“You need to be able to manage stress because hard times will come, and a positive outlook is what gets you through.” – Marie Osmond
Stress – we all deal with it! No matter what our lives are like, we all deal with stress in one way or another. Whether it’s job-related, or stress from our families, or our relationships, no one is immune. However, women seem to be more vulnerable to stress than men.
According to a study by the National Center for PTSD, Boston VA Healthcare System, Boston, MA, “Substantial evidence indicates that women report greater fear and are more likely to develop anxiety disorders than men. Women’s greater vulnerability for anxiety disorders can be partly understood by examining gender differences in the etiological factors known to contribute to anxiety.”
If you’re a woman, you may deal with stress in ways that are far different from your male counterparts. Have you ever wondered why? Science finally has an answer as to what causes women to be more vulnerable to stress than man.
Here Are 3 Scientific Explanations Why Women Are More Stressed Than Men
1. Hormonal levels
Harking back to eighth-grade science, women and men have completely different hormonal makeup. This is one of the main things that make women far more vulnerable to stress than men. Compared to men, women tend to experience more fluctuations in their hormones than men do, which can make women far more vulnerable to stress.
“Compared to men, women experience much more fluctuation in hormone levels that are associated with symptoms of depression. In addition to premenstrual dysphoric disorder, up to 15% experience postpartum depression,” says global digital strategist, Kellie Marksberry.
While there’s no way to change your hormones, if you find yourself suffering from stress during certain times of the month, make sure to talk to someone who can help you deal with it and feel more positive.
2. Constricting blood vessels
Not only are women more vulnerable to a specific heart disease when they’re under stress, but women’s hearts don’t respond to stress the same way that men’s do. When under stress, the research found that women’s blood vessels constricted and tightened more frequently than men.
According to the American Heart Association, “… constriction of peripheral vessels during mental stress affects the heart circulation more than men’s, potentially raising women’s risk of heart-related events and death.”
Stress causes women’s blood vessels to tighten and constrict more, which causes the lack of blood flow to the heart and can cause myocardial ischemia.
3. Myocardial Ischemia
Sometimes, what makes women more vulnerable to stress isn’t the stress itself, but what that stress causes. Chronic stress can cause damage to our bodies – most importantly, our hearts. Women are more vulnerable to stress because they are more likely than men to suffer from what is known as “myocardial ischemia”, which is otherwise known as having poor blood flow directly to the heart.
“Instead of dilating and increasing blood flow to the heart during stress, in women the tiny blood vessels are constricted, leading to areas of reduced blood flow. Constriction of peripheral vessels can also induce ischemia in the heart indirectly, because the heart has to pump against increased resistance,” says professor of epidemiology and medicine, Viola Vaccarino, M.D., Ph.D.
When your heart doesn’t get enough blood, it naturally doesn’t get enough oxygen, which can cause a litany of serious problems. If you’re under a lot of stress, you want to be sure you talk with your doctor about the risk to your heart.
Here Are 3 Ways To Deal With Stress
Fluctuating hormone levels cause women to be more vulnerable to stress, which in turn causes women’s blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to myocardial ischemia. So, what do women do in order to keep themselves from being so vulnerable to stress in the first place?
Experts all agree that physical activity and working out is the number one way to deal with the stress in our lives.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Biologically, exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems — all of which are involved in the stress response — to communicate much more closely than usual… This workout of the body’s communication system may be the true value of exercise; the more sedentary we get, the less efficient our bodies in responding to stress.”
Find a friend or family member who will go on a job with you or hit the gym, because working out with a friend is always more fun! Exercise isn’t just good for stress, either. It’s good for keeping your whole body and mind physically and mentally healthy. You’ll burn off some energy and keep yourself protected from stress.
While any type of relaxation technique will work, meditation is one of the best to help deal with stress and keep your heart healthy. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Mental stress can speed the heart and raise the blood pressure; meditation can actually reverse the physiological signs of stress.”
All you need to do is find a quiet place to sit and take some time to yourself to focus all of your energy on feeling calm and relaxed. You can do it in the morning or right before bed. Whenever you do it, just make sure you allow yourself some time to de-stress and decompress.
3. Drink less caffeine or alcohol
If you’re one of those people who can’t start your day without coffee, you may want to start weaning yourself off your morning latte.
“… when used too often or at the wrong time of day (in the evening, for instance), caffeine disrupts the regular rhythm of cortisol… caffeine may be affecting your hormonal balance. But in women whose cells are already insulin resistant, studies show that caffeine exaggerates their glucose and insulin responses,” adds Women’s Health Network.
Avoiding drinks like caffeine and alcohol can help you deal with stress a lot better since these substances can actually heighten the stress you’re feeling. You don’t have to give it up altogether, but reducing your use will give you a head start on dealing with stress.
Ladies, even if you’re more vulnerable to stress than men, you can still arm yourself against the issues that stress can cause. Knowing the damage that stress can cause is the first weapon you need to fight it! Practicing healthy and positive ways of dealing with stress will keep you from becoming vulnerable.