I Am Woman, Hear Me Freak Out
When it comes to stress, we women are funny. Studies have found that we DO indeed have more stress than men (we already knew that, thank you) and that we’re more aware of its effect on our lives. We’re also more likely than the guys to do something positive to get our stress under control.
The funny part is that despite the fact that we’re not above admitting we’re stressed out and trying occasionally to meditate or de-clutter or eat enough chocolate to make us forget what it was that was causing us to freak out in the first place, we’re also just as likely to say “yes to the stress.” It doesn’t even have to be our stress; we invite other people to dump theirs on us too – children, spouses, relatives, friends, coworkers, strangers we meet in the elevator, our pets, fictional characters on television and in movies… They don’t even have to ask us to do it for them; we just open our arms and embrace everyone’s problems. Don’t shake your head; you know I’m talking about you.
Are we crazy or what?
To get a good idea of how stressful the average everyday life of the average everyday woman is (I haven’t met her, but I’ve read about her), all you have to do is take a gander at the cover of any woman’s magazine any month of the year – chances are there will be a story on how to deal with stress. It’s right there next to the smiling picture of the Hollywood mom looking like she doesn’t have a stretch mark anywhere or under the photo of that triple-layer fudge cake you’re supposed to bake from scratch while doing Pilates. Men’s magazines, on the other hand, hardly bring the subject up (at least right out there on the cover where everyone can see it), because admitting you’re stressed out is, well, unmanly.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably read at least a dozen articles on coping, managing, and harnessing stress for good, not evil. You may have even vowed to live a life that is more relaxed and less frazzled. Of course, it’s also highly likely that you then proceeded to lose the magazine under a pile of all the other things you really, really intend to do some day. And so go the days of our lives.
What woman has time to truly manage her stress? Not my friend Marcy who regularly mows the lawn with her 10-month-old strapped onto her chest while talking on her cell phone in an attempt to make sure that night’s volleyball game has enough players. Then there’s Elizabeth, who when she’s not busy in her third career of running her own clothing store fosters pit bull puppies so they’ll get a second chance at life. Or Shelley, who in her mid-fifties does the early morning news so she can be home in time to make her kids’ basketball, soccer, piano, ballet, drama, voice, and martial arts lessons and then fall into bed exhausted at 8:30 p.m. Or 55-year-old Melody, who worked two jobs last winter to try to make ends meet, while traveling across the state every other weekend to keep the spark in her long-distance relationship.
There are so many things that make us women feel that our lives are out of control. For example:
- Juggling work and family . When we’re at work, we’re usually stressed-out about what’s going at home and vice-versa. It doesn’t help that these days no matter where we go, we’re connected to both work and family via cell phones, GPS, ankle bracelets, and other types of mobile technology. Those just give us more options for stressing out.
- Overactive imaginations . Unfortunately, women’s fertile imaginations churn up more stress for us than real life does on its own. Because of the way women’s brains are structured, we are capable not only of worrying about many things simultaneously, we’re also totally up to the challenge of making up stuff to worry about at the same time. You go girl!
- Long memories . Typically women remember everything better than men do. That’s why in the middle of an argument about whose turn it is to load the dishwasher we can turn the conversation into a critique of what he wore on our wedding rehearsal dinner. Due to both our longer retention (and no, not water retention) and the fact that our memories are wrapped up tightly with a big emotional bow, we women find it harder to let go of negative feelings than the guys in our lives. They’re busy trying to recall their anniversary or the name of the new cat.
- The inability to say “No.” We women have difficulty with the N-word because of our desire to nurture, uh, well, everyone. (If you’re providing regular moral support to a prison pen pal, you know exactly what I’m talking about.) We feel that if we say “No,” we’re being less supportive than the ten-year-old bra we keep in the bottom of our underwear drawer because it’s comfy.
- Our ability to “multi-task” better than men . I use quotation marks because studies have shown that no one can actually do two things simultaneously. What we women do better is switch back and forth between tasks more quickly than men. Our brains are designed to do that. Unfortunately, many of us feel that since we CAN handle many things almost at the same time, we SHOULD. Name a woman you know who doesn’t attempt to do at least three things at a time all the time, including during sex! Come on, I dare you.
Join me here next time for a look at how we can start learning to use our sense of humor better to get rid of stress and perhaps – if we’re smart – to not invite stress over in the first place.