Should this be treated like a question, a statement or a general opinion? Stress has become synonymous with the fast paced lifestyle that is so commonly prevalent today. Regardless of age, social stature, economic status, and gender, every person combats stress on a daily basis.
A lot of scientific research is constantly underway to study more about the cause, symptoms and long term effects of stress on the human mind and body. While it is difficult to encompass every detail about this evil that is taking roots into people’s life, this article tries to scratch the surface about the hazard that stress is.
What is Stress?
Stress is a normal physiological response to the various situations and conditions encountered on a day to day basis. People tend to experience stress at physical as well as mental level.
Physiologically, stress is associated with release of certain hormones in the bloodstream. Facing difficult situations, or those that cannot be dealt with, is the commonest trigger factor for release of the above mentioned hormones.
Whether women are affected more by stress has been a topic of debate since some time. In stark contrast to ancient times, women have stepped out of the confines of their houses and have started taking up tasks dominated only by the male gender earlier. Women have successfully managed to balance various roles assigned to them professionally, socially and personally.
Traditionally, women have been playing the role of homemaker while tending to every need of their family members. The same has continued till now, with women successfully balancing their domestic duties in a bid to achieve professional success.
While some may argue that societal expectations and multitasking makes women more prone to getting stressed out, not everyone agrees with this. This article attempts to shed some light on the various stress factors in the life of women.
What Causes Stress In Women?
As mentioned earlier, involvement of the modern woman has extended beyond her kitchen and household activities. Women stand shoulder to shoulder with men, often tasting more professional success than their male counterparts.
Even women who choose to become homemakers and stay as home moms, take up a lot of challenging responsibilities on the domestic front that extend beyond cooking food and caring for their children. These factors have caused stress to increase multifold in the lives of women. While there are no specific causes of stress applicable to all women, some common factors have been discussed below:
Human beings have been subject to societal pressure since time immemorial. Women often fall victims to this pressure in a bid to fulfill expectations which others have from them.
Despite modernization of public views, certain patriarchal norms continue to persist in the society even today. More often than not, women are blamed, judged, discouraged and even ridiculed for the decisions they make. Being under the watchful gaze of society constantly takes a toll on women’s health, affecting their morale and causing them to stress out.
Motherhood is nature’s gift to mankind and women are the fortunate ones to enjoy this gift. However, it comes with its fair share of challenges. From conceiving a child, to delivering your bundle of joy, and caring for him/her, is as stressful as it is joyous.
Not only does motherhood take a toll on the woman’s body, but it also stresses her out mentally. Lack of sleep coupled with constantly running behind your toddler is not an easy task. Fathers too step in and take up a lot of their child’s responsibility. However, a mother’s care and duties are irreplaceable and have to be performed by her alone. Post-partum depression, leaving a promising career for children’s sake, making little time for oneself, are some of the most stressful aspects associated with motherhood, which tend to take a toll on women.
Gone are the days when women meekly surrendered to the head of their family. Women have become bold, courageous and take on challenging roles in the big, bad professional world. The female gender is actively present at the helm of every profession, be it doctors, engineers, architects, pilots, even army officers.
However, due to centuries of being considered the weaker gender, women tend to face considerable backlash in their professional lives. Their capabilities are often questioned. Working mothers have to face more difficulties as they attempt to balance work life with their domestic duties. Most working mothers bear the brunt as they get taunted for being ‘bad moms’ who do not make children their priority. These are some of the many setbacks working women have to face, which contribute to considerable stress.
While some women choose to be homemakers, some must take on the role due to life circumstances. In either case, being a homemaker is as difficult as, or even more difficult than being a working woman. There are no fixed working hours, no lunch breaks, no salary, and definitely no appreciation for the duties a homemaker performs.
Homemakers are often taken for granted and their work is not noticed. The same people who will taunt a working mom for neglecting her house, leave no stone unturned in telling a homemaker how she is wasting her education by not taking up a job.
Crimes Against Women
There has been a steady and unhealthy rise in the crimes targeted against women. Women often fall victims to some hideous crimes like sexual offenses, homicides, acid attacks etc.
Common occurrence of such crimes ensures that women stay under constant mental stress and pressure. Even those who do not fall victims to these crimes live under fear; a major cause of mental stress.
Though the above mentioned causes of stress may not apply to all women, they are the most common ones. Other causes than those mentioned above may also trigger stress in women.
Symptoms of Stress in Women
As mentioned earlier, stress tends to take its toll on a person’s mind as well as physique. Physiologically, women tend to affected in a slightly different manner by stress in comparison to men. This is due to the hormones estrogen and progesterone which dominate the female physiology. Symptoms of stress noticed commonly in women are mentioned below:
- Acute or chronic depressive phases
- Anxiety to perform tasks that were previously found to be easy
- Panic attacks
- Lack of self confidence
- Doubting one’s own capabilities
- Unexpected bouts of rage or anger in previously calm and composed persons
- Changes in hunger pattern
- Digestive disorders like hyperacidity, indigestion, constipation, I.B.S
- Rapid weight changes
- Disturbed menstrual cycle
- Symptoms of hormonal disturbances like skin pigmentation, thyroid dysfunction etc.
- Generalized pains and aches experienced all over the body
- Unexplained fatigue
People suffering from acute or chronic stress may also experience symptoms other than those mentioned above.
Symptoms of stress often lead to physiological disturbances as well. Blood tests for thyroid function, blood cell count, sugar levels may yield abnormal results in this case. Patients may suffer from deeper pathological disturbances as well in which case, scans like USG, MRI or CT may show significant findings.
How Do Women Deal With Stress?
It is the coping mechanism of a person which determines the course that stress will take in his/her life. Every person tends to deal with difficult situations depending on their nature, mental strength and will power. While the methods may differ on an individual level, most members of the female gender follow a certain pattern while coping with stress.
- Women tend to reach out to others for help. This may include talking to friends, family, colleagues, or seeking professional help.
- Many women search for a hobby to distract their mind. Indulging in creative things like painting, dancing, or swimming, not only is a good distraction but also provides positive mental stimulation.
- Socializing is an important stress buster for women. It helps them forget their worries even if it is momentary, and this helps them to cope with stress.
- Joining a physical activity class is often resorted to and is quite an effective way to deal with stress. Physical exercise boosts enzymes that reduce negative emotions.
Women may resort to other measures of dealing with stress than the ones mentioned above. Unfortunately, some women also tend to handle stress negatively by indulging into unnecessary vices like alcohol, recreational drugs and smoking. This is an absolutely unhealthy way of living and is strongly discouraged by doctors and mental health experts. The above mentioned ways of dealing with stress are not exclusive to women.
Do Women Get More Affected With Stress Than Men?
To sum it up, men and women both face equal amount of stress in day-today life. Women are more likely to be exposed to certain trigger factors for stress. These factors are never encountered by men. Women tend to be more expressive of their feelings and needs and hence are more likely to report that they are stressed.
The roles that were traditionally being performed by men are being actively taken up by women. However, vice versa doesn’t happen in the exact same proportion. Therefore, it is safe to assume that women are likely to face higher levels of stress in certain aspects of life than men. This does not negate the fact that there are many situations and factors causing stress to men, which women have to face very rarely.
This article tries to shed light on some of the commonest stress factors in the lives of women. It attempts to express a general view and not a fixated opinion.