NOTE: The following is an excerpt from TeleVox’s Healthy World report, “A Stressed Nation: Americans Search for a Healthy Balance”, which highlights the negative impact that stress is having on the health of Americans. Download it HERE!
Life in general is a balancing act. Trying to devote the necessary time to home, work, and social life can be a struggle. While women are becoming more established in the workplace, many household responsibilities, including often taking on the main role in raising children, also fall on their shoulders daily. Each aspect of life carries varying degrees of stress, and finding ways to properly manage these stressors is key to a healthy lifestyle.
Men and women get stressed over different things, leading to different negative health effects. According to the APA, women were more likely to report that money (79 percent to 73 percent of men) and the economy (68 percent compared with 61 percent of men) cause them significant stress daily. With the variation in stressors—and amount of worry placed on each one—men and women clearly have different side effects from stress. Unfortunately, women report having both more physical and emotional stress-related side effects than men. Many women said that headaches and upset stomachs/indigestion have been common for them in the last five years, as 49 percent of women said that their stress has increased in that same time period compared with 40 percent of men.
Dealing with the Unavoidable
While some stress in our lives is unavoidable, finding ways to properly manage this stress is the key to better health. Unfortunately, too many women across the nation haven’t found effective ways to manage their stress. According to A Stressed Nation: Americans Search for a Healthy Balance, 58 percent of women admitted that stress has negatively impacted their overall health. Not only is physical health – headaches, an upset stomach or something as severe as heart disease – affected, but emotional stability is often compromised with poor stress management. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association:
- Women were three times more likely than men to feel like they could cry as a result of a stressful situation.
- Additionally, 31 percent of women (compared with 21 percent of men) reported that they are more likely to turn to food when stressed out.
- And more women than men – 42 percent compared with 28 percent – said they need encouragement from friends or family to lead a less stressful lifestyle.
Sources of Stress
Where does this stress come from? A Stressed Nation indicated that an equal percentage (64 percent) of men and women report stress during a typical workday. However, there is a significant gap between men and women when reporting stress during everyday life. Sixty percent of women – and just 49 percent of men – feel daily stress. The difference may lie in the extra responsibilities many women take on at home. In addition to assuring schedules are balanced and maintained, the pressures of presenting a positive image adds to the stress women feel. And this stress is catching up to women quickly. According to ABC News, middle-aged women (ages 45-64) could be the first generation to not outlive their male counterparts. And their life expectancy is five to seven years shorter!
The Importance of Stress Management
Proper stress management is key to reducing the overwhelming feeling associated with stress. By implementing the proper techniques, Americans can look forward to a healthier lifestyle and longer life expectancy. Unfortunately, more than half (55 percent) of American women, as reported by A Stressed Nation, said they would be more likely to ignore stress or treat a symptom of stress than fix the problem. Healthcare providers can reduce stress-related health issues by opening the lines of communication. Currently, 37 percent of women have taken the step of discussing the negative impact of stress on their health with their doctor, while many more (56 percent) said they would be interested in receiving tips from their healthcare provider on how to manage stress.
Knowing that women report higher stress levels, it is vital that women understand the proper techniques to manage their stress. According to A Stressed Nation, 36 percent of women across the nation reported they currently feel somewhat or very stressed. Too often, women turn to unhealthy foods and sedentary activities to briefly escape the pressures of stress, including eating chocolate and using entertainment as a means of escape. But dealing with stress in a more positive way can benefit women in multiple ways. For example, going on a walk or taking a step out of a stressful room can ease a person’s mind quickly and lower stress levels.
In fact, healthcare professionals have stress relief plans that can help. More than half of Americans said their doctor suggested exercise as a way to control their stress level. Exercise is healthy for the body, as it releases positive endorphins. The key is for more providers to leverage high-tech communications to reach more patients throughout the year, between visits, to provide encouragement and reminders regarding following through with treatment plans. This provider-patient interaction can lead to a healthier America, if patients are given the support and tools necessary to successfully manage stress.