If you were asked how often you experience stress in your life, chances are you'd say pretty often. In fact, a recent survey of over 3,000 women conducted by HealthyWomen, Prevention magazine, and health care communications agency GCI Health, discovered that 40 percent of women experience stress constantly—multiple times a day. Twenty-six percent experience it daily, and 22 percent experience it once or twice a week.
When women are stressed, it has a big impact on their lives. Seventy-two percent of women do not sleep well when stressed and, considering the importance of sleep on overall health, that is a major reason to take charge of stressors in our lives.
"Sleep deprivation leads to all sorts of health issues, like obesity, memory problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and depression," says Beth Battaglino, RN-C, CEO of HealthyWomen. "When stress gets in the way of sleep, it's a sign that your stress needs to be taken seriously."
The things that cause stress in our lives are sometimes unavoidable and out of our control—like a traffic jam—but something that we found surprising was how much we are in control of the top four stressors women identified: family, household clutter or projects, finances, and job demands.
There's good and bad news about this revelation. The good news is that there are steps to help you manage some of these stressors in your life. The bad news is that these are things you encounter daily, so taking charge of them can seem overwhelming and may actually start to stress you out! It's OK—we're here to help.
While women are managing stress in their own ways—mainly through watching TV, exercising and eating, according to our survey—there are other ways we can deal with these common stressors that will make a long-lasting positive impact.
Here are some tips on how to simplify stress in your life.
Simplify stress from family. Whether it's a holiday family gathering or a regular Tuesday evening, the first step is to identify what is causing stress in your family dynamic. Once you identify the family stressor, you need to discuss it with your family. Whether it's telling your uncle that political chatter is off limits around the Thanksgiving dinner table or letting your husband know you need an extra hand with the children's bath time, talk it out. Fifty-five percent of women surveyed don't believe their partner is as stressed as they are, and that won't change unless discussed. Change may not happen right away, but if your loved ones know something is causing you stress, chances are they will work to help come up with a solution.
Simplify stress from household clutter. "Household clutter interferes with the day-to-day activities and routines in a home," says Rashelle Isip, professional organizer and productivity consultant at theorderexpert.com. Think of your mornings: If you can't find your shoes, you may end up late, which causes stress. Think of your evenings: If you head into a messy room for bedtime, it's likely you won't feel a sense of relaxation. If the thought of decluttering stresses you out, "An easy first step is to identify and declutter a small problem area in your home," Isip says. "Taking the time to identify and address a nagging or stressful situation, no matter how small, will provide some instant relief, and prepare you for future decluttering success at home." Identify which area(s) in your home frustrate or bother you on a daily basis, and start there. Pick away at it one task at a time.
Simplify stress from finances. Financial stress can feel isolating, but you're not alone. Sixty-one percent of women say they would rather talk about their own death than their money. More women are taking on the fiscal responsibility of their households, and there are ways to navigate that stress. Assess your current situation and identify any immediate behaviors that can be changed to improve your future. Look deeper at your relationship with money: Are you spending to search for comfort, luxury, love, power or something else? Recognize money doesn't guarantee happiness or security. Connect with a trusted friend, financial adviser, senior center, church, community agency or credit counseling service for advice. And make a budget. The word may stress you out, but view it as empowering. Creating a realistic budget and sticking to it can help improve your financial health and, ultimately, personal wellness.
Simplify stress from job demands. While careers can be incredibly rewarding, they can be a major stressor in a woman's life. If work is a stressor in your life, you need to establish boundaries. Set the tone that you won't check email after a certain time or not take calls after hours. When you arrive home, pause before you walk in the door at night. Listen to some music in the car or do some deep breathing at the front door. That way, you'll get in a better mood before you see your family. And don't let vacation days go to waste. You need to take time to unwind so you can return to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform optimally. "In today's work environment, no one is a stranger to managing day-to-day pressures—which is why it is so important that companies build cultures where employees support and encourage each other in managing the stressors that are within their control," says Wendy Lund, CEO of GCI Health.
Simplify stress overall. No matter the cause of stress in your life, the common theme overall is to talk about it, which doesn't seem to be happening. Almost half of women rarely or never talk about their stress because they don't want to be a burden, or they don't think people will care.
To read more about our stress survey, head over to prevention.com.