Most women are multi-taskers by necessity. Our culture says we can do it all. We can achieve an education from a good university, have a career, be a wife and mother if we choose to, have fun with our girlfriends, and enjoy a full social calendar with our life partner. We expect to be able to to have it all without negative physical and emotional consequences, and worse we believe we are failures if we can't.
For women, stress seems to create a need to “nest”. This urge is much like the “nesting” we do prior to giving birth, and it centers on the overwhelming urge to create comfort. We are caretakers by nature, so we often reduce our stress by nurturing others. This habit can become a catch 22 because we get caught between our own need for comfort and the need to comfort others. We give of ourselves when we have nothing left to give and then wonder why we feel drained, confused, exhausted, anxious and sick.
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I remember sitting around chatting with a group of girlfriends when we all were young wives. One of our group was the mother of two pre-school children, employed full-time and married to an rising corporate executive. He worked long grueling hours and she was left to juggle her job, parenting and household chores. Near tears, she told us about her day that began before dawn, her deep physical exhaustion that was in conflict with her need to be a supportive and loving wife. She had no libido and her marriage was suffering.
Some of us get so busy and so disengaged from our feelings and our body that we don’t recognize that we’re anxious or angry. We run on auto pilot and our bodies are in flight or flight and churned up, ready for any emergency that comes along. We stay in flight or fight for days and weeks at a time because we have so many things to do and so little time to get them done. We feel stressed, our mind is racing, our lower back aches. There are so many possible sources of stress, we are overwhelmed and don't know how to feel better.
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Here are some of the symptoms of prolonged, untreated stress.
- Irregular and/or painful periods, difficulty getting pregnant, loss of sexual desire
- Neck and back pain pain, headaches
- Sleep difficulties - restlessness, insomnia, chronic fatigue
- Weakened immune system, creating the possibility of physical illness
- Breathing problems, including asthma attacks
- Mood swings - temper tantrums, paranoia, depression and the need to isolate
- Digestive problems - irritable bowel, constipation, diarrhea, bloating
- Eating disorders, substance abuse and addictions
- Anxiety or panic attacks with difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, dizziness, chills and sweats
- Heart disease, high blood pressure
If you worry about stress and some of the items above sound way to familiar, take heart. There are ways to regain your life and health. Here are some very effective ideas.