By Dr. Katy Kamkar, Clinical Psychologist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)and Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto.
Feeling stressed, anxious and worried are a normal part of a women’s daily life.
Small doses of stress and anxiety help us to meet deadlines, be ready on time, stay motivated and be productive.
Stress is also a normal response to situations where we perceive a threat or danger. When our brain perceives a “threat or danger,” our built-in alarm system or the “flight or fight” response becomes activated to protect us. These are examples of functional stress and anxiety.
When it comes to mental health concerns, both men and women are affected differently.
For instance, depression and anxiety tend to be more common among women than men. Stress and pressures for instance related to taking on multiple roles and responsibilities, sexual and/or domestic violence, poverty among others tend to affect women to a greater extent than men and in turn, impact women’s emotional well-being and mental health.
Extreme or chronic stress can become harmful if left unattended. When you feel stress becoming overwhelming and prolonged in such a way where you feel helpless, powerless, or losing control and you feel burnt out, the risks for psychological and medical problems increase.
Stress can affect four areas:
- Our Thinking. We might experience difficulty concentrating or thinking, become more negative, constantly worry, or have more difficulty making decisions.
- Our Emotions. We might become moody, have low morale, feel more irritable, feel depressed or unhappy, or feel agitated.
- Our Physical-being. We might experience headaches, muscle tension, increase blood pressure, stomach problems, nausea, diarrhea, or loss of sex drive.
- Our Behaviours. We might eat or sleep more or less, withdraw from social situations, self-isolate, engage in more nervous habits such as nail biting, use more alcohol, cigarettes or drugs, or neglect responsibilities.
Tips and Strategies for self-care and building your resiliency
- Mindfulness & Cognitive Self-Care
- Focus on your breathing and slow down your breathing rate
- Put negative thoughts, worries and stressors into perspective and take a broader approach to better evaluate them.
- Set realistic expectations
- Focus on what you have control over.
- Practical & Physical self-care
- Engage in regular physical exercise. Even a little bit of exercise daily can make a significant difference.
- Seek quality social support
- Schedule meaningful activities for yourself
- Focus on balancing your work and personal life so you feel more a sense of fulfillment and personal growth.
- Emotional Self-Care
- Set healthy personal and emotional boundaries in terms of what works for you and what doesn’t
- Keep in mind your emotional boundaries will likely change over time
- Focus on your own needs, feelings and rights
- Focus on your strengths and positives to continuously build your sense of self-worth, self-care and self-love.