People have always found it difficult to cope with stress. This is especially true in the case of women. In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, females are experiencing higher levels of stress in every stage of their life cycle. Although males suffer from stress too, they handle it differently when compared to females.
When we experience stress, we tend to consider it as a negative feeling. However, this is not always the case. In reality, stress may improve our productivity levels by motivating us to tackle our situation. An example may be when we’re about to give a presentation. Instead of running away from it, we should use the adrenaline rush to present it to the best of our ability. Additionally, stress may act as a warning sign during fight-or-flight situations. When we experience stress, our senses are put on a sharp focus. This helps us to be aware to avoid stressful situations, such as jumping away from a moving car, and staying safe.
However, even though stress is useful for our survival, it is difficult for us to see it in this way. Especially when stressful situations are out of our control, such as when we grieve the death of a loved one. Although it is not yet considered to be an actual illness, stress may lead to physical and mental health issues. These may include headaches, depression and symptoms similar to those of a heart attack. Experiencing symptoms to such a degree shows how important it is for us to cope better with stress. However, as previously mentioned, this does not come to women as easily as it does to men. Men tend to find an escape outlet, such as playing football, to help occupy their thoughts with another activity.
On the other hand, the same coping mechanism cannot be used by women. Traditionally, women had the role of staying at home, caring for the family and taking care of daily household chores. Nowadays, a woman’s role is broader, typically embracing the ‘do it all’ mentality. By this, the traditional housewife role is coupled with a professional career. Thus, according to Dr. Judith Mohring, this leads them feeling 50% far more stressed out than men of the same age. However, rather than taking the time to cope with their stress, women are inclined to “tend and befriend”. Research carried out by Psychology Review has shown that women make sure everyone around them is tended to before taking care of their own needs. At times, women work at a high stress level. When this occurs, they are not aware of how to handle their own needs. This results in them suffering from burnout, as women keep pushing themselves to the limit on a daily basis. Even though we may be feeling physically healthy, stress may be building up to the point where we are eventually unable to control it.
Ultimately, stress is inevitable but manageable, for both men and women. Rather than dismissing their stress, women need to learn to cope with it, before reaching the limit of a burnout. A few tips to manage this would be to take care of yourself by eating healthily, exercising and most importantly, getting enough sleep!
Mandy Brincat is a Gestalt psychotherapist who enjoys working therapeutically with adults on various issues. These include general mental health and wellbeing. She also has experience working with anxiety, victims of domestic violence and eating disorders.
- American Psychological Association. Stress and Mind/Body Health. Report released February 23, 2006.
- Shapiro, D. (2006). Your body speaks your mind. Sydney: ReadHowYouWant.
- Verma, R., Balhara, Y.P.S., Gupta, C.S. (2011). Gender differences in stress response: Role of developmental and biological determinants. Industrial Psychiatry Journal; 20(1): 4–10.