Stress is caused by your body’s mental and physical responses to overwhelming demands, either positive or negative. There often can be a fine line between the positive and negative effects of stress. This line is different for everyone, just as stress and its effects are different for everyone.
In a positive sense, stress can make you alert, motivated and productive. To this end, stress can be beneficial. It inspires you to meet the challenge of the task at hand. You push yourself and learn how best to handle a situation so it will be less stressful in the future. Some women "thrive" on stress, appreciating the motivation it provides.
Since women are capable of doing several things at once, they are more susceptible to the stresses of the many activities they undertake. Women are social organizers, planners, partners, mothers, spouses, girlfriends, daughters, friends, athletes, teammates, managers, employees, cleaning ladies, cooks, athletes, therapists and mediators. Positive stress can lead to a full, very active life that keeps you young in spirit and health.
Some people need both physical and mental stress to be productive.
Commonly Identified Positive Causes of Stress
- Being involved in multiple activities, home, work, play
- Starting a new job, new assignment, or school
- Promotions at work
- New relationship/marriage/living arrangement
- Being responsible for others
- Hormone fluctuations
At high levels or for long periods of time, stress can be dangerous. Not only can it cause crying, anger, or inability to get work done, it can also cause physical illness or relationship problems with family, friends and co-workers. Stress can lead to negative coping behaviors, like eating too little or too much, eating unhealthy foods, sleeping too much or too little, skipping work, smoking, drinking and/or taking drugs or too many prescribed medications.
Signs that you may need help dealing with your stress are: headaches, stomach problems, missed periods, frequent colds, cold sores, canker sores, appetite and/or weight changes, heart disease, heart attacks, and even cancer. Too much stress can also lead to injuries or accidents.
Commonly Identified Triggers of Negative Stress
- Death of a loved one or friend
- End of a relationship
- A move, change of schools, or change of jobs
- Money problems
- Loss of position, standing, or ranking
- Physical, sexual, and/or verbal abuse
- Overwhelming pressure from, employers, or family
- An accident or injury
It is important to know how to manage, control and relieve negative stress so that it does not cause negative effects in your life.
Signs of Too Much Stress
- Irritability, anxiety, difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Nightmares about realistic life situations turning out poorly
- Exhaustion, being nervous or very emotional.
- Inability to think about doing an enjoyable activity.
- Either too much or too little appetite.
- Your period stops, or becomes less regularly.
If you are having difficulty evaluating and controlling your stress, speak with your health care provider. Although it is possible to sort out your problems alone, having someone to help can make it much easier.
Hormonal fluctuations can be a source of stress in girls and women. This varies in intensity from one person to the next, but is quite common. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can include feeling sad, hopeless, tense, anxious, tearful, irritable, anger that also affects others, fatigue, low energy, disinterest in daily activities and relationships, suicidal; trouble concentrating, food cravings, bingeing, sleep disturbances, and/or a sense of being out of control. Physical symptoms include appetite changes, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain. If you are having trouble managing PMS symptoms see your OB-GYN provider.
In approximately 5 percent of women, anxiety and your mood related to menstruation is so severe that the medical management is necessary to relieve symptoms. This condition called premenstrual dysthymic disorder (PMDD) is treatable with antidepressants and mood-altering medications, either daily or just during the week before your period. Speak to your OB-GYN provider if you have severe symptoms.