Women and Stress: Six Steps to Free You From It's Effects
Victoria Loveland Coen
morning begins, innocently enough, perhaps the sun is shinning. You may not be
as rested as you’d like, but, with a little coffee, you’ll make it through the
day just fine. And then it starts. Your older child refuses to get out of bed.
The coffee maker overflows onto the floor. Your husband had to leave for work
early, leaving you to handle the baby and make the lunches and get the kids off
to school. Just then, the baby starts screaming. She’s broken out in an
unexplained rash. You’ll have to call in sick for the third time this month. To
add insult to injury, on the way to the doctor’s office, there’s an unbelievable
Like a Boa Constrictor, it creeps up slowly but steadily. Wrapping itself around
your body, it begins to squeeze harder and harder until you feel you’ll pop!
Stress feels like that sometimes. One stressful moment is added to the next
until, before long, you feel so constricted by the pressure, you completely lose
control. Before you know it, you’re yelling, or saying things you don’t mean, or
clutching a glass until it breaks, or driving unsafely.
"Well everyone has stress," you rationalize "that’s just part of life." That
maybe true. But, unless you learn to cope with stress and find your inner
"release valve" your mental and physical health will be seriously undermined.
The National Women’s Health Information Center reports that "…stress triggers
changes in our bodies and make us more likely to get sick." It can also make
existing conditions worse, including: sleeping disorders, headaches, intestinal
irregularity, eating disorders, asthma, skin problems, infertility, anxiety and
depression, among other conditions.
Are women more prone to stress than men? Well actually, research suggests that
women have an advantage over men in that we have a "built-in hormonal stress
barrier (Oxytocin) that helps to calm us down in part by reducing the effects of
the stress hormone, cortisol. It all works great when our systems are working in
optimum order. However, this hormone can be interfered with by other hormonal
fluctuations such as our menstrual cycle, menopause, certain medications, and
other factors, rendering the calming hormone ineffective.
We apparently have another advantage on our side. According to the most recent
research, women have very different methods for coping with stress than men.
Studies done at UCLA by Shelley Taylor, PhD and colleagues, suggest that the
"fight-or-flight" response to stress is more common among men than women. Taylor
posits that women, through evolutionary necessity, became the primary caregivers
and that this fact has caused us to develop more of a "tend-and-befriend"
response to stress. That hormone, Oxytocin, again comes into play as it promotes
the female behaviors of caring and nurturing babies and children. As for the
"befriending" aspect of the equation, Taylor’s research (and probably your own
as well) suggests that females seek out social support when stressed.
Coming Up: Stress and Women #2
Victoria Loveland-Coen is a life coach and an author (The Baby Bonding Book; The
New Mommy Coupon Book.) She is also a mother-of-twins and founder of
LoveBlessings.com, a site
that combines free parenting tips and articles with creative baby shower gift
baskets that feature organic products for baby and nurturing products for mama.
Victoria is committed to helping relieve a new mom’s stress and thereby
enhancing the joy of parenthood.