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Stress in women

Why Does Stress Affect Women More Than Men?

Stress affects men and women differently. There are several psychological, biological and social factors responsible for this. While the common symptoms of stress in women range from skin rashes, breakouts and anxiety; men show signs of fatigue, insomnia, lower back pains and irritability. Although the symptoms may not have much variation, the perception of stress by both the genders is starkly different. Women tend to perceive stress as more serious than men. However, this is seen more of a weakness in women than a capacity to deal with stress more proactively. There are umpteen number of studies highlighting the drop in productivity, efficiency and performance in women at work due to stress. The focus has been more on gender than the situations causing the stress. This has been counter-productive, to say the least. What would it take to turn this whole issue around from being a fault to a capacity? Here is a quick take on stress in women. 


What are the most stressful things for women? 

Women stress over balancing their homes and work. There is an inherent lack of support and understanding for all the work and responsibilities they have on both the fronts. The struggle is genuine. 

A guilt for not being a good daughter, wife, partner, mother, or a worker drives most of the stress in women. The social pressure on a woman, especially in Asian culture, is tremendous. They are expected to be the accomplished daughters to actualise their parent’s dreams; impeccable daughter-in-laws to take on all the burdens of the new family and even trophy wives to be shown off to the world. This is, ofcourse, not the case with all

Money insecurity seems to be another major reason for stress. Financial independence is said to be one of the primary motivations for women to get a job besides proving themselves to be worthy. The latter is exhausting. Proving your worth, especially, at the workplace, while competing in most of the male dominated industries is indeed challenging. This is reflected in the gender pay gap. 


Why is stress more in women? 

It is not that men don’t feel stressed over financial insecurity or relationship issues or on career front. They simply perceive and process it slightly differently. While women process stress more emotionally, men focus more on taking physical action to deal with difficult situations. We can say that stress is more visible in women as they are more expressive both mentally and physically, while men happen to suppress and act more sporadically. 

Biologically, given a stressful situation, there is a significant gender difference in the production of neuro-receptors (mineralocoritcoid and glucocorticoid) as well as the expression of the cortisol hormones ( from Hyopthalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). The production of oxytocin hormone in women represses the cortisol production, which is responsible for a flight or flight syndrome. Instead, in women, the response leans more towards empathy, intimacy, and emotional response. 

Other than biological underpinnings, there are social and psychological factors in play for making women more stressed than men. The upbringing which is also the product of the environment affects the expectations, projections and judgements on a woman. Personality development, on the other hand, determines the response to stressful situations. There is no simplistic explanation of this nor should it be attempted. 


How to release stress for a woman? 

As the development of the sympathetic nervous system is more pronounced in women, there is a higher chance of women absorbing other people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. So the first step is to ask, whose stress is this that I am feeling? Asking this question, repeatedly, will give you the awareness of how much of this stress is not even yours. You can only dissipate the stress that belongs to you. 

There are several tools and techniques for instant relief from stress symptoms such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, Access Bars, breathing techniques and grounding exercises. To know more about these, you can visit:

For long-term stress relief, it is important to work on the root cause that is creating the stress in the first place. Inner child therapy and Family constellation sessions are known to work effectively to heal the deep wounds, trauma, and core beliefs responsible for stress. Practising mindfulness and connecting with the body through yoga, meditation and different art forms are useful for building a gradual resilience towards stress. 



Sonali Mittra 

(Sonali Mittra is a certified Inner Child Therapist, Family Constellation facilitator and Access bars and body process practitioner.)

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