By Jill Oatey, L.I.S.W., L.P.C.
In my 20 years of counseling experience, I have begun to see much more anxiety and stress with women in the last five years than in the previous fifteen years. As a marriage counselor I see how this greatly affects the marital relationship, job performance, motherhood, and a woman’s peace and happiness.
What is the difference between anxiety and stress? A stressor is a situation, person, or event that adds tension to your life because it takes time, energy, or thinking to deal with it. Anxiety or depression are the consequences, or how you might respond to those stressors.
I believe young women today are showing more anxiety because of the nature of the world they live in. The demand to “do it all” is pervasive. Self and society’s demands might sound like this:
I can work full time, be a great mom to two or three kids that are in an abundance of activities, put on amazing birthday parties productively, have a high sex drive for my husband, be in great shape, work out, and cook nightly healthy home-made organic food for my family. I can cheerfully take care of my aging parents, and always be happy and highly energized. Finally, I will be in a good mood around my girlfriends, co-workers and neighbors.
This is asking a lot of one lady! Something has got to give. No wonder women suffer from anxiety!!! There are too many thoughts and demands swirling around in their heads.
Why is this so different from what it was like twenty years ago? Why can’t we be like our grandmothers and be exposed to fewer demands? Below are just a few examples;
#1 – We live in the shadow of the woman’s liberation movement. It is particularly difficult for a family to live on one income and still meet the social expectations placed upon us.
#2 – The information age bombards us with what we should know about fashion, what we should do to look good, feel good, etc.
#3 – Technology and social media. How many friends do you have on Facebook? How can you put together an amazing, over the top, perfect three-year-old birthday party and share it with the world on Pinterest? Voicemail, Email, Texting, Tweeting.
Many women go through their busy, demanding lives while experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. They do not even realize how they got to this place or how much it’s affecting their lives. And what can they do to think differently, make different choices, and thus feel different?
To be honest, a certain amount of stress in our lives is a positive thing. It stimulates and motivates us. However, too much stress can cause us mental and physical pain. It is difficult to know when we transition from motivating levels of stress to debilitating levels of stress (anxiety).How do I know if I suffer from anxiety? It is very common to be exposed to external, uncontrollable, unpredictable stressors that can result in anxiety. Below is an example of how this could happen;
It was a summer of stress: My father was dying of cancer, my only daughter was getting married, my husband put a bid on a new house and now we are packing up to move after fifteen years. All three events came to a head in September. I needed a counselor and maybe some medication. Instead, I started smoking, had no appetite, lost a lot of weight, stopped exercising, and cancelled fun activities (because I was too busy). That was NOT the healthy way of dealing with my stress.
You might ask, "What are some of the signs and/or symptoms of anxiety?" For some, it may be a generalized feeling of being overwhelmed a majority of the time; or the absence of happiness, contentment, or the ability to relax. For others, particularly adults, anxiety can include some or all of the following symptoms:
Loss of appetite Increase in appetite
Weight loss Weight gain
Psychomotor agitation Irritability
Easily fatigued Repetitive thoughts
Feeling keyed up or on edge Tightening in chest
Constant worry Muscle tension
Difficulty breathing Chills or hot flushes
Dry mouth Sleeplessness
Rapid heart rate Difficulty falling asleep
Feeling overwhelmed Middle of night wakening
A sense of impending doom Early morning wakening
Restless, unsatisfying sleep
Are there treatments for anxiety? The good news is anxiety is readily treatable. A threefold approach usually works best, including the following;
I might also help you add anxiety reducing behaviors to your life. Examples are walking, dancing, yoga, joining a choir, taking a painting class, having dinner or coffee with a friend, watching a comedy show, joining a hiking club, or adding prayer, daily devotions, or meditation to your life. These activities can greatly reduce anxiety.
The above treatments are highly effective. You can feel anxiety-free and yourself again. It takes some time and hard work but is so worth it. Some peoples’ anxiety gets so high it greatly effects their physical health. That is when I usually see people in my office. I do a lot of marriage counseling. Marriages struggle greatly when one spouse suffers from anxiety.
Anxiety is one of the highly treatable mental health disorders. You deserve it to yourself to feel some peace in your life. If you believe you suffer from anxiety take some steps today. If it’s stress, it’s still advantageous to see a counselor to walk with you through choices and issues. It’s great to have an object, non-judgmental Christian person to share our life’s struggles with.
Please feel free to come see me at ArborGate Associates, Inc. Call 440-892-0452 to make an appointment.