Stress has become such an endemic part of our modern lives that there are entire genes of books and self-help videos designed to help you deal with it. And as with most things in life, women approach stress differently than men do. How does stress differ between the two genders and how can women learn to deal with the stressors in their life?
The Gender Divide
Unsurprisingly, there’s a large difference between how men and women experience stress in their lives. According to the American Psychological Association, women are more likely to report experiencing significant stress, and half believe that their stress levels have increased in the last five years.
For women, money and the economy are among the primary stressors, while more men tend to cite work as their primary source of stress. Married women report experiencing more stress than single ones, and the fairer sex is more likely to experience and report the physical symptoms that manifest from excessive stress, like headache or nausea.
Types of Stress
We could place each thing that causes stress in it’s own category, but in an effort to simplify things, researchers tend to break down most forms of stress into four categories:
- General – Anything that changes your life, from work and school to conflict with your relationships and anything in between.
- Catastrophic – Living through a natural disaster or major civil unrest in your area could both be considered sources of catastrophic stress.
- Childhood – Anything that you experienced during your childhood or formative years that still affects you today.
- Minority – Any sort of stressor that directly results from discrimination because of your race, gender, sexuality, etc.
Understanding the different types of stress makes them easier to quantify and, thus, easier to deal with in the long run.
Dealing With Stress
Now that we know what we’re up against, how can women deal with the stress in their lives?
Go for a walk or run, ride your bike, climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator, stretch, do yoga, or go for a swim. According to the Mayo Clinic, any sort of activity, especially if you enjoy it, can help you reduce the stress levels in your life. You don’t need to be a marathoner or an Olympic-level athlete. Just get moving and shake off some of those stressors that are pulling you down.
Meditation and the practice of mindfulness have both been shown to help reduce stress. If you’re unsure where to start, consider downloading an app like Calm that offers guided meditations. These relaxing programs walk you through each step of your mediation process and help you keep your mind on task instead of letting it wander.
Stress tends to make us emotionally eat, but loading up on sugar and junk food is just going to make you feel worse. Swap out your fast food with healthy snacks and fresh foods that will help you feel better
Sometimes the best thing you can do when you find yourself overwhelmed with stress is to get all those thoughts out of your head and down on paper so you can sort through them. Journaling is a habit that many of us had as young girls but outgrew as other things took priority. Take the time to step back and start journaling again. You might be surprised how much it helps.
The concept of self-love might sound like a goofy influencer buzzword, but it’s based on the idea that you can’t pour from an empty cup — meaning if you’re exhausted and burned out, you won’t have anything left to give to others, so you need to take care of yourself first. If you’re having trouble with self-love, at least stop hating on yourself. Start with self-neutrality. You don’t have to say “I love myself” right off the bat if you can’t say the words. Start with checking your negative self-talk and turning those negative thoughts into positive or at least neutral thoughts.
Work can be one of the most significant sources of stress, especially if you can’t shut off your work-brain when you leave the office or close the laptop for those of us still working from home. Take the time to focus on your work/life balance. Disconnect yourself from the office when the workday is over. Shut off the computer, mute the office group chat, whatever works for you, so you can take the time you need to recharge before you get back to work.
Focus on Gratitude
It can be hard to be grateful for the things you already have, especially when everything is going wrong. One of the essential parts of my morning routine is writing down what I’m grateful for. They don’t have to be eloquent or even terribly long. Mine are usually single sentences, expressing my gratitude for sunrises or a hot cup of coffee. The goal is to refocus your mind on what you have in front of you rather than what you wish you had. When you find yourself struggling, you can always go back and look at the things you were grateful for.
Stress may be a part of life, but we don’t have to let it tear us down. Try one of these tips to help you deal with the stressors in your life.