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How Stress Affects Women Differently Than Men

May 05, 2019 10:56 PM EDT
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Everyone inevitably grapples with stress in their day to day life, with millions of people around the world suffering from serious health complications derived from hyper-stressful lifestyles that seldom see moments of rest. What too few people understand is that stress impacts everyone differently, and that sex in particular can have a drastic impact on how our bodies cope with immense stress and times of trouble.

Research indicates that women and men behave differently under stressful scenarios, for instance, and that different things plague them on a daily basis. Here's how stress affects women differently than men, and what you can do to ensure a stress-free lifestyle.

Stress hits the female brain harder

Sorry ladies, there's bad news when it comes to stress - in general, stress hits the female brain harder than the male one, with women reporting greater amounts of stress in their daily lives than most men. While everyone can and does feel stress eventually, some people are exposed to it more common than others, with your line of work and the wellbeing of your social life being two of the main generators of stress for most people. According to recent survey efforts by the Pew Research Center, the differences in how stress affects women differently than men could begin as early as the teenage years.

Day-to-day experiences with stress vary amongst boys and girls, according to the data, with 70% of all teens surveyed noting anxiety and depression was a major problem in their lives. Despite widespread agreements, however, girls report different problems than boys. Girls are more than 10% likelier to worry about getting into the top school of their choice, for instance, likely due to gender-based discrimination that continues to haunt institutions of higher learning to this day.

Boys are predominantly affected by stress about future income and social status, too, with younger girls noting that they face intense pressure to look good on a daily basis. Outside of this data, recent studies have also given credit to the idea that female brains interpret stress differently than their male counterparts. One recent study illustrated that women and men show different cortisol responses to psychological stress, for instance, with a growing body of medical studies arriving at the same conclusion.

The way that stress affects women's health differently than men thus has a little to do with both biology and social settings. The male and female brain are wired differently, with social expectations for young girls being different than those for young boys. All of this adds up to the fact that women, in general, face slightly more stress and enjoy fewer outlets for venting their frustration without coming across as moody.

The burden of the workplace weighs on women

One particular cause of stress for women is the workplace, where many hardworking female professionals report workplace harassment or basic discrimination that inhibits their ability to enjoy life. Experts have noted that female professionals react differently than their male peers when dealing with professional stress, with women suffering from higher rates of burnout culture than men. Over the years, worker wellness studies have consistently found that women are reporting feel more overworked and stressed in office environments than their male counterparts.

Overcoming workplace discrimination is clearly part of the issue, yet women also face stress in non-work related areas of their life that can bleed over into their professional careers. Being expected to juggle family responsibilities with career ambitions, for instance, is something that can happen to men and women alike but more frequently affects new mothers. The nature of depression and its impact on the human brain, too, could be more geared towards harming women than men for unknown reasons. One study argues persuasively that depression has a larger mental impact amongst women than men, with a genetic vulnerability perhaps being to blame.

Outside of biology, however, one of the reasons that stress likely impacts women differently than men is that girls everywhere aren't permitted to react to adversity in the same way as men. Female leaders who use strong language are frequently labeled as being "bossy," for instance, whereas males who use the same language are considered "strong leaders." Such diverse expectations for different genders could create confusion amongst female professionals and lead many women to think (and thus stress) more about how they compose themselves as leaders in the workforce.

Those who are struggling with a stress-heavy lifestyle should review some guidelines from the CDC for how to live a healthy life free of stress. A healthy diet, a regular exercise regime, plenty of time outdoors and a vibrant social life are all necessary for the successful combatting of stress on a regular basis. Keep these and the common symptoms of stress in mind, and you'll soon be navigating the hectic, stressful nature of modern life more successfully in no time.

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