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There’s no avoiding the effects of stress in our lives. As women, we’re often taking on a lot of responsibilities between jobs and families — and applying additional pressure to do all with great skill, precision and love.
In short bursts, stress can actually be a good thing – spurring us to action to meet a looming deadline and giving us the energy to get things done quickly. However, long-term (chronic) stress can negatively impact our mental and physical health.
More often than not, stress affects us in similar ways – but there are some ways that it affects women differently. For example, stress is more likely to manifest as depression and anxiety in women than in men.
But we’re here to help you pause and take care of your whole health. Take a positive step toward better self-care by understanding the causes and signs of stress, and getting a few pointers on how you can manage it in a healthy way.
Common Causes of Stress
There are many potential events throughout our day that can cause us momentary stress. Even though these stressors may not last long, they can cause changes in our health and mental status. Common causes of short-term stress include:
- Being late to work
- Getting stuck in traffic
- Missing your bus
- Arguing with your spouse
- Health issues
- Financial crisis
- Work deadlines
- Death of a loved one
Chronic stress has a long-term impact on our health and well-being. Common causes of chronic stress for women include work-related, family or financial stress.
Symptoms of Stress
In the short term, stress can manifest in a number of ways — from minor symptoms like acne, insomnia, upset stomach and headache to more severe ones, such as:
- Being easily agitated
- Difficulty sleeping
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Feeling out of control
- Lack of energy and focus
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Social isolation
Long-Term Impacts of Stress in Women
Even short bursts of stress as we go about our day can add up to big health impacts over the course of months or years. Here’s how stress can impact women’s health in measurable ways.
Stress causes a spike in your blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, these stresses on your heart may lead to serious heart problems, such as stroke or heart attack.
Having an upset stomach – including gas, bloating and excess acid – over time can lead to gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Stress triggers the release of excessive amounts of a hormone called cortisol, which can lead to overeating and fat storage (especially in women). Over time, this can lead to being overweight or obese.
Women with higher levels of stress may have more trouble getting pregnant than women with less stress in their lives. Relatedly, women with long-term stress are more likely to have irregular periods and severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms.
Strategies to Help Manage Stress
As you can see, the long-term effects of stress in our day-to-day lives can be quite worrisome. But thankfully, just a few simple steps can help you take back control.
Make a plan for avoiding or managing your stress. And that can be as simple as staying organized and creating a solid daily routine. Creating a to-do list for the next day can help you better plan for tomorrow, and relax more easily before you try to sleep. Observing a regular bedtime ritual (same time, same environment, same activities) also helps keep you feeling good, and on track to tackle a new day.
For those stressors you can’t avoid, try these healthy management strategies:
- Deep breathing
- Spending time outside
- Seeking counseling, if needed
- Spending time with loved ones
- Stretching or exercise
Take Steps Now to Reduce Your Stress
We all experience stress in our lives, and it’s not something we can completely avoid. However, we can learn to recognize stressors and use strategies to reduce our stress – before it negatively impacts our long-term health.
Talk with your doctor about stress management. Our team of women’s specialists are here to support you through any stage of life and health.