Ok. Let’s start with some facts.
Work-related stress is one of the leading cause of anxiety and illness among women nowadays. According to a UK study run by HSE (Health and Safety Executive) women aged 25-54 are more stressed than their male colleagues. According to another survey published by The Guardian, in the UK, 81% of women say they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope with stress in the past year (compared with 67% of men).
Causes of stress
A primary reason for women being more stressed out than men is the pressure they feel from their household responsibilities on top of their work duties. But it’s not only the fact that we need to be in both places, but that we want to be in all places doing a perfect job. The society we live in today portrays an idealistic version of a family and work environment. We are constantly bombarded by social media posts about women with a perfect body, perfect husband, perfect kids and having this fantastic career. More often, we tend to believe that’s everyone's reality and we have to do a lot of things to keep up with it.
In reality, no one has the perfect family, body and career. But no one shows this. The vulnerability is something that only weak people have, most of us believe, so we keep nourishing this ideal life that no one has and which only brings us more anxiety and stress and ultimately illness. I love the TED talk Reshma Saujani gives about teaching women how to be brave and not perfect. She explains how women are trained to be perfect and not brave, so we are reluctant to change and more stressed about the outcome of our actions.
Work-related stress for women is also caused by the pay gap that still exists. An article published by BBC shows the majority of medium and large companies pay higher wages to man than women. This puts a lot of pressure on women who want to prove they can perform as good as their male colleagues and take on jobs with higher responsibilities or more significant amounts of risks.
Of course, there are a lot of factors that cause stress, and it all depends on each personality which has a less or more severe approach.
How to relieve stress
A lot of articles have been written on tips to reduce stress at work or home. I believe that it all comes down to finding a balance in your own lifestyle. We all have different ways to conducts our lives, and even if there are certain things we can all do to improve it, we can’t all follow the same patterns as each of us is unique.
Researches and specialists, such as doctors and health advisors, recommend that we:
- avoid caffeine as much as we can,
- exercise a little, sleep more (or better),
- try relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises,
- keep a diary and, of course,
- connect with people.
Also, by recognising the signs of stress, you can come up with the solution.
Like, let’s say for instance that a cause of work stress is having problems with your workload. You might consider:
- asking for help,
- balancing your time or, as I mentioned before,
- being realistic and stop weighing yourself perfect that you can do everything!
Another issue might be the poor work-life balance, and you can adjust that by:
- taking short breaks,
- taking time off from your holidays or
- develop end-of-day habits.
I do believe these tips are very accurate and we can all try to maintain at least a few in our daily lives and we would feel more relaxed. In my most stressful moments, I forced myself to live accordingly to this advice but unfortunately for me, it didn’t always work out.
Stress is an emotion. You can’t put your finger on it, but it’s a feeling of unease in your body, of anxiety mixed with fear. What if, like with any other emotion that you experience, you would face it. What if, you could just talk to your stress and try to decompose all the causes of it and then find solutions to each bad scenario you come across. I’m not saying it will all go away but will definitely decrease its intensity. Sometimes our body gives us signals that we’re heading in the wrong direction and most of the time these signals are either emotions that we feel all of a sudden or even illnesses. Instead of letting yourself drawn into that negative thought why not ask yourself what is your body trying to tell you? Why are you feeling that, and how can you turn that feeling into your friend?
Women stress themselves for essential things but most of the time for unimportant matters, or things that they don’t have control over.
When we condition our happiness, peace and growth on someone else’s actions or behaviours, we are no longer in control of our lives, and we become submitted to stress as we don’t know the outcome.
There are two types of stress: eustress and distress. Eustress is good stress, the one that motivates you to get the work done; distress, as you would imagine, is a bad stress, that gives you worry and frustration. We are interested in making from all our stress a eustress. It’s about making from a negative feeling a motivator to push us forward. Kelly McGonigal better explains this theory. She basically did a massive research, and she discovered that when we are stressed out, our body (through pounding heart/sweating palms, etc.) is actually going into fight/flight mode and helps you come up with solutions; moreover, it releases oxytocin which is the stress hormone but is also the “cuddle hormone”, that makes us want to connect with and care about others and as Kelly puts it “caring creates resilience”.
On that note, I advise you to watch the talk, and I hope it will change your perspective on how to deal with stress at work or anywhere and start creating your destination and not be led to it.
The first step to reducing the stress in your life is to talk about it. When shared, it loses its intensity.
If you’re looking for a friend that can be more objective and could give you a specialised opinion, you can book a free session here.