Stress is an undeniable epidemic in the Western World.
Most readers won’t be surprised to hear that according to research done by the American Psychological Association (APA), women are more likely than men to report having a great deal of stress.
In fact, studies show women are more likely to suffer physical and psychological conditions brought about by stress such as high blood pressure, insomnia, depression and anxiety.
It is also unsurprising that there are an increasing amount of women who list finances as a stressor. This reflects the move away from traditional gender, roles as more and more women return to the workforce, juggling paid employment with child rearing as well as taking on more responsibility for the household’s financial management.
It’s all about the mental load.
Countless articles have discussed the phenomenon of “mental load” in recent times, talking about the strain (mainly) women bear of managing a household, at a large emotional and mental toll.
The list of domestic duties undertaken by women, regardless of their paid employment status, generally far outweighs that of their male partners. Managing the minutiae of life often falls to women, covering things from housework to coordinating the family’s social calendar and everything in between. Meal planning, making and attending appointments, managing the influx of household paperwork, making sure the kids have clothes that fit (and dealing with the stuff they’ve outgrown), buying gifts – the list is endless.
And I would argue that we women exacerbate any stress from this overwhelming workload simply due to our fundamental nature. We are organisers, we are overthinkers and very often we are our own worst enemies.
For example, my partner and I were invited to a New Year’s Eve party. The host was a friend of his, yet I was the one who asked if we should take a plate of food to share. I was also the one who contemplated what to bring at great length. Then, when what I had prepared didn’t present in an appetising manner (my culinary skills are subpar at best), my partner simply shrugged and suggested taking it as it was. I was horrified at the prospect and rushed around trying to find a suitable substitute. Ironically, had he been going to the party alone, he probably would have taken a bag of chips, or even more likely, nothing at all.
I’m positive the hostess would not have batted an eyelid at him turning up without an offering, but would I have been granted the same grace? Perhaps, but I was unwilling to run the risk of social faux pas in front of people I didn’t know well. Consequently, I subjected myself to stress and anxiety over a simple plate of party food.
It seems ridiculous when written in black and white but I do this constantly, and I know I am not alone.
Women stress over what to wear, what to say, what they have said, what to eat, etc etc. On the whole, we are creatures who are constantly thinking, evaluating and analysing every step we make.
Add the responsibilities of running a household, raising healthy, well balanced children, being a caring, devoted partner, friend and family member, as well as often maintaining paid employment, I say it is no wonder we are more stressed than men.
However, we are also the ones with the power to push back against this rising tide of stress. We must evaluate our priorities, delegate, refuse to take on things that cause us more angst and, most of all, breathe.
Life is too short to stress ourselves into poor mental and physical health. Let this be the year where we take stock of how our time and energy is spent. Make a vow to only invest in those things that are necessary and worthy – you may be surprised at the difference.