Have you thought of the covert and overt ways stress has been present in your life amid the global pandemic? The preoccupation of taking care of day-to-day responsibilities has shifted in ways never imaginable, from navigating a career from home to schooling at home and trying to figure it all out in a radically different world than a year ago.
Stress can be helpful in the short term and can motivate women to get things done. When stress becomes severe, however, it becomes harder to adapt and cope. At this stage, left unchecked, stress can negatively affect many areas of a woman’s physical, mental, and social wellbeing.
Research suggests that differences in the brain and body may make women more physically and emotionally sensitive to certain stress types. Women are also more likely than men to report symptoms of stress, including headaches and upset stomachs. Women are unique in that their anatomy allows them to bring life into the world. That delicate biologic balance can shift when women experience acute stress. For example, because of acute stress, women can experience:
Problems getting pregnant. Women with high-stress levels tend to have more problems becoming pregnant than those who have lower stress levels.
Menstrual cycle problems. Premenstrual syndrome is more severe with increased stress levels.
Decreased sex drive. Stress can distract from wanting sex or being present during sex.
Bowel problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Heart problems. Stress increases blood pressure and heart rate.
Lowered immune response. Chronic stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes – the white blood cells that help fight off infection. How can women lower stress levels
Improve your diet by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables while reducing refined carbohydrates and alcohol.
Make time for exercise! Just 30 minutes a day of walking can significantly reduce stress levels. Can’t walk or go to the gym? Turn on the radio and dance.
Find fun and healthy ways to relax. Pursue a new hobby or schedule time for you every day.
The bottom line is to be mindful of stressors – covert and overt. Identify them and develop a plan for effectively lowering stress levels to maintain health, navigate the global pandemic, and be present for yourself and others.