Are you Stressed?
By: Colleen Clark Lay, LCSW
We are women, therefore we are busy. Busy often equals stressed out. Women typically balance numerous responsibilities at any one given time. Those responsibilities include family, work, house, children, partner, friends, personal obligations and the list goes on. The fact is that we put ourselves at the bottom of that list. That is, if we even earn a spot on that to-do list. We think we can do it all. We must do it all! Many of us suffer from what is referred to as Superwoman Syndrome.
Superwoman Syndrome has two components. The first is the cognitive (thinking) piece. This is our ability to convince ourselves that we are in fact super-human and can be in more than one place at a time. In addition, we feel a responsibility to juggle everything at once. The second component of the Superwoman Syndrome is the behavioral (our actions) component. As a result of thinking and feeling as though we must do everything, we take on too much. We over-commit, run late, feel frustrated and fatigued, and things do not get completed. Most importantly our stress level skyrockets.
Stress affects both our physical and emotional well being. When we are stressed our bodies release chemicals called stress hormones (i.e. cortisol). Overexposure to these hormones can lead to high blood pressure and narrowing of the arteries caused by buildup of fatty deposits on the inner lining of the vessels (atherosclerosis). Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for women. Chronic stress and the continuous release of cortisol has been linked to central obesity in women (meaning excessive body fat around the abdomen area). Women who carry additional weight in their mid-section have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
In the short term, stress amps up the immune system response. Over time however, the immune system can break down from excess wear and tear. Resulting in lowered resistance to illnesses such as the common cold, flu, and even a slower wound healing process. The immune system is also the body’s first line of defense against cancer. Preliminary evidence shows that stress may possibly play a role in the development of the disease. Long-lasting stress may also lead to other physical disorders including chronic pain (headaches, backaches), digestive problems (irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcers, heartburn), increased asthma attacks, infertility issues, loss of menstrual periods, chronic fatigue, and/or lack of sexual desire.
Unremitting stress can wear down your psyche and lead to symptoms such as irritability, nervousness, and difficulty concentrating. It can also affect our sleeping and eating patterns
(i.e. Insomnia, restless sleep, over eating, lack of appetite). The unhealthy thought process and behaviors that we exhibit which cause an increased stress level, over time can lead to a depressed mood, anxiety and even feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
As our psyche is worn down, we can exhibit behavioral changes that are out of character including self-medicating (drugs, alcohol, food, gambling) and potentially thoughts of suicide.
Here are six things you can do to reduce your stress level:
Time management: One of the most common sources of stress is having too much to do in too little time. Develop a practical schedule and the skills to maintain it.
Bust the clutter: Mess creates stress when it forces you to search repeatedly for mislaid items or makes you dread spending time in your own home/office.
Increase communication: Good communication skills can go a long way in averting many arguments and defusing volatile situations, both of which are major causes of stress.
Be assertive: Standing up for yourself and having the ability to say “no” will reduce stress by limiting the number of potential conflicts in your daily life.
Goal setting: The ability to set and attain appropriate goals will allow you to not feel frustrated, dissatisfied, and stressed out.
Self-care: Putting yourself on your to-do list is a necessity! Create ’me time’ in order to relax and rejuvenate.
The six changes listed above take time, practice, and dedication. If you or a loved one should require assistance in developing the Courage, to Change, and Live your life with less stress please contact us. CCL Therapeutic Services offers an education series on topics including the effects of stress, how women handle stress differently than men, and development of skills to reduce and manage stress
Colleen Clark Lay, LCSW
CCL Therapeutic Services, Inc.
44 Monroe Street P.O. Box 335, Oswego, IL 60543
(630) 688-0289, www.ccltherapy.com