Although female hormones and brain chemistry offer the same protection against stress as men, women are more affected by the physical and emotional effects of stress. Our brains are wired differently, and we are less likely to respond to the fight or flight response like men.
More and more women are juggling family and career commitments, increasing stress levels and increasing commitments in the household. Sociologists describe women as struggling to achieve equality in the workplace while trying to maintain the perfect wife and mother standards at home.
Women also find it harder to say ‘no’ to others and often feel guilty when they can’t please everyone. They often spend less time on their own emotional and physical needs. As women progress through life their hormonal balance associated with their menstrual cycle, post-partum and menopause can affect their vulnerability to stress and depression.
A lot of different things can cause stress.
Here are some causes of stress
- Chronic illness
- Employment or unemployment
- Financial issues
- Emotional problems
- Negative self-talk
- Relationship issues
- Major life changes
- Children or family
- Chronic worrying
- Traumatic events
- Life-threatening events
A busy lifestyle can also contribute to increased stress and can lead to emotional eating. Stress can cause significant weight gain. Chronic stress can be tied to an increase in appetite, which is called stress-induced weight gain. This type of weight gain is usually stored as visceral fat around the midsection. These fat cells lie deep within the abdomen and have been linked to an increase in both diabetes and heart disease.
Here are some symptoms of stress
- Negative thinking
- Feeling overwhelmed or helpless
- Feeling tense
- Feeling depressed
- Eating disorders
- Poor concentration
- Anger and hostility
- Frequent mood swings
- Poor cognitive function
- Excessive eating
- Skin reactions
- Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
- Loss of sex drive
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Nervous habits
- Lowered immune response
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Cortisol helps the body release fuels such as glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids to counteract stress.
Stress can also affect your sleep and as a result, can increase your cortisol levels, which can cause fat accumulation in the lower abdominal area and affect your ability to control your mood and make good decisions.
The mind, body and spirit are all interconnected. Our emotions can ignite an avalanche of anxiety, which pumps our bodies full of cortisol, the stress hormone. Neuro-scientists say the changes in the brain during a stress response last longer in women because of their larger limbic system.
Your mind and body connection is very important when dealing with stress. You can’t just consider your physical self, but your emotional self as well. Your body is influenced by your mind and your mind is influenced by chemical and hormonal processes in your body and your emotions are influenced by how you care for your body and your overall health.
Many people try to ignore the way they feel as they are just too busy to slow down,. They do this despite their bodies and minds clearly showing signs of poor health, commonly presented as stress, anxiety or depression. You need to learn to listen to what your body is trying to tell you and to do what it needs.
Here are some helpful strategies to help combat stress
- Rise early and give yourself plenty of time to get ready each day
- Try to be in the moment
- Walk away and just take a break, nothing is going anywhere
- Unplug from all electronic devices on a regular basis.
- Adapt when situations get stressful
- Talk with friends and family
- Supplement your diet with B Vitamins
- Get outdoors and enjoy nature
- Simplify your life and get back to the basics
- Exercise on a regular basis
Your ability to tolerate stress depends on many factors around you including the quality of relationships, genetics, life experiences, emotional intelligence and your support network.
Try and build a strong support network around you and your stress levels and mental health will greatly thank you for it later!