woman stressed smThese days, stress is a problem for men and women, but studies show that women are twice as likely to experience major depression, and women suffer from anxiety disorders up to three times more often than men. Why is that? Part of the answer involves hormones, but maybe not the ones you're thinking of.

When men and women are in stressful situations, the body releases cortisol and epinephrine. These hormones raise blood pressure and blood sugar levels and can impair the immune system. The brain tries to counteract this by releasing oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone.

Men get less oxytocin so their reaction to stress can be more extreme, like “fight or flight.” Women get more oxytocin and that can mean a softer approach to stress. That's why women are more likely “tend and befriend” and reach out to solve stressful problems, but this kind of compromise can also mean that your problems end up on the back burner.

If we know how stress is different for women, what can you do to deal with it? Some experts say an important part of the solution involves what you say to others and to yourself.

If you want to make life less stressful, practice using the words “yes” and “no” in equal parts to keep from overbooking yourself. Some obligations aren't optional, but others can be gracefully declined with a simple “no.” That might be hard when you want to “tend and befriend” but always placing other people’s needs before your own can allow stress to become a chronic problem.

You can also deal with stress by talking about it. Whether that's a conversation with a spouse, a family member, a friend or in a formal support group, look for people who can help you talk out the emotional experience and consider what might be done to solve a problem.

Finally, you should work to change the way you talk to yourself. Staying positive and using compassionate self-talk during stressful situations can help you calm down and focus on a solution. Tend and befriend yourself with the same kind of gentle, encouraging words that you’d use to help someone else and you can shut down stress before it builds.


Northline Women's Health Center Locations:

15675 Northline Road

Southgate, MI 48195

(734) 282-3600
(734) 282-3603 - Fax

23050 West Road, Suite 210

Brownstown Twp., MI 48183

(734) 362-7000
(734) 362-7077 - Fax