Women’s stress isn’t just “a thing”: Women are twice as likely as men to experience stress and anxiety, according to a study published in the journal Brain and Behavior,
In honor of International Women’s Day (3/8/20), I want to shine light on the effects of stress on women and share simple ways to ease stress. We are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions. When we learn to respond, instead of react to the sources of stress, we can not only survive, but THRIVE.
Not only do women and men react differently to the effects of stress, women may pay a higher cost with their physical and mental health.
Common effects of stress in women
- Increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Women in high stressed jobs are 40% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than women in lower stress jobs, numerous studies have found, including one at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston with more than 22,000 women surveyed.
- Headaches. Unfortunately, again for us women, studies suggest women experience stress induced headaches and migraines more than men.
- Hair loss. We’ve all hearde of male pattern baldness, but did you know that the effects of stress raise androgen levels (a male hormone) in our bodies, causing some women to lose hair, sometimes months after the trigger!
- Sleep issues. My own issues with severe stress and anxiety led me to debilitating sleep issues over 20 years ago. I know firsthand how hard it is to function with no sleep and how critical it is to lower stress levels to help get a better night’s sleep.
- Weight gain. Darn it! A number of women show significant weight gain vs. men, due to severe stress , according to a 2014 study.
- Digestive issues. Have you ever heard (or said) “I felt it in my gut”? That’s because the gut has the largest areas of nerves outside the brain. Researchers continue to study the brain/gut connection and its connection to digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach cramps, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and more.
5 Tips to ease women’s stress levels
- Breathe! I share so many different breath techniques in my book “Goodbye Anxiety, Hello Freedom” because they are so simple and you can do them anytime, anywhere! I’ll share two of my clients’ favorites. Think “I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out. I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out” for about a minute or so and notice a wave of calm come over you. 4 Square Breathing is another favorite. Think or trace a square as you inhale to the count of 4, HOLD to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4, HOLD to the count of 4. Repeat 3 or 4 times and notice how much calmer you feel.
- Exercise. A common reaction to feeling common symptoms of stress is to freeze and stop in our tracks. Numerous studies have proven that one of the best things we can do to break past that is to do some form of exercise. Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, some of the “happy hormones.” As little as five minutes of exercise can begin to counter the effects of chronic stress.
- What’s right right now? No matter the causes of stress, we have conditioned ourselves to look for what’s wrong and the more we focus on what’s wrong in our life, that’s exactly what we will find! Begin to become aware of when you slip into the old “What’s wrong habit.” When you notice it, simply shift into “What’s right, right now?” instead. You may notice that, in this moment, you are safe, you have clothes on your back, you have the gift of sight and hearing. The more we train our brains to look for the positive, the more gratitude we experience. When we experience gratitude, our bodies produce dopamine and serotonin, the “happy hormones” found in certain pharmaceuticals.
- Shake it off! Have you ever seen your dog or cat just shake their entire body? Animals naturally do this to re-set their nervous systems from “fight or flight” (sympathetic nervous system) to the “rest, digest and relax” (parasympathetic nervous system.
- Listen to music. As a former Celebrity Radio DJ, I’ve known for decades that music can calm all types of stress. Neuroscience proves it! The Mindlab from the U.K. came up with a list of their top ten relaxing songs, but I recommend listening to music YOU love! I totally embraced this during my DJ days. The radio station had a large glass window and I would be dancing in the studio with the volume all the way up, walls shaking, along with my coworkers heads as they walked by!
K.I.S.S. Keep it simple sweetheart! Practice several (or all) of these simple techniques for the next 7 days and notice how you feel calmer.
I shared this on NBC CT LIVE!
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