How Women and Men
Can Manage Stress
Dr. Carol Goldberg was invited to
discuss women’s stress on the "Today" show on NBC television. Here
are her explanations and implications of a fascinating research study.
As seen on the Today show
Women Exceed Men in
Ask just about any
woman and she will tell you women have more stress than men. Now, research
shows women feel more stress universally. In a study of 30,000 people, in 30
countries, women reported more stress than men. These countries were as
diverse as the United States, Japan, Indonesia, and South Africa.
People between the
ages of 13 and 65 were asked how much stress they experience. These
self-reports are particularly meaningful since stress is subjective, not
something dumped on us. Stress is our reaction to pressures and demands.
Dr. Goldberg is
careful to point out that although stress was shown to be universal, the reasons
were not examined in this study. Thus, there may be different causes of stress
in different countries.
Not surprisingly, the
highest stress was found among mothers who have both full-time jobs and children
under 13. Most women who work out of the home have grueling schedules.
Sleep deprived, many begin their work days several hours earlier to get children
ready for day care or school; do after job shopping, dinner preparation,
and clean-up; help children with homework;
and work late into the night doing household chores and perhaps homework from
their jobs. They rarely have time for their own needs, to rest, or to
relax. Such work overload does not just happen to single moms. Even
married women get little help from husbands with child care and housework.
The largest disparity
in stress was that widows had far greater stress than widowers. Dr.
Goldberg suspects some reasons may be economic, since widows have far less money
than widowers. Men have greater earnings and contributions to Social
Security, pensions, and other savings. Furthermore, since women live longer, they
outlive their savings more than men do. She also cites social stress since
the number of men compared to women makes it more difficult for widows to find
by Roper Starch
What Women Can Do to
Dr. Goldberg advises
women not to let stress ruin their health. She thinks if women
discuss with men the toll child rearing takes upon them, men would want
to share more equally and provide alternatives to ease burdens. For those
who cannot afford help, relatives, friends and neighbors might pitch in with
child care and chores. Widows' stress could be reduced if younger
relatives and the community could assist with companionship and finances.
Dr. Goldberg tells
how women can help themselves too. “Try to schedule an hour a day for yourself
to exercise, do meditation or other relaxation techniques, and whatever leisure
activities you enjoy. Most of all, do not feel guilty about making
necessary time for yourself.”
What about men and stress?
Even though men
report less stress than women do, they also suffer from too much stress.
Men’s stress may be particularly evident in physical symptoms, such as heart
attacks, strokes, overeating, smoking, drinking alcohol, abusing drugs, not
taking good care of themselves, and having angry outbursts.
Although the causes
of stress may overlap for men and women, there are some pressures that
especially affect men. Men are more likely than women to work further
from home and thus have longer commutes. Commuting pressures include being
subjected to road rage, being sandwiched into trains and buses, and delays
beyond their control. Men also are more likely to do distant business requiring plane travel and living out of a suitcase. When out-of-town, men
eat more poorly and neglect their health. They also miss important family
events that provide support and meaning.
What Men Can Do to
Men should take stock
of how stress affects them. They should try to reduce pressures causing
symptoms of stress. Set priorities. Don't view time as a contest,
but realistically plan so you can arrive relaxed instead of frazzled. Know and try to avoid stress triggers, such
as getting involved in road rage. When absent from family events, share in
them via phone calls during the events and watching videotapes of them.
Whether home or away, exercise, eat properly, and do relaxation techniques to
protect against stress.
© Copyright 2000 by Carol Goldberg, Ph.D. All rights