Updated: Jul 19, 2022
We live in a stressed out world. According to the American Institute of Stress, 55% of Americans are stressed during the day, which is 20 percent higher than the global average.
While men and women both face many similar stressors, women are often in positions of added stress. Women are usually the ones who take on more parenting/caregiving responsibilities and household management duties, even if they and their partner both work full-time. Trying to balance everything seems like an impossible task.
And women who aim to be high-achievers in the workplace also face more stress than their male counterparts. They often feel pressure to perform to “prove” they deserve to be there or face additional criticism that men do not.
What is the impact of stress?
Stress can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies. When we start to feel stressed, our brain sends out stress hormones, which trigger a “fight or flight” response from the body. Your muscles get tense and your heartbeat quickens to handle the perceived threat.
Occasional stress is natural and doesn’t do much harm, but continued stress puts a heavy strain on both your mind and body. When you’re always in “fight or flight” mode, it wears you down. Your immune system can’t function as well when it’s worn down. Research has shown that up to 90% of illness can be linked to stress.
Symptoms of stress include:
Headaches and sore muscles
For women especially, stress can cause:
Increased rates of depression, anxiety, panic disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder compared to men
Tension headaches and migraines
Stress-related weight gain
How Successful Women Handle Stress
As you can see, unmanaged stress can cause problems in every aspect of your life. In order to become successful and stay in a leadership position, you must learn to effectively manage the additional stress that comes along with it.
-Be Aware of Your Feelings
If you read my blog regularly, you know we talk about the emotional intelligence competency of Emotional Self-Awareness frequently. However, that should let you know how important it is! The first step to reducing stress is to realize when you begin to feel stressed so you can get a handle on it before things get out of control.
Everyone reacts to stress differently. Some people might get headaches, others might get an upset stomach, while some people might lash out at their friends and family without realizing it’s due to stress.
When you know how you typically respond to stress, you can recognize the signs quickly and take steps to begin managing it.
-Eat Healthy & Drink Plenty of Water
Taking care of your body can help keep stress at bay. As tempting as it may be to eat a carton of ice cream when you’re having a rough day, that won’t really help you in the long run.
Eating healthy food and drinking water will help keep you feeling physically well enough to handle whatever mental stress comes your way. Some people may also find that they forget to eat or don’t have an appetite when they’re feeling stressed, so make sure you take the time to eat something!
Exercise and physical activity can help turn your restless energy from stress into something more productive. Sometimes even just a short walk around the block can help get your mind off of your worries.
Riding a bike, lifting weights, doing yoga, going for a run, or even just dancing around in your living room are all activities that can help release the stress built up in your body. Stretching will also help to relieve tension in your muscles caused by stress.
Taking time to exercise regularly can keep stress from building up and causing health problems before they start.
-Let It Out
Talking to someone else about the stressors in your life can be one of the most effective ways of reducing stress. A good vent session helps you to let go of the tension you’ve been holding inside. It’s amazing how much just talking about the problem can help it seem less overwhelming.
You could also try journaling or writing in a diary about your feelings and stresses. Writing down your thoughts after a stressful event allows you to get them out even if you don’t have anyone to talk to.
Journaling in the evening can help you process things that happened throughout the day. Over time, you may be able to find patterns to your feelings and figure out ways to help avoid stress.
Some people may feel stressed because they can’t meet the expectations they have placed on themselves. When you constantly feel like you’re not enough or have made mistakes, it can really take a toll on your mental state.
Of course, you should always try your best, but perfection is simply impossible. When you learn to accept that fact, you can release yourself from the unrealistic expectations.
Perfectionism is usually based on fear of failure or being judged, so go forth and boldly make mistakes! You’ll find your stress levels will actually go down when you allow room for yourself to fail.
I've included a free guide here to help you assess your stress levels and create an action plan to manage stress.
Tips from Successful Women
“The reason why you’re always stressed is because you want this moment to be something that it’s not. You just stop and you accept this moment for what it is. Just breathe right into that moment and it takes the anxiety and the pressure away of wanting this moment to be something it’s not. Just this moment, one moment at a time.” - Oprah Winfrey
“As a leader in the healthcare space, it’s always been important for me to remain healthy. That is why I find time for personal passions, such as running, spinning, walking my dog and volunteering.” - Karen Lynch (CEO at CVS Health)
“I found that listing out my work items and planning them in to tasks with estimated time attached helped me understand what the job really entailed, and as a result, limited how much I stressed over it. I find stress most commonly happens when there’s a big task or several tasks ahead, and you’ve not yet allowed the time to plan what’s involved, so it can seem more daunting than it really is.” - Lana Ellie (CEO of Floom)
“For me, getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising reduce my stress levels. And a really good workout is a great stress buster.” - Michelle Obama
“If you don’t want to burn out, stop living like you’re on fire.” Brené Brown
What are your best tips for beating stress? Let us know in the comments what helps you de-stress!