Women and Stress: The I Can Have It All Syndrome


Do you feel like you have to have it all. Do you practice positive emotional self-care?

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.

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.

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.

  • Realize that you always have options and the ability to make choices. You have the right to say yes, the right to say no, the right to change your mind, and the right to make positive, self-supporting decisions. 
  • Encourage your body’s production of endorphins - Endorphins create elevated mood, a sense of overall well-being, and because it is a naturally occurring analgesic, it reduces the perception of pain.  Endorphins and their “natural highs”are released into our body though – exercise, deep breathing, laughter, meditation, acupuncture, massage, eating spicy foods and chocolate, through sexual orgasm.
  • Women reduce their stress through nurturing female relationships
  • Adopt abundance thinking - the belief there is enough of everything for you and everyone else                                                                                                                                  
  • Spend some time alone every day - Spending time alone in meditation and contemplation results in a higher degree of inner awareness.  Because we begin to recognize the people, places and things that create inner joy or produce inner conflict, and we make better decisions.
  • Spend time walking barefoot in the grass or sitting under a big tree.  Go “Earthing” and reconnect with Planet Earth.
  • Work at a job that feels like a hobby and provides an acceptable pay check - A good job or a career gives back emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
  • Learn to maintain a “total person” point of views - We are mind, body, spirit, personality, heart and emotion. We are creative and powerful. To be happy, we have to live in a way that our needs are met in each level of our lives.
  • Seek professional help when needed - Most of us put off taking care of our emotional needs in order to take care of our children, our parents, our life partner, our friends and our communities. Don’t be afraid to explore your options. You are your own best advocate.
  • Try exercise designed to heal - Yoga and the martial arts stretch us physically and encourage higher levels of self-awareness. Yoga can help you release anxiety and depression. Tai chi is a great modality for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as it helps the practitioner learn to stay present in their body.
  • Try Energy Psycholgoy and Energy Medicine - Energy psychologies like Emotional Freedom Technique and Radiant Energies Balance and Energy Medicine techniques like Healing Touch have improved the quality of life for millions of people world wide. They help with chronic physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual issues by improving sleep, helping you create positive thoughts and beliefs, and develop a higher level of self-awareness and self-efficacy.

For more information about anxiety and stress check out these resources.

Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology: www.energypsyc.org
Anxiety Disorder Association of America: www.adaa.org
Earthing Institute: