Society defined women’s roles as mother, wife and homemaker. These roles are evolving, probably at a pace faster than the world has ever seen. Changes in their roles are a major source of stress for women all over the world. A woman’s body also goes through major changes during puberty, child bearing, and menopause. This is the other major source of stress for women
Many women now combine having a job and having a family, taking on the roles of mother, wife, homemaker, and provider while their partners focus on their role as providers. In this situation, the drive to be Superwoman is the principal source of stress for millions of working women.
To reduce stress, women should stop trying to do and be everything for everyone. This means getting the family to agree on family priorities, a clear division of responsibilities, and making sure the wife-mother-provider has time for herself, free from any family demands. It also means a wannabe Superwoman must change her mindset and scale down her expectations of others and of herself. At the same time she has to develop a support system that will back her up during emergencies at home and at the office that pop up suddenly.
Fortunately women are better at juggling or multitasking. They are more open to talking about their problems with their friends and that can reduce stress. They’re also better at seeking professional help when they feel the effects of stress. Biology also helps women cope with stress. When faced with a stressful situation, the hormone oxytocin is released in greater quantities among women than among men, and oxytocin helps a woman relax and feel better.
Reducing Stress on Superwoman
- Simple but effective. Stop trying to be superwoman. Accept that you can never be Superwoman and you’ll only get sick or die trying.
- Prepare a stress reduction plan. Make a list of family and home-related jobs that have to be done regularly. Involve the whole family in this process and ask them to take on tasks based on their age, skills and preferences. Remember that they may not do their tasks well at first but will do better as they get used to the new system.
- Reserve days or hours when you can do what you want, undisturbed by demands of family members and friends. Follow this schedule strictly or it will never get done. It may be better to spend this time away from your home or you may be tempted to be Superwoman again and go on an errand.
- Stay in touch with old friends. They can help reduce your stress level by listening to your problems and frustrations and giving advice based on their own life experience. These are people you can call on during those unforeseen emergencies when you need someone to take care of the baby or the dog.
- Develop an active and healthy life style, – regular exercise, minimum eight hours sleep each day, healthy food choices, no smoking. Pick a hobby that you really enjoy and make time for it.
- Keep yourself informed on women’s health issues and concerns. Study the leading causes of health problems among women and take preventive measures. Have a general check up each year. Follow recommendations on mammographies and other women-oriented tests.
- Know how your body reacts to stress. Symptoms of stress include headaches, back pain, insomnia, fatigue, loss of appetite or its reverse, and stomach aches. If you feel that stress is affecting your health, get professional help.
- Study and practice a few simple techniques for relaxation such as deep breathing. Yoga and massage. Develop relaxation exercises for the office and for the home.
Exercise 1: Deep Breathing. Very simple. You can sit or stand. Close your eyes. Relax. Take ten deep breaths, relaxing even further with each breath. While you do this, you can also focus on an image that you find especially relaxing, such as a waterfall, fields of flowers, an apple orchard, and the like. You can do this in the morning, as soon as you get out of bed and in the evening before going to bed. Or whenever you feel tense and nervous.
Exercise 2: Progressive Muscular Relaxation or PMR. Stand or sit. Relax. Contract muscles by group. For example, contract the muscles of your right calf, hold it for 4-5 seconds, relax and then relax them again to the max. Do this until you finish all muscle groups. Easy to do in the office during coffee break or lunch hour.