We all experience stress at some point in our lives. When things seem overwhelming and we feel pressured, our health begins to deteriorate. The quality of our life is affected.
Stress is frequently generalised by the media and specialist magazines, but very rarely do they take into consideration the differences between men and women – or in how these differences affect a woman’s personal reality.
Women are physiologically different to men. Why? Well, women’s hormones makes stress affect them differently. When we add their responsibilities – from the workplace to the family (caring for children and even elderly family members) – the reality becomes unwieldy and causes a stressful environment. Women’s bodies are simply affected by factors that men are not. It’s with this in mind that we want to address this reality so as to provide you with a few guidelines that may be helpful for you in dealing with your life’s stress.
The most stressful situations for women
- Family commitments combined with the pressures of work.
- Looking after ailing family members.
- Marriage troubles, separations or divorce.
Studies illustrate that, in general, women are more sensitive to stress than men. However, a woman’s oestrogen means that she copes with stress and recovers from it better than a man does. In fact, according to Professor Karl Pibram from the University of California women address stress in a much more logical and verbal way than men do.
How stress affects women’s health
- Headaches are often the result of stress and can even lead to migraines.
- Oesophageal spasms (stomach pains and difficulty swallowing properly).
- Acid reflux
- Hair loss
- Chest, back and neck pains.
- Frequent desire to urinate.
- Chronic fatigue
- Low sex drive
- Changes in the menstrual cycle (for instance: delayed onset or amenorrhoea, which is the complete disappearance of menstruation).
- Anxiety attacks
- Disturbances to the immune system which prompt diseases like osteoporosis, inflammatory arthritis and type 2 diabetes.
- Constipation or diarrhoea.
- Skin problems. Because the skin is sensitive to anxiety and stress, inflammatory reactions (such as eczema, blotchiness, dark circles under the eyes and loss of healthy skin tone) can emerge. This is due to the fact that the epidermis cells react so immediately to stress hormones and cause vasoconstriction, which result in the appearance of more hair, increased sweating, and a tired looking face.
When stressful situations becomes intense and persistent, you can be affected by much more complex reactions that can cause the following illnesses:
- Anorexia or bulimia
- Anxiety disorders
Face stress head on
Perhaps the most negative thing about stress is that it steals years from our lives. It causes us to age prematurely and it has a adverse effect upon our health. Our bodies strore the toxins caused by stress, making it difficult to approach our day to day lives with the same strength and vigour as we once did. You must take control of the situation. Where do you start? Here are some suggestions:
- Identify the root cause of your problems and try to solve them with the help of your family or friends – but never be afraid to seek the help of a health professional.
- Make time for yourself. Even if you just take an hour a day to have a walk or listen to music. Learn to feel good about yourself.
Establish priorities and be aware of your mental states. Know what is important in your life and make health your primary concern. Try to note which situations cause your frustrations. Identify them and consider how you could cope better with them.
Which foods are friends in stressful situations?
- Vitamins A, C, and E are especially helpful in times of trouble. Amongst some of the best stress-busters are carrots, cantaloupe, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, yucca, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and dried fruit.
- Vitamin b fortifies the central nervous system and has a calming effect. Find it in brewer’s yeast, grains, avocado, cabbage and green beans.
- Minerals are also indispensable – particularly magnesium, calcium and potassium. They’re found in fruits and vegetables. We’d recommend that you make an extra effort to include magnesium rich foods in your diet, as it’s incredibly efficacious in soothing stress and anxiety.