As women, we are exposed to stress on a daily basis. Sometimes the stress is minor, but sometimes it can be extreme. In our digital age, there is an increasing pressure to do more and more in less time. Some women may have to respond to an increasing volume of e-mails and phone calls quickly, in addition to whatever they are already doing. This time shortage is so prominent that some experts are calling it a “time famine.”
What makes women so prone to stress?
1. Women frequently carry multiple hats, including those of a professional, a mom, a spouse, caregiver of an elderly parent, etc. While it can be exciting and stimulating to have many activities, the multi-tasking and juggling of roles can become overly demanding and almost impossible to handle. Research shows that women who feel overwhelmed by role overload may end up burned out and/or depressed. The breaking point of multiple role overload can be caused by a variety of things. For instance, periods of increased stress, such as trying to conceive; recovering from a miscarriage; and adjusting to, and taking care of a baby, can make previously manageable tasks difficult, and may end up being the straw that “breaks the camel’s back.”
2. Women often give to others at the expense of themselves. Women are “natural” caretakers, socialized to take care of others. They frequently spend most of their physical and emotional energy on family, work, and their household, while neglecting themselves. Many women feel selfish if they focus on their own physical and emotional needs- it is simply more comfortable to be the caregiver. In addition, women often have difficulty saying “no” to requests and feel guilty setting limits, even if the request is not in their interest or could be considered to be unreasonable. Eventually, “giving too much” at her own expense can lead a woman to her breaking point.
3. Women can be perfectionists and create “self-imposed” stress by having high expectations for themselves. Women often try to be perfect mothers and wives, as well as excelling at their jobs. Often, women expect be as productive at work as their male counterparts, while also being the manager of their household. Interestingly, even when there is no external demand or expectation to be perfect and accomplished in all areas of their lives, women can be self-critical and blame themselves. Women often feel responsible when their fertility treatment does not work out, they have a miscarriage, or they cannot keep up with their household and job tasks while they have young children.
While there are certainly other reasons women get stressed, these are three of the main ones. While the reality is that we live in a fast-paced society and are increasingly exposed to limits on our time, there are things that can be done to ease stress and prevent burn-out and depression:
- Take time to pause and reflect on your life. If you feel stuck and unsatisfied being a multi-tasker, taking care of everyone else, and feeling that you are not living up to your personal standards, ask for help. This is what truly strong women do— they engage the support of others. Strong women delegate tasks, seek the support of other women and structure time for their own self-care.
- If you find that you are having difficulty doing these things and that your level of stress is causing you to fell overly tired, depleted, and depressed, seek professional help. Counseling can help you learn to respect both your physical and emotional needs and help you be more resilient to stress.
If you feel stressed-out and would like to learn how to in identify and manage your stressors, please call me for a FREE ten-minute consultation at (281)267-1742.
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Dr. Irena Milentijevic is a licensed psychologist who specializes in helping mothers and those hoping to be mothers overcome stress, loss, and depression. Her offices are located in Houston and the Woodlands, Texas. Visit her website: www.DrIrena.com to get her free report, “Moms and Mom Wannabes: 10 Ways to Overcome Depression and Reclaim Your Sanity”.