest” may have summed up the plight of females as succinctly as anyone when it pointed out in 1982 that “Fred Astaire was great, but don't forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, backwards … and in high heels.” So yeah, women know a bit about pressure.
Symptoms of Stress in Women
An article on HealthShots.com says that, by some standards, stress affects women more than it impacts men. While males may accept certain physical challenges as a part of life, there are specific health issues reported by women that point to stress as the main cause. Thus, they identify and manage stress differently.
Headaches - Stress is a common explanation for women suffering from frequent headaches. Pressures in the workplace, marital strife, or other hardship can lead to feelings of tightness and throbbing pain in the head. What follows is a drop in her ability to function properly and carry out daily tasks.
Weight gain - Pressure can stimulate the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that increases the level of insulin that fuels your appetite. As many people will attest, when you feel stressed you crave junk food -- sugar and fat in particular. Overeating is a common emotional response to stressful situations, or in some cases, skipping meals which can cause you to binge later.
Heart problems - Many people attest to a speeding heart rate when they’re nervous or under a lot of stress. Women have heart attacks at a higher rate than men and often the symptoms are attributed to high levels of cortisol, which narrows the arteries.
Stomach aches - When you’re bearing with a difficult situation, it can cause changes in your gastrointestinal system. At times you may experience acid reflux, bloating, an upset stomach, or cramping, but in more extreme situations you may even vomit or have diarrhea. Stress can add to your problem. If you fall prey to unhealthy eating in response to your stressors, you may upset the microbiome in your gut and show symptoms from mood changes to a drop in energy level.
Sleep disruptions - If you typically fall asleep easily and get a full night’s rest, you may not currently be under a lot of stress. Interrupted sleep or trouble falling asleep are two common complaints from people who have stressful lives. Too little sleep is bad enough, but it can also lead to health issues from diabetes to heart disease.
Women’s Roles and Stress
Women wear a lot of hats. They have household responsibilities and often tend to the children while filling key roles in the workforce; therefore, rising stress levels are a constant challenge.
Data shows that men and women have different reactions to stress, according to an article by the American Psychological Association. Women tend to report physical issues caused by stress more frequently than men do, but they’re also more likely to build connections in their lives as a form of stress management.R
esearch shows that while women point to financial difficulty as a source of stress, men tend to blame their work. Both genders see a lack of money as a problem, but women are more concerned with a lack of time than their male counterparts.
When stress relieving measures are considered, willpower sometimes comes into play, but the motivation and approach is often handled differently. Men are far more likely to claim they need money, not support from friends and family, to improve their willpower. Women are six times more likely than men to say that an increase in assistance with chores would boost their willpower follow-through.
Women’s Age and Stress
Midlife is a time of transition, particularly for mothers who are adapting to raising teens or becoming empty nesters, so it’s easy to assume that chronic stress would be a natural part of the emotional landscape. However, a study of 3,000 women at the University of Michigan found a surprising trend with good news for middle-aged women: perceived stress decreases for women in midlife and beyond.
Researchers studied participants between the ages of 42-53 over a 15-year period and found a rise in their confidence, control, and ability to cope with stress over time. The mean age was 62 at the end of the study and results were consistent despite socioeconomic differences.
“The results suggested that even women with less education or more financial hardship reported less perceived stress over the midlife,” says Elizabeth Hedgeman, a doctoral graduate of the School of Public Health. “Our perception of stress decreased even through the menopausal transition, which suggests that menopause isn’t a great bugaboo, perhaps in relation to the other events or experiences that we’re having in the midlife.”
One reason for the results is an improvement in a person’s ability to regulate emotion as they age. Older men and women have a more relaxed stress response, partly due to neurochemical changes and partly due to experience.
Treatment for Stress
If a woman has children to raise and company contracts in place to keep them fed and clothed, she may feel there’s little wiggle room when she experiences stress. Sometimes the best choice is to find ways to reduce the impact of those pressures on your overall health and well-being.
The Hopkins Medicine website has an article with steps you can take to lower your stress level.
Mindfulness - Among the practices to reduce stress, mindfulness meditation has a long history of enabling people to let go of negative thought patterns. You can search for local classes or find a recorded meditation online.
Massage - It may seem like a luxury service you only have access to when you’re at a resort, but massage has long played a role in healing. Your chiropractor can apply effective manual therapies to address muscle tightening and other physiological effects of stress, or refer you to a massage therapist.
Acupuncture - A painless process from ancient China, acupuncture involves tiny needles inserted into the skin to stimulate the nervous and immune systems. You can see an acupuncturist to support other treatment modalities addressing pain, digestion problems, or insomnia.
Cognitive behavioral therapy - Also known as CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy is a straightforward form of talk therapy with no long-term side effects. It aims to diffuse negativity and help you gain sight of the positive side of things.
No matter how big the steps are toward women’s equality, from hiring in STEM fields to sharing household duties, stressors affect each gender differently and are largely individual. Men and women have various approaches to handling the circumstances that arise, but treatment options can serve as the great equalizer. All ages, stages, and genders can benefit from chiropractic care, as well as finding the best ways to manage stress their own way.
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