Women have a lot to juggle. They are expected to be good mothers and partners, to manage the household, and to bring in an extra income to help the family finances. And they are expected to do it all while looking good and maintaining healthy relationships. It’s a lot to take on for anyone, and it can cause toxic stress that can contribute to poor health outcomes, emotional distress, and even mental health issues.
Some women can become so overwhelmed by their everyday stressors that they resort to self-medicating with food, alcohol, prescription medication, or even narcotics. They will need to go to a women’s recovery center and get ongoing treatment for the rest of their lives as a result of their addictions. While that may seem like a worst-case scenario, it shows how important it is to deal with even minor stressors so that they do not have a serious, cumulative effect on your physical and mental health.
Identifying your stressors is the first place to start. Here’s a look at some of the top stressors for women, as well as some information on how to deal with them:
Yes, family is wonderful and meaningful, but it can also be very stressful. Your mother-in-law feels the need to constantly meddle in your marriage or tell you how to raise the kids. Your sister is always asking to borrow money, but she never actually pays it back. Your dad never remembers your birthday, and he hates your husband. Your children are — well, children. Everything they do seems designed to make you crazy.
You can’t deal with these stressors by just cutting out your family. But you can manage your stress by putting some firm boundaries in place. Tell your sister that you can no longer give her money. Have your husband tell his mother that she needs to keep her opinions to herself. If these boundaries cannot be respected, you can consider family therapy or limiting time with these people.
You can also reduce your stress by hiring a part-time nanny for a little help with the kids, creating a care schedule with your partner, or finding time to care for yourself. Just giving yourself an hour a night to take a long bath, read a good book, or spend time with a friend may be enough to help you work out some of the stress you felt from the day.
Financial issues are big stressors for everyone, but they can be even more stressful for women. Not only do women make less money than men, on average, but they are also the ones to most often give up their careers or put them on pause to take care of children. They become reliant on their partners for financial support, and that can cause a lot of stress.
You can reduce your stress by finding ways to increase your income (or your financial independence) or by reducing your expenses. Maybe you pick up a part-time job instead of staying home full-time. Or maybe you take a training course so you can get that promotion at work and make more money. Maybe you just cut out those unnecessary expenses so that you don’t have to worry as much about what you’re bringing in.
So many things about your work life can be stressful. Maybe you are working too many hours. Maybe you are working hard but are totally unappreciated by your boss. Maybe you can’t stand working with your office mate, or maybe you are being sexually harassed by a higher-up.
Take action to remove these stresses. Ask for a transfer or look for a new job to get away from toxic situations like people harassing you or making it hard to do your work. Ask for a new work schedule so that you can get more home-life balance. Actually take that vacation that you have been putting off. In fact, ask for a little unpaid time off to take an extra vacation.
Keeping a journal can help you recognize the primary sources of stress in your life, and that can help you take action early so that you can limit the effect of that stress. Make self-care a priority, and make whatever changes are needed to reduce your stress and protect your physical and emotional health.