Take off the superwoman cape

Mental Health and Wellness
Take off the superwoman cape

Are you having trouble balancing family, work, community and social commitments?

Do you feel overwhelmed by the demands of your job?

Would you describe yourself as a worrier?

Is your “to-do” list out of control? Is it keeping you up at night?

Although both men and women both feel the pressures that are part of everyday life, our pressure points can be different.  Women are trained by societal demands to be caretakers of others and most often, need to juggle traditional family responsibilities with career-related responsibilities.

Women also may experience and report stress differently than men. For example, as much as women may hate to admit it, hormones play a crucial role in the physiological ways they react to stress. According to the American Psychological Association, women are also more likely to report stress, fatigue and physical symptoms of stress.

Perhaps the old adage holds true: men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

How can women recognize stress?

Women can be fantastic multi-taskers; however, it is important to slow down and take the time to recognize the many symptoms of stress:

  • Feelings of tension
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Irritability, mood swings
  • Negative thoughts
  • Feeling easily overwhelmed
  • Physical symptoms: headache, neck/back ache, digestion issues, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, changes in appetite

How can women find relief from stress?

Although women often spend the bulk of their taking care of others, it is important for them to also find the time to take care of themselves.  Self-care and good coping strategies are the keys to reducing stress and enhancing quality of life:

  • Change your perspective. Your thoughts can certainly have an impact on your emotions and health. Worrying and catastrophizing thoughts will only worsen stress and the symptoms of stress. Try to recognize and then replace the negative thoughts with more positive thoughts. For example, “I can’t get everything done by the end of the day.” Instead, think of ways to get the tasks done -- ask for help, make a checklist or eliminate anything that can wait for another day. Puzzles and games are great ways to get your mind actively working on other things.

  • Find time for yourself. Consciously making an effort to take some “me” time is important. Take a bath, read a good book, call a friend or journal. Diverting your attention to other, more relaxing, activities can calm the mind and distract from the stress you are experiencing. Remember, you can’t take care of others in the best way possible if you don’t take care of yourself first (like when they tell you on a plane, put on your own oxygen mask first). Social contact with friends and peers is important to help us feel less isolated.

  • Get up and move. Not grocery shopping, driving your kids to soccer practice or running to a meeting. Real exercise. Physical activity pumps up endorphins -- “feel good” neurotransmitters. Movement can improve mood and sleep and ultimately reduce tension. Go for a stroll, practice yoga or even stretch at your desk!

  • Practice health habits.  It can be easy to forego an hour or two of sleep to make lunches, or to grab fast food on the go. But getting enough sleep and proper nutrition make a huge, huge difference in your health and how you feel.  Adults typically need eight hours of sleep per night, preferably in a cool, dark room. Studies have shown that poor sleep hygiene plays a role in nearly every mental health disorder. As important, make sure that you eat right for good mood and good health. An added benefit is that you will be modeling good behavior for your children. 

Remember -- as much as you’d like, you cannot always be superwoman. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, sign up for that painting class you’ve always wanted to take or close your office door to have some quiet time.

Stress can permeate many aspects of life, but it is up to you to take control of your mental well-being.