Both men and women experience stress, no question.
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But women often experience stress on a deeper level and place more internal pressure on themselves, says psychologist Susan Albers-Bowling, PsyD.
If you feel overwhelmed by life’s pressures, she offers these tips:
1. Don’t soothe yourself with food
A high percentage of women turn to comfort, or emotional, eating when stressed.
But food doesn’t soothe you. “Food gives us a sudden jolt of pleasure or distraction,” explains Dr. Albers.
We often eat faster when we’re stressed. “Stress activates the fight-or-flight response, sending cortisol raging through our bodies,” she says.
Try to find non-food ways to bring down those cortisol levels. “Take a break and do a self-massage — by putting a tennis ball under your foot or behind your back against the wall — or sit, or walk, outside,” she suggests.
“Even simple things, like sipping hot tea, putting on comfy clothes or taking a warm shower, can soothe your body.”
2. Keep work at work and home at home
Do you worry about deadline pressures, difficult colleagues or your career trajectory?
Dr. Albers recommends looking at the big picture. How much will the stressful situation matter in five hours, five days, five weeks or five years?
Women also tend to absorb others’ stress.
“We are natural caretakers, but it helps to set good boundaries with coworkers,” she says. “Focus on your stress, rather than trying to fix, solve or soothe others’ stress.”
3. Delegate tasks at home
Women (especially moms) often feel overloaded with chores, but find it hard to delegate.
“Women think, ‘I have to do this,’ ‘I have to do that,’” says Dr. Albers. “And they get so frustrated when their partner can’t automatically see what needs to be done.”
Instead of expecting others to read your mind, set up a time to divide the tasks. “Establishing routine chores works much better than asking in the moment,” she says.
Let the kids pitch in, too. They can choose jobs they like or rotate tasks.
Finally, set priorities. “Clean your kitchen really well if you spend 90 percent of your time there,” she says. “Don’t worry about the whole house.”
4. Be present for family
Do you often feel trapped on your phone? Many women do. But you’re missing opportunities to connect with family.
“Put the phone aside, and look your family members in the eye,” Dr. Albers advises. “You’ll communicate much more effectively.”
Have everyone stash their electronics during family meals, she says. It will help you slow down and stay in the moment, enjoying the food and the company.
5. Don’t set the bar so high
Comparing yourself to others — something women tend to do — only amps up your stress.
“Stay in your own lane. Focus on yourself,” advises Dr. Albers.
You can also ease the pressure by letting go of “should” statements, like “I should be the perfect mom,” or “I should always make dinner.”
6. Make bill-paying automatic
If money is a source of stress, Dr. Albers suggests having a family meeting about finances to set a budget.
“This alleviates stress in the long run,” she says. “I also encourage women to set up automatic bill-paying online.”
Eliminating the twin headaches of writing checks and paying bills on time can ease financial stress.
“Then, once all the bills get paid, you will know what your household budget is for the month,” says Dr. Albers.
7. Take care of you, too
You may be great about making doctor’s appointments for your kids or aging parents. But you’re probably last on the list.
“Taking care of yourself is important. If you go down, everybody else goes down,” says Dr. Albers.
Create self-care routines that are automatic and linked with other already established routines, like taking vitamins whenever you brush your teeth.
Lastly, “give yourself permission to take time to be alone and recharge your batteries,” she adds.
“It’s hard to put your worries down for a moment, but it’s really beneficial.”